Results of the Winter 2008/9 Bergmann-Böckli-Marei-4WD-trip to Gebel Uweinat


- Discovery of the Abu Ballas Trail’s last missing link on Egyptian soil -





Table of contents

1.3 Winter 2000/2001: the discovery of the Road to Yam and Tekhebet (RYT) – continued – and the discovery of Djedefre´s water mountain and of Biar Jaqub -

1.31 Preparations & winter 2000/2001-expedition program

1.32 Presenting my spring 1999 and winter 1999/2000 finds to the Cologne university pre-historians

1.33 Selected waypoints & comments regarding my winter 2000/2001-expedition

1.331 From Djedefre´s Water Mountain (DWM) to Wadi el-Akhdar

1.332 From Wadi el-Akhdar to the south-western tip of the Gilf Kebir plateau, to Wadi Penderel and back to my dump at the mouth of Wadi el-Maftuh

1.333 From El-Aqab el-Qadim to Wadi Penderel; advance to Wadi Abd el-Malik impeded

1.334 From N 23 18 29.0 + E 26 09 26.7 to Muhattah Rashid

1.34 Introducing K. P. Kuhlmann to Djedefre´s Water Mountain and to RYT- way stations situated close to Dakhla Oasis (2/14/2001 – 2/18/2001)

1.341 Djedefre´s Water Mountain (DWM)

1.342 Visiting RYT-Muhattahs discovered in the vicinity of Dakhla Oasis

1.35 The discovery of Biar Jaqub (Wilkinson’s 2nd Zerzoora) (2/19/2001 – 3/2/2001)

1.36 Summary



1.3 Winter 2000/2001: the discovery of the Road to Yam and Tekhebet (RYT) – continued – and the discovery of Djedefre´s water mountain and of Biar Jaqub -


1.31 Preparations & winter 2000/2001-expedition program


In November 1999 Kuper was virtually overwhelmed by my finds. He who had kept asking everyone known to have travelled across the Western Desert of Egypt for possible observations of pottery other than Neolithic, had difficulties to comprehend that the manifold items uncovered by my endeavours had been missed by his team and by other motorists for years. At Muhattah Jaqub I had noticed fairly fresh car tracks and footprints of people only two kilometres afar from the ancient way station. From these marks imprinted into the ground next to alamat and to the ancient trail, one could still read that a handful of people had been looking for a position and probably, had discussed in which direction to continue their search. (see C. Bergmann, Der letzter Beduine, p. 392) To me, the tire profiles suggested that it was Kuper´s folks themselves. Asked about the provenance of the tracks Kuper kept silent.


Kuper´s shortcomings regarding the verification of pharaonic period artefacts in the core of Egypt’s Western Desert was not without implications for Egyptology. If a fairly large, financially well funded team of university scientist, working for more than a decade in the area concerned, had not found a single potsherd related to dynastic times then obviously, there was no need to rethink the prevailing thoughts in Egyptology, which maintained that the ancients of the Nile valley had viewed the Western Desert as the land of death and horror and the realm of Seth into which everyone  had supposedly to avoid setting ones foot. However, because of my discoveries, precisely such a revision was now necessary. In order to promote a fundamental change in perception among academics regarding the above issue, I had intended to extend the scope of the upcoming survey into the area of the Gilf Kebir proper and to Gebel Uweinat. However, Kuper stipulated that the latter region should be reserved for later generations of archaeologists and thus declined to set up dumps all the way to the far away mountain. Under these terms, I had to confine my explorations to the Gilf Kebir.


Kuper gave me several photographs depicting a huge cairn (alam) which he had discovered at the fringes of Wadi Meshi in the northwestern section of the Gilf Kebir. (picture 151) He had failed to map this landmark which he and Kröpelin dated to the Old Kingdom. According to their appraisal, the item designated a road which supposedly, led from Abu Ballas to Kufra. As none of the Cologne pre-historians had found any evidence of such a trail other than the cairn, I was asked to rediscover the alam and to search for the ancient track. These two assignments required quite an extensive survey of the Gilf Kebir between 23 degrees 40 minutes and 23 degrees latitude.


picture 151: one of Kuper´s photographs showing a tall alam

 erected at the fringes of Wadi Meshi


1.32 Presenting my spring 1999 and winter 1999/2000 finds to the Cologne university pre-historians


This 4WD-trip which lasted from 10/1/2000 to 10/13/2000, had in parts, become necessary as Kuper´s excitement and confusion caused by the new discoveries had messed up some of his notes of fall 1999. Ahead of the journey, during summer, there had been a lack of communication. Kuper had not shared his plans with me. However, much to my delight, my son was admitted to travel with us. (pictures 152 – 155) So I could show Jacob Muhattah Jaqub, the beautifully situated RYT-way station bearing his name. (I had found the site on Jacob’s birthday, in March 1999.)



