Tuesday, October 30, 2012

About those Saharan Reindeer . . .

Karkur Talh bovids (Courtesy Fliegel Jezerniczky Expeditions (link))

Without trying to draw any conclusions, I will say that the above rock art drawing has had me thinking for a while.  The antlers on two of the above animals don't match any bovids I know of in Africa today.  The closest animal I can think of is a reindeer.

Given what we now know about Saharan megalakes and their connection to Karkur Talh, I am wondering if these could have perhaps been wondering bovids from Icy Europe.  I really don't have any other explanation.  The artists of these rock art drawings seem to have been very accurate in their realizations and the antlers on these animals do somewhat resemble those of a South Georgian reindeer.  As South Georgian reindeer are not from South Georgia, but from Norway, this engraving hints at an Ice Age exodus from Europe, and to the very different environment of the Sahara 10,000 years ago.


  1. Marnie,

    Those images all have a long tail with a tassle on the end - a cow tail - so can not be reindeer.

    I do note though that the horns are strange, the one in the middle seems to have 2 sets of horns, whereas the left-most one has the typical lyre-shaped horns. I guess it's possible that like Jacob Sheep - an early goat-like sheep - that some breeds of cattle once had two sets of horns.

    Jacob Sheep:

  2. Jacob Sheep. I wouldn't want to tangle with one of them.

    Yes, I saw the tail.

    Again, I don't have any clear idea of what the artist was drawing, but there are no extant cattle, sheep, antelope or gazelle with horns that resemble those in the picture. It's possible that the artist might have confounded a picture of a deer or reindeer with that of cattle. Red deer do still exist in the Atlas Mountains, so it is not entirely out of the question that the horns represent those of a deer. However, as you point out, the tail doesn't work for a deer or a reindeer.

  3. Marnie,

    I do think though that there is an ancient connection between the Arctic and North africa, which is confirmed via mtDNA, see this paper:

    Saami and Berbers—An Unexpected Mitochondrial DNA Link

    Seven of the new sequences (one Berber from Algeria, two Italian, one Spanish, and three Saami) clustered into U5b1b, the subclade encompassing the Yakut and Fulbe mtDNAs. The Saami and the Yakut mtDNAs formed a minor branch distinguished only by the transition at nt 16144, the Berber and the Fulbe mtDNAs clustered in a second minor branch also characterized only by control-region mutations, and the Italian and Spanish mtDNAs formed other minor branches.

  4. Thanks, Paul. Yes, I've seen the paper, but it's nice to have it posted here. I haven't looked at it for a while.


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