The preservation of rock art in open-air contexts is a global issue controlled by several environmental processes, which are less investigated than the cultural significance of engravings and paintings. For that reason, we discuss the age, preservation, and palaeoenvironmental context of petroglyphs discovered on the flat, almost vertical face of a large boulder fallen along the western slope of Jabal Hammah, a rocky hill that borders the oasis of Salut (northern Sultanate of Oman). Geoarchaeological investigation highlighted that in the region the preservation of petroglyphs is due to the interplay of two contrasting weathering processes. On one hand, karst dissolution – even if it is a very slow process in arid and semi-arid lands – gradually levels the surface of boulders. On the other hand, a biomineralized Mn- and Fe-rich rock varnish has developed inside the grooves of the engravings, thus sheltering them from extreme dissolution and promoting the preservation of the pristine shape of the representations.Moreover, organics trapped within the rock varnish have been radiocarbon dated to 2600±60 uncal. years BP. This result allows establishing a limit ante quem for the production of these specific engravings and to root it to the Bronze or Iron Age exploitation of the area. This result is of particular relevance in a region where well-dated rock art is virtually absent. Today, the biogeochemical processes leading to the formation of the protective crust are almost inactive, and not consistent with the present dry environmental settings. Their occurrence is in accordance with other local palaeoclimatic record, and suggests Bronze and Iron Age climatic conditions wetter than today. A broader implication of our work is that it shows how a multidisciplinary approach to the study of rock art provides the opportunity of understanding the age of rock art and its paleoenvironmental significance. We demonstrate that physical, chemical and biological weathering processes are in charge of the preservation and/or destruction of rock art; such processes have to be seriously taken into account in projects of rock art field assessment.

Age, palaeoenvironment, and preservation of prehistoric petroglyphs on a boulder in the oasis of Salut (northern Sultanate of Oman) / A. Zerboni, M. Degli Esposti, Y.L. Wu, F. Brandolini, G.S. Mariani, F. Villa, P. Lotti, F. Cappitelli, M. Sasso, A. Rizzi, G.D. Gatta, M. Cremaschi. - In: QUATERNARY INTERNATIONAL. - ISSN 1040-6182. - 572(2021 Jan 20), pp. 106-119. [10.1016/j.quaint.2019.06.040]

Age, palaeoenvironment, and preservation of prehistoric petroglyphs on a boulder in the oasis of Salut (northern Sultanate of Oman)

A. Zerboni
Primo
;
Y.L. Wu;F. Brandolini;G.S. Mariani;F. Villa;P. Lotti;F. Cappitelli;G.D. Gatta;M. Cremaschi
2021-01-20

Abstract

The preservation of rock art in open-air contexts is a global issue controlled by several environmental processes, which are less investigated than the cultural significance of engravings and paintings. For that reason, we discuss the age, preservation, and palaeoenvironmental context of petroglyphs discovered on the flat, almost vertical face of a large boulder fallen along the western slope of Jabal Hammah, a rocky hill that borders the oasis of Salut (northern Sultanate of Oman). Geoarchaeological investigation highlighted that in the region the preservation of petroglyphs is due to the interplay of two contrasting weathering processes. On one hand, karst dissolution – even if it is a very slow process in arid and semi-arid lands – gradually levels the surface of boulders. On the other hand, a biomineralized Mn- and Fe-rich rock varnish has developed inside the grooves of the engravings, thus sheltering them from extreme dissolution and promoting the preservation of the pristine shape of the representations.Moreover, organics trapped within the rock varnish have been radiocarbon dated to 2600±60 uncal. years BP. This result allows establishing a limit ante quem for the production of these specific engravings and to root it to the Bronze or Iron Age exploitation of the area. This result is of particular relevance in a region where well-dated rock art is virtually absent. Today, the biogeochemical processes leading to the formation of the protective crust are almost inactive, and not consistent with the present dry environmental settings. Their occurrence is in accordance with other local palaeoclimatic record, and suggests Bronze and Iron Age climatic conditions wetter than today. A broader implication of our work is that it shows how a multidisciplinary approach to the study of rock art provides the opportunity of understanding the age of rock art and its paleoenvironmental significance. We demonstrate that physical, chemical and biological weathering processes are in charge of the preservation and/or destruction of rock art; such processes have to be seriously taken into account in projects of rock art field assessment.
rock art; rock weathering; microscopy; climate change; radiocarbon; sultanate of Oman
Settore GEO/04 - Geografia Fisica e Geomorfologia
2-lug-2019
Article (author)
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
1-s2.0-S1040618219302253-main.pdf

embargo fino al 02/07/2021

Tipologia: Post-print, accepted manuscript ecc. (versione accettata dall'editore)
Dimensione 45.3 MB
Formato Adobe PDF
45.3 MB Adobe PDF Visualizza/Apri
1-s2.0-S1040618219302253-main.pdf

accesso riservato

Tipologia: Publisher's version/PDF
Dimensione 6.33 MB
Formato Adobe PDF
6.33 MB Adobe PDF   Visualizza/Apri   Richiedi una copia
Pubblicazioni consigliate

Caricamento pubblicazioni consigliate

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2434/653331
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? ND
  • Scopus 7
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? 9
social impact