Madagascar cave artwork hints at historical connections between Africa and Asia

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Distinctive, prehistoric rock artwork drawings have been found within the Andriamamelo Collapse western Madagascar.

I used to be a part of a staff that found and described these historical treasures. They’re the primary actually pictorial artwork, depicting photographs of nature with human-like and animal-like figures, to be seen on the island. Till just lately, rock artwork in Madagascar had solely yielded just a few websites with fundamental symbols.

The dramatic discoveries contained a number of surprises, together with hints at some exceptional cultural connections.

First, scenes depicted in some circumstances linked up pretty on to Egyptian non secular motifs from the Ptolemaic interval (300-30 BCE).

Second, different inferences from symbols and writing on the partitions confirmed connections to the Ethiopian and Afro-Arab worlds.

Lastly, prevalent symbology and motifs evoked a two-millennia-old cave artwork fashion from Borneo.

A further realm of surprises: at the least three extinct animals of Madagascar (thought to have been extinct for a lot of centuries) could also be depicted – an enormous sloth lemur, elephant birds and an enormous tortoise.

It has lengthy been believed – and proof has confirmed – that the individuals, language, and tradition of Madagascar are rooted in distant historical connections to Borneo, an island in south-east Asia, mixed with sturdy influences from continental japanese Africa.

Nonetheless, who the primary Malagasy have been, once they arrived, and what they did after that, are all hotly debated matters.

Although our findings are speculative, any data that is likely to be derived from the Andriamamelo Cave proof is of appreciable curiosity to the reconstruction of Malagasy early historical past.

Connections past Madagascar

Our analysis group – together with Malagasy scientists from native establishments, and American, British and Australian specialists – visited the location close to the village of Anahidrano on the north-west fringe of the 17,100-hectare Beanka protected space in 2013.

Our staff spent a number of days recording the photographs, surveying and mapping the whole cave, looking for related archaeological websites, and interviewing native villagers concerning the artwork. It took a number of years, nevertheless, to go looking by related literature and museum archives to verify the individuality and significance of what we’d discovered.

Cave artwork is copied down by Dr. Julian Hume of London Pure Historical past Museum.
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We made digital copies and hand-drawings of 72 cave-art objects. These have been drawn in black pigment and included 16 animals, six human kinds, two human-animal hybrid kinds, two geometric designs, 16 examples of an M-shaped image, and plenty of different patterns and vague kinds.

Egyptian connections are hinted at in eight main photographs, together with a falcon (Horus); the bird-headed god Thoth; the ostrich goddess Ma`at and two human-animal figures which have been just like Anubis – an historical Egyptian god often depicted as a person with a canine head.

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The ever-present and mysterious M-figures demand rationalization: we urged, after looking out many related alphabets, that it’s a good match for just one, the letter “hawt” (ሐ) within the historical Ethiopian Amharic alphabet, pronounced “ha”.

Surprisingly, although, we additionally discovered this image in cave artwork from Borneo considered about 2,000 years previous, and in no different cave or rock artwork all through the Indo-Pacific area. In some Austronesian languages (the various language household that extends from Malagasy on the west to distant Hawaii and Rapa Nui within the Pacific), the phrase “ha” is a time period for the “breath of life”.

M determine.
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All these doable connections remind us that Madagascar’s individuals, language, and tradition are in themselves syncretic, mixing African and Asian influences to supply a novel Malagasy individuals.

The richly detailed and various artwork is notable additionally for what it doesn’t present.

No Christian, Muslim or Hindu symbolism is depicted, and no comparatively fashionable motifs such because the Latin alphabet, automobiles, airplanes or flags. Even the ever-present zebu (cattle), the culturally paramount image of the final thousand years or extra in Madagascar, are absent.

When and whose

It’s arduous to know precisely when these drawings have been made. Direct courting of cave artwork is notoriously tough, and proved so on this case because the black pigment was constituted of darkish inorganic minerals with solely a small element of charcoal we might use for radiocarbon courting.

The presence of extinct animals, and the shortage of recent motifs and the alphabet utilized in fashionable Malagasy, weigh closely in opposition to the notion of a latest origin for the artwork.

We suspect that the artwork is about 2,000 years previous – courting again to the time of Cleopatra or earlier than, based mostly on the non secular motifs. Whether it is, that’s exceptional and helpful to know as a result of it could present proof for who colonised Madagascar and when.

If, alternatively, a set of pre-Christian non secular beliefs has survived for hundreds of years and even millennia amongst sure ethnic teams in very distant areas of the immense island – retaining recognisable influences from Egypt, Ethiopia and Borneo – that may be maybe extra exceptional. Village informants hinted at that risk, by insisting that the “sorcerer” pictured was a member of a mysterious group of “Vazimba” or “Bosy”) who lived within the forest close by.

So, whose artwork is that this? We want we knew, however clues are principally missing. The one doable writing, apart from the M-figures, is a line of faint script within the decrease proper nook of this rock-art extravaganza.

Our greatest guess is that the legible center six of eight characters, inferred to be sorabe, archaic Malagasy writing in Arabic script, might say “D-A-NT-IA-R-Ok”.

Does that confer with Antiochus IV Epiphanes? This king of the Seleucid Empire (western Asia) within the Ptolemaic interval constructed a big navy, conquered a lot of Egypt in 170 BCE, and despatched exploring and buying and selling expeditions down the Crimson Sea and the east African coast. Ivory merchants in that interval unfold Roman items as far south as ports in Tanzania south of Zanzibar, to commerce with Azania.

Till extra artwork or related archaeological proof turns up for historical African and Asian influences in Madagascar, we are able to solely speculate.


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