picture 152: from left to right: Muhamed Abd el-Hamid, Jacob and Chalil Ranem in my house at Bir Hamsa

picture 153: more than by camel Jacob seems to like to explore the desert by car



picture 154: Jacob helping to prepare my camel-expedition to the Gilf Kebir

picture 155: Kuper´s team, Jacob and myself before embarking for the desert


Embarking on a journey into the desert to visit such remarkable discoveries would normally be a cause for joy and delight. Not so this time. For some reason and to my surprise, a tense atmosphere prevailed in Kuper´s team. Despite the discouraging gloom we succeeded in visiting the major sites west of the Dakhla - Bir Tarfawi road. We also managed to dump water and supplies between Muhattah Jaqub and the Gilf Kebir.


I first led the caravan of cars to Muhattah Amur (pictures 115 – 125) and to the single water jar seen about a kilometre to the northeast (picture 126). From Muhattah Amur we headed for Abu Ballas (pictures 11, 69 - 71) passing by Muhattah el-Askeri (the latter consisting of six sites; pictures 47 - 53), Muhattah Amphorae (pictures 39, 156, 157), Muhattah Jaqub (pictures 19 – 22, 158 - 160), Muhattah Umm el-Alamat (picture 43), Khasin Ashan (pictures 56 - 58, 161), Khasin el-Ali (pictures 58 - 60), Muhattah Muscat (pictures 61 – 63, 162) and Bint Ballas (pictures 64 – 67).



picture 156: pottery at Muhattah Amphorae  picture 157: remains of a watering place at Muhattah Amphorae



picture 158: Jacob at my Muhattah Jaqub- inscription

picture 159: “My initials” carved into a sandstone slab that someone deposited on top of Muhattah

Jaqub – hill. Although it is Kufic script Kuper inquired whether I had intended to

mislead the archaeologists by placing a fake text at the prominent site.


picture 160: remains of a watering place at Muhattah Jaqub


picture 161: “swastika” at Khasin Ashan


picture 162: badly eroded pottery at Muhattah Muscat


After stopping at a point about 60 metres further from the single water jar which I had found between Muhattah Umm el Alamat and Khasin Ashan (see 1.222.1 g), Kuper who had been driving ahead of the car caravan using my waypoints, asked somewhat sarcastically: “Now Carlo, where should we look for your “lost” pot?” The nose of his 4WD, from which he obviously did not intend to alight, was pointing towards the item. Was the jar too close to be seen? Or did the jug escape Kuper´s notice because of semi-blindness? Here, those first doubts about the man whom I had made godfather of my son, had arisen. His stern attitude and taciturnity seemed to indicate resentment towards the extensive catalogue of discoveries which I had made and which he and his team had overlooked for more than a decade. I began to question if Kuper who hardly could laugh and who paid no compliments on the entire journey, was the right person to collaborate with.


The next way stations to be visited were Muhattah el-Bir (pictures 94 - 99, 163, 164), Muhattah Fatima (pictures 85 – 90), Khasin Berlin (pictures 72 + 73) and Muhattah Rashid (pictures 74 – 77, 204, 205, 208). Again, at Muhattah Rashid, Kuper remained ambiguously tight-lipped. The way station is situated at the eastern foot of “Two Tits”, a prominent double cone. A few years ago, Kuper and his team had surveyed the area intensively. Most people would have been attracted by such an eye catching site, would have climbed the two cones and walked around their base and would have run into Muhattah Rashid. Why not Kuper? The nearest survey points of the Cologne pre-historians were not more than 1.5 kilometres away from the ancient way station, the first one to the northeast - A1061 (followed by three additional ones – C2, A 750, 336 - each of them about a kilometre further west) and the second one – 749 - to the southwest of the Muhattah; all of them situated in the plain.



picture 163: Badly eroded rock art at Muhattah el-Bir discovered by Jan Kuper.

picture 164: Night camp in the vicinity of Muhattah el-Bir


picture 165: Stuck in the dunes between Khasin Berlin and Muhattah Rashid.

In the background the cliffs of the Gilf Kebir.



pictures 166 + 167: Eight of Count Almasy´s jerry cans discovered by the late Samir Lama and collected by Kuper.


Being extremely fond of off-road driving, it seemed to me that Kuper indeed lacked any ambition for hiking. To my amazement I had noticed that even when he searched for rock art, he took his 4WD for a ride around the hillock of his concern, without stopping, just looking from the driver’s seat through the open side window. Quite obviously, a classical field survey was not Kuper´s cup of tea.


