The dama gazelle Nanger dama (Pallas, 1766) in Saharan rock art


en Anthropozoologica 57 (8) - Pages 185-209

Published on 01 July 2022

Twenty-five original prehistoric rock images from the Sahara in Libya, Niger, Mauretania and Algeria are presented which evidently or likely represent dama gazelles (Mammalia, Bovidae: Nanger dama (Pallas, 1766)). A literature revision of gazelles in North African rock art serves to interpret these new examples. Recurrent stylistic devices of engraved antelopes in rock surfaces are inferred. The rock images extend the known prehistoric range of the dama gazelle into the Fezzan (southwest Libya), the Western Desert of Egypt and the border triangle region Egypt/Sudan/Libya. Some rock paintings reveal the subspecies identity of dama gazelles, confirming the red-necked gazelle (N. d. ruficollis (Hamilton Smith, 1827)) for southwest Egypt. A long brown dorsal saddle patch combined with extensive white areas in their head skins likely proposes N. d. dama (Pallas, 1766) for the hitherto taxonomically undetermined populations in east-central Algeria, extinct since before taxonomists could study them. Our revision suggests that published conjectures of gerenuks (Litocranius walleri (Brooke, 1878)) or dibatags (Ammordorcas clarkei (Thomas, 1891)) depicted in Saharan rock images or in Pharaonic Egyptian art sometimes refer to misidentified dama gazelles, as far as they are interpretable at all.


Rock engravings, rock paintings, Antilopinae, Sahara, animal ideography, North African prehistory.

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