Human figures

Human figures are generally more present in the Hisma region than in the Eastern Desert, without any explanation till now. In the Eastern Desert, human figures are simpler and crude, mostly depicted in relation to animals in hunting (or herding?) or ridding scenes. On their side, petroglyphs of the Southern region offer a larger diversity of scenes: a part of hunting, we also find dances, ritual practices or praying attitudes, fights in dual or in groups, rare parturition or erotic representations. 

Eastern Desert
Wadi Rum
G. O. Rollefson, A. Wasse Y. Rowan art., ref. below
E.Borzatti, ref. below

Petroglyphs are valuable indicators regarding the tools and weapons used by men in diverse contexts and diverse periods. For example, the hunting scenes depict bows, arrows and spears but also kites, pit traps, nets and ropes... fighting and war situations attest all kinds of weapons from the sword, spears and shields, till to the guns. 

Wadi Rum, rider with exaggeratedly large sword
Eastern Desert, fighters with spears ad shields
Eastern Desert, Jabal Qurma, soldier with gun
exp. Jordan Museum

The religious register is naturally represented, especially in the Southern areas, in praying position with raised arms (sometime underlined with an inscription), possibly through dancing scenes, but also through the design of hands or raised forearms. Hands are mainly found in North of Arabia, with a minor distribution in Wadi Rum. Concerning the prehistorical periods, hands are associated with hunting scenes while for the pre-Islamic period, they are associated with inscriptions. It is difficult to determine the exact function of those designs. The religious significance of the hands representations is corroborated by the comparison with the importance of the hand imagery in the religious contexts of the Egyptian, Near and Middle East cultures, where the hands are symbol of devotion and pray. They may be potentially associated with a solar cult, as pre-Islamic inscriptions found beside them often invoke the Semitic god of the Sun. The open hand shape reminds in itself to the sun rays, as well as hands with forearms were used in Egypt for representing Aton rays. Only right hands are depicted, which refers to the positive and negative significance of the right and left hands in the Arabic and Middle Eastern cultures. The importance of the hands perpetuates till today. In Islam, the position of the hands during the pray is accurately codified. Symbolic hands keep to be widely represented in the Arabic art and handicraft as a sign of worship or of protection from the evil eye. Traditionally, in some areas of Middle East, painted hands are depicted on door lintels of a new house (originally with the blood of a scarified animal) or on domestic water tanks.

The representations of feet are more enigmatic and their presence can not be put in connection with any other indicators as inscriptions. The desert of Wadi Rum counts numerous examples of diverse types, sometimes traced with only an outline, sometimes engraved with the toes details. Some scholars, referring to samples found in the Nil valley, interpret them as magic-religious symbols in association with hunting practices. However, some specimen are recent (20th century). Feet can be depicted as single or by pair. Some of them even have sandals. It would be hazardous to see a religious significance in those designs. Even local dwellers of Wadi Rum do not have a clear and common interpretation for the feet design. 


Edoardo Borzatti von Löwenstern : Quadri Di Pietra, 8000 Anni D’Arte Nel Deserto, Casa Editrice Nuova, Bologna 2005.

Saba Fares-Drappeau : La Representation De La Main Dans Les Gravures Rupestres En Jordanie Eu Sud, Journal of Epigraphy & Rock Drawing, 2008/2, Department of Antiquities, Amman 2018.

A.Betts, S.Helms: 

Kaelin Groom: 

Bryan C. Gordon: 

Yorke M. Rowan, Gary Rollefson, Alexander Wasse, Austin “Chad” Hill, Morag M. Kersel: 

Michael Macdonald, Norbert Nebes: 

Thomas R. Paradise: 

Mahdi Alzoubi, Sultan Al-Maani and Hussein Al-Qudrah: 



Azhideh Moqaddam:  and