For more than a decade the man had supervised emergency excavations in the Rhenish brown coal mining district west of the City of Cologne, Germany. Whenever digger operators of Rheinbraun Corporation discovered a prehistoric site they were obliged to inform him. Thus being kept busy documenting sites found by others, Kuper never had to search for himself. Did this practice condition him and did it later influence his activities as a desert archaeologist? It did not take long for him to qualify me as overly motivated, as an obsessed workaholic and finally, as “the Rheinbraun Corporation of the Libyan Desert”. Did my discoveries call into question the quality of some of his work? Extremely well financed and comfortably established in the field of desert research, he did not have to fear competition, as no other scientific team had the financial means to challenge the Cologne pre-historians. But then, I came along with my camels and my low cost survey concept. Constrained to surveying by camel because of my poverty I was nevertheless able to present finds of which established university academics like Kuper had only dreamt of for years. But had I been successful only because of the shortcomings of others? 


At last, we arrived at the four 6th dynasty potsherds which I had found near “Cone” (see chapter 1.222.2 d), which so far, was the most south westerly site discovered. In my opinion the find proves that the RYT does not ascend the plateau of the Gilf Kebir but, heading towards Gebel Uweinat, follows along the Gilf´s eastern fringes. However, Kuper and his aid, Gregor Wagner, performing all sorts of mental contortions, dismissed my conclusion and instead, proposed a Late Neolithic origin for the items. I was startled. For the first time I was confronted with pre-historians who, in spite of having held 6th dynasty pottery in their bare hands at Abu Ballas, were not able to distinguish this from pre-historic makes. Such ignorance did not bode well for the years to come. (In the absence of 14C datable matter, the eventual TL dating of one of the potsherds from the neighbouring site (see 1.222.2 e, picture 79) performed in July 2007, yielded a rather imprecise age of 2,200 +/- 20% BC thus pointing roughly to the period between the end of the Old Kingdom and Mentuhotep I. reign. This age determination gave rise to the conjecture that at least one branch of the RYT would follow along the Eastern fringes of the Gilf Kebir as I had concluded and thereafter, would head for Gebel Uweinat.) Even though my collaboration with Kuper´s team offered a mutually beneficial and compelling synergy that promised exciting results I began to wonder about the future prospects of our cooperation. (I was providing Kuper´s team with information about my discoveries which they otherwise would never have gained and they were supporting me with the transport of water & food for my expeditions.) Nevertheless, for the time being, what mattered were the dumps of water, food and feed for my upcoming survey. And for these, despite the misgivings and the somewhat tense atmosphere, I felt very privileged and was very grateful to Kuper.


1.33 Selected waypoints & comments regarding my winter 2000/2001-expedition

1.331 From Djedefre´s Water Mountain (DWM) to Wadi el-Akhdar


Complying with the credo “travel light” I had reduced the number of camels required for this survey. Thus, only Amur and Ashan were with me. Compared with previous expeditions this entailed less work but at the same time, more risk. In case of an animal going lame, there would be only one left to carry the heavy load. What if misfortune struck us and something would happen to both camels? I carried no satellite phone to call for help. On the other hand, limited water supplies did not suffice for a longer stay in the desert if my caravan would consist of more than two animals. Although I had carefully balanced the risks ahead of the expedition to my detriment, not everything went to plan.


From 874 positions that were recorded the following list of coordinates mainly consists of waypoints that concern the geographical alignment of the RYT and Kuper´s alam at Wadi Meshi or areas of vegetation cover. For the benefit of further unhindered explorations, waypoints of the ancient trail crossing the south-westernmost part of the Gilf Kebir plateau will not be revealed in this report.


a.) 12/9/2000: N 25 23 44.8 + E 28 17 03.5 Djedefre´s Water Mountain (DWM)

Whilst on my way to the Gilf Kebir I was also looking for a “stone temple”, which I had failed to discover on five preceding campaigns. The site was brought to the attention of Harding King in 1910 but the British explorer did not visit it as he considered his informants “…badly bitten with the treasure-seeking mania.” (W. J. Harding King, Mysteries of the Libyan Desert (London 2003), p. 145) 91 years after Harding King, when I arrived at the location with my camels, the stone temple revealed itself as a 4th dynasty camp site containing the cartouches of Cheops and of Djedefre´, expedition inscriptions written by the followers of Cheops, additional hieroglyphic graffiti, a number of conspicuous water mountain ideograms (one of them superimposed by pre-Pharaonic engravings) and abundant Neolithic rock art. (pictures 168 – 172, 213 – 228)



picture 168: approaching DWM (photograph taken on expedition 2004/05)

picture 169: water mountain with zigzag and crenellated lines superimposed by pre-Pharaonic engravings



picture 170: the cartouche of king Djedefre enclosed by a water mountain ideogram

picture 171: the cartouche of Cheops

picture 172: “ideal” water mountain ideogram


b.) 12/15/2000: N 23 57 23.0 + E 27 06 43.5 (stone circle)

