'World's oldest rock drawings' uncovered in Iran by archaeologist

Professor says US sanctions have denied him research material and technology

Gabriel Samuels
Monday 12 December 2016 17:44
Iranian archeologist Mohammed Naserifard displays ancient engravings in the hills outside the town of Khomeyn
Iranian archeologist Mohammed Naserifard displays ancient engravings in the hills outside the town of Khomeyn

An Iranian archaeologist has discovered what he believes could be some of the oldest rock etchings on the planet.

The markings, which have only been seen by a few people, were discovered by Dr Mohammed Naserifard among a rock formation outside the town of Khomeyn in western Iran.

The professor believes etchings found at the top of an untouched hillside could be tens of thousands of years old.

However, he says sanctions imposed by the US on Iranian scientists has made it difficult to access definitive data and the tools for analysis.

Since 2002 Dr Naserifard claims to have discovered 50,000 ancient paintings and engravings during his journeys, which have taken him through a range of provinces.

In 2008, archaeology experts from the Netherlands visited the area with Dr Naserifard and said a cluster of drawings made using cups could be more than 40,000 years old.

One of the most striking pieces is a 4,000-year-old engraving of an ibex deer, complete with long curled horns, at the top of a hill. There are thought to be several similar markings further along the trail.

In pride of place is an etching of an ibex deer, thought to be 4,000 years old

Dr Naserifard said his discoveries support the growing evidence that humans may have started to develop a common art tradition before leaving the Middle East.

“I was so excited, finding these works was like finding treasure,” he told AFP. “But sanctions have deprived us of the technology. We hope we can soon bring this technology to Iran and gain more accurate and scientific information on these engravings.”

Iranian scientists are not allowed to use uranium analysis tools in their research due to US sanctions. The technology acts as a new form of carbon dating which can accurately estimate when something was created.

The professor is hoping to continue his research and involve archaeological institutions from around the world in his documentation project.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in