African Archaeological Review

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 191–210 | Cite as

Working on Rock Art in the Dakhleh Oasis: Some Thoughts on Threats to Petroglyphs and Possibilities of Research in the Western Desert, Egypt

  • Paweł Lech Polkowski
Original Article


The rock art in Dakhleh, despite being known for more than a century, has been thoroughly investigated only since the late 1980s, and remains far from being well known especially outside of Egypt. At the same time, the consecutive seasons of fieldwork conducted by the Petroglylph Unit (part of the international Dakhleh Oasis Project) have produced a great number of findings and substantially enhanced our knowledge of the petroglyphs of this area. Here, rather than focusing on interpretive aspects of the research, I wish to discuss the threats endangering the petroglyphs in the Oasis. Dakhleh has developed very intensively in the last 100 years. It is, however, the twenty-first century which seems to pose some serious threats to archaeological heritage. Hence, in this paper I wish to report on what has been done so far to document rock art in the Oasis, and try to establish the priorities for potential future work. The agricultural and infrastructural development in the area, and the uncertain political climate in the country, heavily influence the state of rock art preservation and the possibilities of research. The need for documentation and preservation of rock art is larger than ever before, because many changes in the local landscape cannot be stopped. The time is pressing, because more and more rock art is disappearing due to the reasons discussed in this paper. Threats to Egyptian rock art in general will form a background for considerations concerning petroglyphs from the Western Desert.


Rock art Petroglyphs Egypt Dakhleh Heritage Vandalism 


L’art rupestre à Dakhleh, bien que connu depuis plus d’un siècle, n’a commencé à être minutieusement étudié qu’à partir du milieu des années 1980. Néanmoins, cet art est. encore inconnu du grand public, en particulier en dehors de l’Egypte. Dans le même temps, les saisons consécutives de travaux sur le terrain menés par l’unité de pétroglyphes (partie du projet international ‘Dakhleh Oasis Project’) ont apporté un grand nombre de découvertes et ont significativement élargi nos connaissances sur les pétroglyphes de cette région. Cependant, au lieu de me concentrer sur les aspects interprétatifs de la recherche, je souhaite aborder dans ce document principalement les menaces pesant sur les pétroglyphes dans l’Oasis. Dakhleh s’est. développé au cours des cent dernières années de manière très intensive. Cependant, le 21ème siècle a apporté des menaces spéciales au patrimoine archéologique. Par conséquent, je voudrais faire ici un rapport sur les activités actuelles dans le domaine de la documentation de l’art rupestre dans l’Oasis et essayer d’esquisser les priorités dans le contexte des activités potentielles futures. L’état de conservation de l’art rupestre, ainsi que les possibilités de mener de futures recherches dépendent en grande partie du développement agricole et infrastructurel de la région et d’un climat politique instable dans tout le pays. Le besoin de documentation et de protection de l’art rupestre est. plus grand que jamais, car de nombreux changements dans le paysage local ne peuvent être arrêtés. Le temps presse, car de plus en plus de panneaux avec de l’art rupestre disparaissent irrémédiablement pour des raisons que j’ai l’intention d’aborder dans cet article. Une discussion sur les menaces à l’art rupestre égyptien en général constituera un arrière-plan pour les considérations concernant sur les pétroglyphes du désert occidental.



I wish to express my deepest gratitude to Anthony Mills for his insightful comments on an earlier draft of this paper and English editing. My most sincere thanks go also to Barbara Matthews for helping to translate the article. Finally, I would like to thank Heiko Riemer and the second anonymous reviewer for valuable comments and suggestions. Fieldwork discussed in this paper was carried out with permission of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Egypt.

Funding Information

This study was funded by the National Science Centre, Poland (2016/23/D/HS3/00805). The research on the Dakhleh Oasis rock art is financed by the National Science Centre, Poland (project no. 2016/23/D/HS3/00805).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rock Art UnitPoznań Archaeological MuseumPoznańPoland

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