Sacred Places in the Profane Landscapes of Lower Nubia: A Case Study from the Czechoslovak Concessions
Lenka Varadzinová (Suková) [+]
Charles University, Prague
Rock art – non-utilitarian anthropic marks made on natural, unmovable rock surfaces by means of techniques involving reductive (petroglyphs) and additive (pictograms) processes – constitutes an archaeological source of a peculiar nature. It is a direct testimony left behind by peoples of prehistoric and historical times of themselves and their lived and/or spiritual worlds as they experienced them and/or conceived them. The complex spatial and temporal dynamics on some surfaces further shows that the pictorial statements made by some artists at one time were added to, modified, or even reduced by others who felt the urge to leave their own characteristic trace on the particular panels and thus to represent themselves on or to appropriate the panels and to charge them with extended, updated, or even new – their own – meanings. To extract the exact – and often layered – meaning these images of distant times once bore for their creators and direct audience is a task of marked difficulty without informed knowledge provided by those who used or reused the surfaces. Nevertheless, we can still learn a lot about these ancient peoples if we view their works as historical documents and look for what they told us about themselves unintentionally by creating their distinctive images at particular places and by engaging into dialogues with the landscape and with other graphic – both inscriptional and pictorial – and archaeological evidence. In this chapter, we will visit the rock-art landscapes in two sections of the Nile Valley in Lower Nubia and survey a selection of sites where the character of the rock art from the point of view of thematic, stylistic, structural, and technical aspects and/or the marked spatial and temporal dynamics of the rockart panels allow us to perceive these sites as “Places” – locales of special social or religious significance – in the otherwise profane, albeit through rock art humanised landscapes.