In 2018, archaeologists made a staggering discovery in Swaga Swaga Sport Reserve in central Tanzania: 52 beforehand undocumented rock shelters, intentionally painted with rock artwork. Weathering had largely destroyed all however a handful; however of those who had been preserved, one was an absolute enigma.
The positioning, named Amak’hee 4, was elaborately painted with a frieze of figurative artwork – together with three mysterious, anthropomorphic figures with extraordinarily outsized heads.
These might be, based on archaeologist Maciej Grzelczyk of the Jagiellonian College in Poland, a clue to determining what different, comparable trios of figures present in different rock artwork panels is likely to be.
The Amak’hee Four panel is tough thus far, however Grzelczyk was capable of gauge that it is no less than just a few hundred years outdated. It is painted nearly fully in pink pigment, aside from 5 figures in white. The weathering on this pigment, and the absence of home animals, means that it is pretty outdated, relationship again to the time of hunter-gatherer societies within the area.
Depicted on the panel are animals that seem to resemble wildebeest, elands, buffalo and even a giraffe, in addition to a smattering of human-like figures with massive heads. However one group stands out.
“Notably noteworthy among the many Amak’hee Four work is a scene that centres round three pictures,” Grzelczyk wrote in his paper.
“On this trio, the figures appear to characteristic stylised buffalo heads. These shapes recall the central dip within the profile of the buffalo head from the place the 2 horns rise after which curve outward away from the pinnacle, in addition to the downturned ears.”
The tradition of the Sandawe individuals, who’re descended from those that used to inhabit the area, doesn’t embrace motifs of buffalo-headed individuals or individuals who can shapeshift into buffaloes (or vice versa), so the pictures could depict one thing else. However, Grzelczyk notes, buffalo horns do play a major position in some Sandawe rituals.
No matter they could be, the unusual figures will not be with out precedent. Not removed from Amak’hee 4, within the Kondoa area in central Tanzania, two rock shelter work particularly bear a powerful resemblance to the trio.
On the web site Kolo B2, three figures are depicted standing collectively. At Kolo B1, three figures are depicted horizontally, though laying on the bottom.
All three websites present comparable figures, with massive heads, though the Kolo figures sport a striped motif, interpreted as a headdress. (Different Kondoa figures are interpreted as having elaborate hairstyles).
In all three websites, the figures are linked by a line throughout their midsection. And all three have comparable preparations and instructions of the palms and arms.
Amak’hee Four does have some vital variations. The heads appear to be crammed in with strong color, and so they appear far more vital to the motion round them.
“The figures from Amak’hee Four are noticeably greater than these at Kolo, and make this essential motif a central focus round which the remainder of the narrative appears to happen. In distinction, the pictures at Kolo are remoted depictions, with no clear connection to the remainder of the work,” Grzelczyk wrote.
At Kondoa, a number of the rock artwork websites are nonetheless in use by the Sandawe for quite a lot of ritual actions. The newly documented websites are additionally recognized to native communities, so it is potential that they might shed some gentle on what the mysterious figures imply.
In the meantime, archaeologists will proceed the work of documenting the websites in order that they are often added to the revealed report.
The paper has been revealed in Antiquity.