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Ahmad Al-Jallad
<Ancient Animals> The Syro-Arabian desert today appears barren but centuries ago the landscape was teeming with wild animals: gazelle, lions, ostriches, etc., along with domesticated horses and camels. This ancient ecosystem is preserved in the Safaitic inscriptions & rock art.
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Ahmad Al-Jallad 1 Aug 18
Replying to @Safaitic
This image (CEDS 237) depicts a lion, /'asad/ or /layṯ/, common in the ancient Near East but now extinct, attacking a man. Some writers mention keeping watch for lions stalking their flocks. One man remarks: wa kallama-h ha'-'asad 'the lion injured him'.
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Ahmad Al-Jallad 1 Aug 18
Replying to @Safaitic
This beautiful example from the Damascus Museum depicts a nomadic warrior, with a feathered headdress, in pursuit of a horse with a hunting dog. A musician playing a reed instrument watches on; the meaning of the scorpion is unclear.
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Ahmad Al-Jallad 1 Aug 18
Replying to @Safaitic
Ostriches, /naʕāmat/, flocked in great numbers in the ancient Harrah. They are sometimes depicted as the object of hunts. The nomads used the shells of their eggs as water containers. (Right Ms 5 and left KRS 3044).
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Ahmad Al-Jallad 1 Aug 18
Replying to @Safaitic
The Arabian oryx was known as /daṣy/, cognate with Aramaic dayṣā 'ibex'. (Inscription SIAM 26).
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Ahmad Al-Jallad 1 Aug 18
Replying to @Safaitic
The bull oryx was known as /ṯawr/ -- check out these exaggerated horns! (Inscription ZMQJ 10).
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Ahmad Al-Jallad 1 Aug 18
Replying to @Safaitic
The Ibex, /waʕl/, is beautifully depicted in this Hismaic inscription. You can distinguish these from the oryx by their curved horns. (Inscription KJC 51).
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Ahmad Al-Jallad 1 Aug 18
Replying to @Safaitic
On the left, one writer draws two wild asses /ʕayrayn/ (WH 3642); the image on the right depicts a she-ass, /ʔatān/ (BTH 91).
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Ahmad Al-Jallad 1 Aug 18
Replying to @Safaitic
Horses are called /faras/; the colt is a /mohr/ and mare a /mohrat/. They are in my opinion the most beautifully depicted. In this scene (WH 865), a mounted rider faces off with a felid, possibly a lion.
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Ahmad Al-Jallad 1 Aug 18
Replying to @Safaitic
But by far the most commonly depicted animal is the camel. They are often drawn in an idealized form, with their necks stretched to sky. The young she-camel is called a /bekrat/ and one that has given birth is a '/nа̄qat/. The bull-camel is /gamal/. (Right ms 28, left KRS 3291).
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Ahmad Al-Jallad 1 Aug 18
Replying to @Safaitic
Why did the nomads carve these images? There is probably no single correct answer, but a few texts suggest that some of these 'graven(?) images' may have been offerings to a deity. This inscription (Is.M 92) states that the she-camel is dedicated to the god nohay.
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Ahmad Al-Jallad 1 Aug 18
Replying to @Safaitic
The nomads didn't depicted every animal they encountered in their rock art. Sheep and goats are rare, even though they are mentioned frequently in the texts. Birds (aside from the ostrich) as well as insects and reptiles are rarely, if ever, depicted.
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Ahmad Al-Jallad 1 Aug 18
Replying to @Safaitic
The rock art depicts many other things, such as wars and raids, entertainment, hunting scenes, and magical events. But we'll leave these for another day.
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