Depictions of Human Trophies in Arabian Rock Art

Author(s): Sandra Olsen; Khan

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Technique and Interpretation in the Archaeology of Rock Art" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

The ritualistic use of various detached human body parts is a circumglobal phenomenon that has been documented for cultures extending backward through time for millennia. Its symbolic purposes are diverse, but war trophies and ancestor worship are two of the most common. Artists’ depictions of displays of human body parts occur in numerous media, including stone sculptures and bas relief, ceramic vessels, carved shells, Plains Indian ledger art and more. Here we document decapitated heads and detached arms illustrated in Arabian petroglyphs on boulders. The images of human heads uncharacteristically incorporate facial features, and it is possible to determine that the removal of the arms left the scapula attached to the forelimbs. A possible weapon is shown in one grouping. A Neolithic figure of a man waving a severed arm over his head on a rock art panel at the Shuwaymis locality sheds light on an ancient activity incorporating human limbs. The man is accompanied by three dogs and faces a bezoar goat.

Cite this Record

Depictions of Human Trophies in Arabian Rock Art. Sandra Olsen, Khan. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 450432)

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 22891