Even before reaching the Gilf Kebir plateau, Ashan began to founder. The sole of his right foreleg was pierced by a pointed stone and was partly swollen.

c.) 12/16/2000: N 23 42 10.6 + E 26 49 17.7 (small stone circle)

d.) 12/17/2000: N 23 34 58.7 + E 26 39 54.6 alam, alignment of stones, stone circle)


picture 173: dried up Gizzu grazing at Two Tits



picture 174: my dump at El-Aqab el-Qadim     picture 175: at the first grazing ground in Wadi el-Bakht


e.) 12/18/2000: Old broad animal’s paths between “Cone” and the Gilf plateau possibly caused by cattle travelling between one pasturage and another.

f.) 12/19/2000: A day of grazing at different spots of green vegetation in Wadi el-Bakht northwest of N 23 15 32.8 + E 26 26 06.1 (pictures 175 + 176)


Note that in spring 1938, R. A. Bagnold et al noticed vegetation in “… the long winding gorges which penetrate westwards into the massif of the Gilf. These we found to contain much live vegetation (though no trees) and many ancient sites… (On the plateau which) is a harsh barrenness of broken rock; over all its thousands of square miles we found but two or three tiny dells containing vegetation.” (R. A. Bagnold, Narrative of the journey, in An expedition to the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat, 1938, The Geographical Journal XCIII No 4, April 1939, pp. 283, 284)

g.) 12/22/2000: N 23 14 07.4 + E 26 13 55.6 (a few dried up colocynths)


picture 176: Grazing ground in the upper reaches of Wadi el-Bakht. Dried up handal were found further down the wadi behind the dune.


h.) 12/25/2000: N 23 38 54.9 + E 26 22 24.7 (Kuper´s “Old Kingdom” cairn erected on a hilltop at Wadi Meshi. pictures 177 + 178)


The cairn is more than head-high. The design of its top looked straight away familiar to me, as a similar alam is shown in Arnold Hoelriegel´s book (A. Hoellriegel, op. cit., p.16 b) which contains a photo H. S. Penderel, a British member of Count Almasy´s March-April 1933 – Western Desert expedition, embracing such a cairn. (picture 181) It might even be the one I am standing at! Opening a small film container I noticed between two stone slabs, I found a visiting card signed by Kuper, Klees and Bokelmann. Written on it: “position unknown”. (pictures 179 + 180)



picture 177: Kuper´s “Old Kingdom” cairn 

picture 178: Looking upstream from the hilltop towered by the alam. In the foreground enigmatic graffiti carved into a basalt rock.



pictures 179 + 180: Kupers visiting card (recto & verso)

picture 181: H. S. Penderel “embracing” the Wadi Meshi cairn


The cairn’s construction does not point at all to an Old Kingdom provenance. As Almasy´s base camp (“Basis II”, named by Hoellriegel “Grand Sand Hotel”) erected at the mouth of Wadi Meshi for the purpose of establishing a triangulation network in the area, is not far away, the landmark most probably, matches with the triangulation point marked “elevation 827” on Hoellriegel´s map. (ibidem, p. 6) In addition, no ancient trail was found, neither in the surroundings of the land mark nor further to the west. These negative findings therefore sound the death knell for Kuper´s and Kröpelin´s speculations concerning this alam marking a side branch of the RYT which once connected Abu Ballas with Kufra in Libya.


Side notes:

a.) Concerning the area further to the south Bagnold remarks “… a network of paths cross and re-cross… (the Gilf Kebir). Lines of stones are laid out in curious patterns as if by children playing at forts. Implements and flakes are everywhere…” (R. A. Bagnold, Narrative of the journey, in An expedition to the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat, 1938, The Geographical Journal XCIII No 4, April 1939, p. 284)


b.) Despite the findings presented above Kuper and Kröpelin stubbornly insist on the possible existence of an ancient trail between Dakhla Oasis and Kufra passing through Abu Ballas and by the Wadi Meshi cairn. (R. Kuper, S. Kröpelin, Climate-controlled Holocene occupation in the Sahara: Motor of Africa’s evolution, Science 313 (11 August 2006), figure S2E) Why would anyone in ancient times want to make such a needless detour in favour of walking to Kufra in a straight line? Later, the existence of an ancient road independent of the RYT came to light. This road bypasses Abu Ballas at a considerable distance to the north thus, connecting a location west Mery´s Rock with the Eastern Gap of the Gilf Kebir. This route I named “Kufra Trail (KT). (see results of winter 2006/07 expeditions - in preparation)

i.) 12/24 – 12/28/2000: (Hot spell and weak rotating wind lasting four consecutive days, camels sweating; significantly increased water consumption)

j.) 12/28/2000: N 23 31 25.0 + E 25 49 31.7 (green vegetation at the head of a wadi; pictures 182 - 184)


picture 182: green vegetation, view from above; no way down for my camels


picture 183: a dead tree amongst the green vegetation


picture 184: the same dead tree seen in March 2009


k.) 12/29/2000: N 23 26 56.8 + E 25 50 05.8, N 23 26 52.8 + E 25 49 31.4 (fairly old footprints of two foreign camels; pictures 185 + 186)



picture 185: fairly old footprints a camel 

picture 186: Old footprints of a camel (below). Above them the fresh footprints of Amur, Ashan & myself.


