Gilf El-Kebir

The Gilf El-Kebir is a sandstone plateau located in the southwest corner of the Western Desert. The rocky surface slopes are partially covered by sand because the Great Sand Sea to the north is gradually encroaching on the plateau. The area is extremely arid but it supports wild sheep known as the weedan and several species of reptiles as well as small birds, such as the ubiquitous White-crowned Black Wheatear. You’ll find ancient rock art in the area that attest to a radically different environment in prehistoric times that depict numerous pictures of several types of big cattle.

Gilf Kebir, a number of wadis intersect and scar the plateau, and many of these are very beautiful, but they also contain considerable rock art.

We will begin by examining the Northern Gilf, where, in contrast to the prolific number of painted shelters around Wadi Sura to the south, there are few rock art sites. This is surprising given that three of the main wadis in this area have considerable vegetation. One of the early explorers, Almasy, thought that this was because they were still raging mountain streams during prehistory. He was mistaken, but still there is no explanation for the lack of rock art sites.

The second, larger cave is some twenty yards to the north, left of the first one, and has a larger number of illustrations, including cattle, ostrich, dogs and giraffe. The bulk of paintings here, however, are of men, with well over a hundred figures represented. Many more paintings are damaged and the original number may well have been twice or three times that figure. Here the figures are crudely painted. The heads are round blobs, the torsos thick, the limbs clumsy, the hips narrow and the feet only indicated. Hands appear only on the larger drawings. The colors are mostly dark red, with bands of white around ankles, wrists, upper arms and below the knees.

Recently, near the Gilf, scientists have discovered a meteor crater field. Some 160 impact structures are known on Earth, among which most are single craters and very few impact fields. Impact crater fields result from meteor showers that can produce tens of kilometer size impact structures in a single event. Only a few such field are known on earth, and the one near the Gilf is the newest, and largest of these. This particular one features at least 50 small circular craters covering an area of 4,500 square kilometers.

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