Rock art from Dahaisi cave, Socotra, Yemen: a preliminary report


  • Julian Jansen van Rensburg
  • Peter De Geest


rock art, Socotra, Dahaisi cave, crosses, interior population


The island of Socotra is one of the most enigmatic places on earth. Situated at the entrance to the Red Sea it has attracted Indian Ocean seafarers and merchants to its shores from at least the first century Unequivocal evidence for Socotra's importance in this trade was found within Hoq cave on the north coast where inscriptions show that sea-traders from India, South Arabia, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Palmyra were visiting Socotra from the first century to the sixth century AD. But who were the indigenous inhabitants and what do we know of their social, cultural, and religious lives? The discovery of the rock art in Dahaisi cave and its ongoing analysis and interpretation is starting to provide us with some answers, and we are slowly beginning to catch our first glimpse of the social, cultural, and religious lives of the ancient interior inhabitants. The presence of a number of different geometric designs and motifs is starting to put together a picture that appears to indicate that the cave had a number of different functions in its past. The geometric representations and their proposed links with ancient wall systems in the vicinity would seem to point to an administrative function, while representations of crosses and antlered people appear to indicate a religious function. Other motifs of vessels (ships) and abstract imagery of animals also suggest that the cave functioned as an important node within the landscape where the inhabitants sought to record various aspects of what was important in their lives. Further recording and dating will undoubtedly provide a clearer understanding of the obscurities surrounding Socotra's ancient interior population.





How to Cite

van Rensburg, J. J., & De Geest, P. (2015). Rock art from Dahaisi cave, Socotra, Yemen: a preliminary report. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 45, 417–431. Retrieved from

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