l.) 12/29/2000: A waddan approached my caravan without fear. (pictures 187 – 190)

In 1938, Bagnold and Peel had a similar experience at Gebel Uweinat. “While peering into the dark doorway of one of the deserted barrack huts built by the detachment of the Sudan Defence Force in 1934 I was all but knocked down by a very fine specimen of wild sheep (waddan) which came rushing out of the hut in alarm… It has recently been said in Cairo that these animals were extinct at Uweinat, but we saw many… We then drove to Gebel Kissu… The plain between the two mountains was full of gazelle, and by the state of the vegetation there must have been heavy rain not more than two years previously. The mountain plants on Kissu were all in full flower. (R. A. Bagnold, Narrative of the journey, in An expedition to the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat, 1938, The Geographical Journal XCIII No 4, April 1939, pp. 285, 286) “Sanford, in a paper summarizing the evidence of recent precipitation in the area, notes that there was good grass at Uweinat in 1923 when Hassanein Bey visited it, and heavy rainstorms occurred in the spring of 1934.” (R. F. Peel, The Gilf Kebir, in An expedition to the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat, 1938, The Geographical Journal XCIII No 4, April 1939, p. 304) “There is an area of dunes connecting the Uweinat area with that of Erdi and Ennedi, and this would be passable after sufficient rain as it would provide grazing. The area is well covered with ancient sites… and it is well known that tribes to-day can travel over dune areas after rain when other areas are impassable.” (O. H. Meyers, The Sir Robert Monod Expedition of the Egypt Exploration Society, in An expedition to the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat, 1938, The Geographical Journal XCIII No 4, April 1939, p. 288) If tribes were able to cross this expanse of dunes which at times, contained considerable foliage, wild animals such as waddans would certainly have been able to do so too.





pictures 187 - 190: A waddan approaching us from behind without fear. Coming and

going, the inquisitive animal stayed with us for about 15 minutes.


Later, Ashan stumbled badly. He stopped, sniffed at me, lifted his front leg and presented his foot to me “asking” for a repair. I was unable to fulfil the camel’s wish as my left forearm including my hand and fingers were numb since the beginning of the expedition. To improve my state of health I had kept massaging the numb sections even when walking.

m.) 12/29/2000: N 23 22 13.5 + E 26 05 44.3 (camel bone)

n.) 12/29/2000: N 23 21 45.8 + E 26 06 16.8 (disintegrated camel skeleton; picture: 191)


picture 191: disintegrated camel skeleton


o.) 12/30/2000: N 23 18 29.0 + E 26 09 26.7; N 23 18 22.1 + E 26 09 17.5; N 23 18 19.5 + E 26 09 13.5; N 23 18 17.1 + E 26 09 08.7; N 23 17 58.7 + E 26 08 36.4 (Discovery of the first RYT-road signs erected on the top of Gilf Kebir plateau. Kuper´s 4WD tracks only about 300 m afar. picture 192)


picture 192: RYT-road signs erected on the top of Gilf Kebir plateau


p.) 12/30/2000: I managed with difficulty to repair the sole of Ashan´s right foreleg whilst still being hampered by numbness in my left hand. The animal indeed “understood” that I wanted to help him. No tethering was necessary. Ashan, lying on his side during the procedure, sometimes lifted his head to “see” how far I had advanced. Finally, when the job was done he stood up, gently setting his injured foot on the ground and testing it. I let him walk freely for a while. For the animal, this was his first sole repair ever. Seemingly, he had big trust in me. Later on in the hike, he followed me like a dog “expecting” me to select passable terrain for his sore foot. Because of my treatment of his sole (which had to be repeated every four days) and my devotion, he henceforth refrained from occasionally biting me instead became a very tame and affectionate camel.

