Having provided a vast list of very good reasons why rock art is really quite difficult to employ in archaeological investigation, it seems sensible to state why rock art should be given a role to play in archaeology in general, and in the analysis of the Eastern Desert in particular – and what might be lost by simply neglecting to take into account archaeological data that exists in significant volume. The reasons are as follows.
The presence of rock art is an indication that something is being communicated. It might be something as simple as a doodle by idle pastoralists representing something familiar, and it might be marking an important landmark or indicating a territory. It is something that signposts human presence and a need or desire to express. It is always worth trying to get to the bottom of that wish to express, even if it seems to defy elucidation.
Eastern Desert rock art is present where no other archaeological remains are known at the moment. It presents the idea that parts of the Eastern Desert were used, even though we haven not investigated the regions sufficiently to see this in the form of other archaeological data. This means that it may be an indication as to where to look for other types of archaeological data.
As Smith points out (1967, p.21) “Regardless of the interpretations of certain scenes, there is a hard core of precise information on such matters as clothing, ornaments, certain implements and tasks, and even on group interactions, which are unlikely to be preserved in any other way”.
Finally, it should be considered because it is there. Ignoring any particular form of data just because it is so fundamentally difficult to analyze seems like a bad reason to exclude it.
Copyright Andie Byrnes 2007