Review: Messages from the Past: Rock Art of Al-Hajar Mountains

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Messages from the Past: Rock Art of Al-Hajar Mountains
Angelo Fossati
Archaeopress, £58
ISBN 9781789692860
Review by George Nash

Over the past 20 years, the rock art of the Middle East has begun to get noticed, with fieldwork and research projects coming from Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and now Oman. Previously, little was known from these areas due in part to historic political instability, colonial approaches towards the archaeology, and a bias towards those sites that were most visible.

The rock art of Oman forms part of a unique assemblage that is found across most of the Persian Gulf. The rock art comprises engraved and painted figures such as boats, handprints, ibex, turtles, engendered human figures, warriors and weaponry, wild cats, and Islamic textual inscriptions. These figures are found mainly within the mountainous regions of Oman. 

Angelo Fossati’s book, sponsored by Oman’s Ministry of Heritage and Culture, is one of the first to document this unique assemblage and is organised into nine well-crafted chapters (including that all-important index). The book covers one of the main rock art areas of the region – the Al-Hajar Mountains. Fossati has deliberately pitched the book for both scholars and interested tourists, providing an adequate guide to some of the main sites (Chapter 9). The book also provides a detailed inventory of the rock art, the result of over 10 years of fieldwork by the author, plus his interpretations and theories about what it might represent.   

The book is lavishly illustrated throughout and will serve as an important reference for anyone researching the rock art of this region.

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