q.) 1/2/2001: N 23 24 02.0 + E 26 29 44.2 (small stone circle)

r.) 1/2/2001: N 23 23 30.4 + E 26 28 39.0 (two windscreens & alignment of stones)

s.) 1/3/2001: N 23 21 46.7 + E 26 22 19.5 (double line of stones)

t.) 1/3/2001: N 23 20 49.2 + E 26 18 20.3 (stone circle “paved” with rocks)

u.) 1/3/2001: N 23 19 22.3 + E 26 14 54.4 (break at a plot of gizzu grazing)

v.) 1/3/2001: N 23 18 32.4 + E 26 14 05.2 (night camp at a plot of gizzu grazing)

w.) 1/4/2001: following the RYT from positions mentioned in 1.331 o. towards the southwest. N 23 17 41.6 + 26.08 01.7; N 23 16 47.0 + E 26 07 06.5 (alamat on hilltops, stone tools)

x.) 1/4/2001: N 23 15 29.3 + E 26 05 45.9 (potsherds)

y.) 1/5/2001: N 23 13 23.0 + E 26 02 26.4 (at the ancient descent into a side wadi of Wadi el-Akhdar, alam on hilltop)

z.) 1/6/2001: N 23 13 07. 0 + E 26 01 38.7 (at the foot of the ancient pass)


We succeeded in descending the difficult pass and later, arrived at the foot of a basalt hill marked with a tall cairn (N 23 12 33.3 + E 26 00 43.4). At the alam´s base somebody had engraved the year1984. (pictures 193 + 194)



pictures 193 + 194: Cairn erected on top of a basalt hill, engraved into a basalt slab at its base “1984”.


A couple of kilometres further away whilst looking through my binoculars, I noticed quite a few cairns surrounding a fairly large depression which was approximately 70 metres deep. The southern section of this pan was so heavily scored with car tracks, I got the impression that a military operation had taken place there. Kuper had informed me that landmines had been placed around the mouths of Wadi Firaq and Wadi Wassa. Never having seen such a destructive amount of vehicle tracks I feared that mines must have been laid in the depression ahead. What was to be done? We had arrived at this point by following a trail marked by a few alamat and a single alignment of stones. The path had led us up to the pan. Whether this was just a hunter’s trail could not be definitely ascertained. We had reached the rim of the depression about 60 metres to the west of the trail, next to one of the aforementioned cairns, at N 23 11 42.6 + E 25 59 43.4. Most certainly, this was the “second lake bed” discovered by Bagnold, Meyers, Peel and Winkler in spring 1938 at the head of Wadi Ard el Akhdar. Peel writes: “… Wadi Ard el Akhdar continued as a narrow gorge for some 20 kilometres into the heart of the plateau, and terminated in a remarkable amphitheatre surrounded by rounded basalt hills. The wadi, at the point where it left this amphitheatre, was nearly blocked by a sand-drift similar to that in El Bakht, and in the basin beyond eroded mud deposits … indicated the former presence of a considerable lake or marsh.… the lake floor had been deeply eroded…. and now formed isolated vertical-sided blocks of mud, rising 10 feet or so above the present surface. The floor of the depression … proved to be rich in archaeological sites, which were later worked in detail by Myers.” (R. F. Peel, The Gilf Kebir, in An expedition to the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat, 1938, The Geographical Journal XCIII No 4, April 1939, p. 306)


Bagnold once again. Overwhelmed by a strong feeling of deja-vu, I asked myself how many times since the beginnings of my desert hikes had I occasion to cross Bagnold´s tracks. At the same time, I expected at any moment to see the return of the British explorer’s expedition to this remote depression. In winter 1986/87 I had found a jam jar containing a note left by Bagnold´s 1932 expedition. (picture 195) It had been placed in a cairn that was erected on a flat hill northeast of Laquiya Arbain. This note had helped my caravan find its way across a featureless waste of gravel after which I reached the palm trees & wells at Laquiya. This time, guided by the faint tracks & alamat of the RYT, I was worried about the possible deployment of landmines.


picture 195: partly corrupted note from Bagnold´s 1932 expedition


With the help of my binoculars once again, I identified the ascent of the ancient road at the southwestern rim of the pan, less than 1 ½ kilometres to the south-southeast of our position. Rather than descending into the depression, we bypassed it towards the west, hoping to strike the trail again after completing the semi-circle. Later, back in Germany, I learned that my worries had been unfounded as the alamat and the upsetting car tracks had been made by Kuper and his team during several archaeological digs. I should have remembered the devastating destruction caused by the Cologne pre-historians in Wadi Shaw/Northwest Sudan. (Which to my embarrassment, I had seen on my winter 1986/7 camel expedition across north-western Sudan to Gebel Uweinat; C. Bergmann, Der letzter Beduine, p. 276) Then perhaps, I would not have associated the numerous car tracks with a military action and with a placing of landmines.


