African Archaeological Review

, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 279–300 | Cite as

Schematic Rock Art, Rain-Making and Islam in the Ethio-Sudanese Borderlands

Original Article

Abstract

Two sites with schematic rock paintings in Western Ethiopia, where Islamic ceremonies connected with rain-making are performed and miraculous events are said to occur regularly, are interpreted in the light of such factors as the beliefs of local informants, the Islamic appropriation of prehistoric rituals in Northern Africa, the characteristics of similar sites linked to rain-making rituals throughout Eastern Africa and the apotropaic meaning of schematic marks in many traditional cultures. Probably painted by the ancestors of the current Koman language speakers during the Later Stone Age or shortly afterwards, the rock art contextual analysis reveals the complexity of interregional relationships and processes affecting the multi-ethnic frontier regions in pre-colonial times and shows how the local groups have recombined prehistoric and historic religions and ideologies into an original mix that bears witness to the region’s multifaceted history.

Keywords

Rock art Rain making Islamic religion Apotropaic figures Berta Koman Benishangul Western Ethiopia 

Résumé

Cet article examine deux sites contenant des peintures rupestres schématiques à la frontière de l'Ethiopie occidentale, où des rites islamiques relatifs à la pluie sont pratiqués et où des événements miraculeux se produisent régulièrement. Ces sites peuvent être interprétés en fonction de plusieurs facteurs, entre autres l'opinion des informateurs locaux, l'appropriation par la religion islamique des rituels préhistoriques en Afrique du Nord, les sites similaires associés aux cérémonies d’invocation de la pluie en Afrique de l’est, et la signification apotropaïque des schémas décoratifs dans de nombreuses cultures. L’art fut probablement peint par les ancêtres des actuels peuples de langues Koman lors de l’Age de la Pierre Tardive, ou peu après, et son analyse contextuelle montre comment les régions frontalières multiethniques ont été touchées par un complexe système de relations interrégionales et processus précoloniaux, et comment les religions et les idéologies préhistoriques et historiques ont été recyclées par les populations de la frontière éthiopique-soudanaise dans un ensemble original d'éléments qui témoigne de cette histoire plurielle.

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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de PrehistoriaUniversidad ComplutenseMadridSpain

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