1.332 From Wadi el-Akhdar to the south-western tip of the Gilf Kebir plateau, to Wadi Penderel and back to my dump at the mouth of Wadi el-Maftuh


We missed the continuation of the ancient road. However, heading for the southwestern tip of the plateau we passed by a few alamat probably marking a faint sidetrack of the RYT leading to the descent.


picture 196: bivouac of 1/7/2001 at the southeastern escarpment of the Gilf Kebir 


Later, leaving the camels behind, I tested two rugged routes, that could have served as paths for descent. Each one was marked by an inconspicuous alam however, both were barely suitable for ancient donkey caravans. The climbing absorbed my strength. Taking bearings during a break I read:


Gebel Arkenu: 233 degrees in 149 km distance

Ain el Brins at Karkur Murr/Gebel Uweinat: 210 degrees in 168 km distance


Surprisingly, although at lower altitude Gebel Arkenu rather than Gebel Uweinat was found in alignment with the general RYT-direction of circa 235 degrees. Would this mean that the ancient road heads for Arkenu? Or would the trail make a turn and aim towards one of the wells at Uweinat? In his book “Unbekannte Sahara” Count Almasy published a map sketch of Gebel Uweinat´s Karkur Talh in which he indicated the beginning of a camel trail to Karkur Murr. (L.E. Almasy, Unbekannte Sahara, Leipzig 1939, p. 141; picture 197) In winter 1986/87, coming from the Sudanese side with three camels, I had walked this trail which facilitates an easy crossing along the eastern lower slopes of the mountain. At that time I was unaware that this route could have something to do with the RYT and that the camel trail could be a successor of the ancient road. Glancing across the plain all the way to the “Little Gilf” upon which towered a prominent unnamed mountain (elevation 1,114 of the British map) it became clear to me that only a meticulous survey could help to clarify the questions raised here.

picture 197: Almasy´s map sketch


picture 198: Somewhere in the vicinity of the natural alam towering a tall mountain next to the

escarpment the ancient trail must descend, but I looked in vain for such a site.


We continued another three kilometres (picture 198), almost to the end of the plateau, but I did not succeed in finding a proper descent. Because of exhaustion and worries that our stores of water would run low, we headed for Almasy´s Wadi Penderel, where I deposited a small supply of the precious liquid for a later advance to Wadi Abd el-Malik. Then we returned to the nearest dump. On this march, I was longed for my son Jacob day and night.


a.) 1/12/2001: N 23 19 26.7 + E 26 12 57.3 (gizzu grazing)

b.) 1/13/2001: N 23 20 32.7 + E 26 18 32.0 (zilla spinosa & gizzu grazing)

c.) 1/13/2001: N 23 16 56.8 + E 26 23 42.0 (blossoming zilla spinosa)

d.) 1/14/2001: Arriving at the dump at the mouth of Wadi el-Maftuh.


1.333 From El-Aqab el-Qadim to Wadi Penderel; advance to Wadi Abd el-Malik impeded


In the previous march I had made preparations for a hike to Wadi Abd el-Malik. In the afternoon of 1/15/2001 we began this venture. However, by next morning Amur was already lame. (The right toe of his right foreleg was injured.) Although this incident brought us closer to a possible worse case scenario, I continued the march.


a.) 1/16/2001: N 23 23 59.5 + E 26 14 49.0 (alignment of stones)

As if fate wanted to dissuade me from pursuing my plan Ashan, walking last and chewing on his plastic head rope without me noticing it, cut the cord and disconnected himself from the rest of the caravan. When the camp was set up in the late afternoon, both animals were soaked with sweat. High temperatures had prevailed since our start. If the heat continued it would soon put an end to my endeavours.

b.) 1/17/2001: N 23 25 33.6 + E 25 57 34.4 (stone circle)

During the midday camp of 1/17/2001 I treated Amur´s wound (pictures 202 + 203) and replaced the worn out leather patch on Ashan´s foot. Whilst Ashan kept his confidence and stayed comparatively calm (pictures 199 – 201), Amur who like Ashan, was experiencing a foot repair for the first time, was stricken with fear. Although I tied him up to a parcel he managed to crawl away. It took me 45 minutes to fix his wound and to build a cover around it. Until the sole regenerated, this treatment had to be repeated as soon as the protective cover wore out. My stock of leather would suffice only for another 7-8 applications (thus lasting about 32 days). After that a saddle cushion would have to be cut in pieces for Amur´s sake. But what about Ashan? What about me? The camel’s foot injuries seemed to have spread to me. My right foot hurt all day.


picture 199: Midday camp of 1/17/2001; the place where Amur´s wound was treated and where Ashan´s leather patch was replaced.



picture 200 + 201: On this occasion, Amur´s phobia transferred to Ashan who had to be tied for the replacement of his leather patch. Because of Amur´s fury no photo of him during the treatment could be taken.



picture 202: Amur´s injury of the outer front part of his sole. As tiny the wound as big Amur´s pain & handicap.

picture 203: Amur´s protective toe-cover


On account of the heat we started late in the afternoon. When we reached the narrow descent to Wadi Penderel I noticed much to my regret, that the dried beans, the camel’s concentrated feed, had spilled out of a saddlebag. A mouse gnawing at my luggage and haunting my sleep the night before, had perforated both the bag and the feed-sack in it. Now, half of the supplies were gone. The mouse had also got into my sleeping bag and left a flea behind as a present. As if that wasn’t enough, the camels also needed to drink when we arrived at Wadi Penderel´s grazing ground. Only 3 ½ days had passed since the last watering. Tapping the provisions which the beasts were carrying, I gave 15 litres to each. Did fate not want to let us proceed to Wadi Abd el-Malik? Should I submit to the council of the gods? Looking at the animals as they pastured with great gusto on a plot of zilla spinoza, I postponed the final say of destiny until next day.


Whilst immersed in the contemplations of silence and solitude the decision came upon me the following morning, the 40th day of our expedition. Amur and Ashan approached the camp gently asking for water. With a few gulps they finished the supply I had assigned as an emergency reserve for the hike back from Wadi Abd el-Malik. This then, was the decision. No progress was possible to the northwest. So instead, we made a detour to the south to investigate a wide opening in the western escarpment of the Gilf, looking for possible old roads. Then we returned to N 23 18 29.0 + E 26 09 26.7 (see 1.331 o.) from where we followed the RYT to the northeast in order to connect the alamat so far discovered on the plateau, with Muhattah Rashid.

c.) 1/19/2001: N 23 18 05.7 + E 25 53 40.7 (tracks of a foreign camel)

d.) 1/19/2001: N 23 18 02.4 + E 25 53 32.8 (dead waddan)

e.) 1/20/2001: N 23 18 09.6 + E 26 02 24.4 (alignment of stones)


1.334 From N 23 18 29.0 + E 26 09 26.7 to Muhattah Rashid


As the crow flies, this leg of the RYT is only 32.3 kilometres long. But I listed 202 alamat along it. Sections of the trail were visible at 15 locations. The waypoints of these observations cannot be given here. Instead, the following may be worthwhile to note:


a.) 1/21/2001: N 23 21 21.3 + E 26 12 55.2 (Gizzu grazing, alignment of stones & two stone circles; Muhattah?)

b.) 1/22/2001: N 23 23 30.0 + E 26 15 55.9 (Gizzu grazing)

c.) 1/23/2001: N 23 26 24.2 + E 26 25 42.3 (pile of rocks & trail)

d.) 1/23/2001: N 23 26 18.3 + E 26 25 54.6 (pile of rocks & trail)

e.) 1/23/2001: N 23 26 17.4 + E 26 26 28.0 (Small alam on a hilltop marking the descent from the plateau. (picture 204) A second descent surveyed on 11/28/2007, is indicated by an alam at N 23 26.580 + E 26 26.260. A pile of rocks found by Hardy Böckli on 3/3/2009 probably marks a third descent at N 23 26.408 + E 26 26.160. Muhattah Rashid is only 14,1 kilometres afar from the pass. picture 205)


picture 204: Small alam on a hilltop marking an easy descent of the RYT; Two Tits in the background.



picture 205: Muhattah Rashid (at Two Tits) only 14 kilometres afar


Side notes:

a.) On 1/25/2003, during my camel-expedition to the Gilf Kebir of season 2002/03, on which I was accompanied by Heino Wiederhold, we had found a way station attached to a rock outcrop (picture 206) which is situated in the middle of a pan. The muhattah is void of pottery. It consists of two windscreens, a double line of rocks two metres long, and a horseshoe-shaped stone construction 70 cm wide and 3,5 m long. (picture 207) In that broad, far-stretching pan no alam had been erected by the ancients. Thus, at this point on the RYT I had lost the trail in 2001. Position of the muhattah: N 23 24.452 + E 26 18.631. 



picture 206: way station attached to a rock outcrop         picture 207: horseshoe shaped stone construction


b.) After reading “part one” of this report concerning the RYT alignment I described on top of the Gilf Kebir (chapters 1.331 & 1.334), Alessandro Meinardi Noguera wondered if this route was one and the same with the prehistoric road discovered by Bagnold and Peel. (email of 7/15/2009). Bagnold writes: “On February 28 (1938) … Peel and I succeeded in finding a very tall sand-drift some miles north of our camp which yielded to us after four unsuccessful attempts to charge it at speed with our cars empty. We found ourselves at the tip of a small peninsula connected to the mainland of the plateau by a narrow neck along which a well-beaten road marked at close intervals by ancient cairns. We had unwittingly hit upon a forgotten pass probably last used by the Stone Age people when the lifeless yellow plains below were green.” (R. A. Bagnold, Narrative of the journey, in An expedition to the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat, 1938, The Geographical Journal XCIII No 4, April 1939, pp. 284; see also R. F. Peel, The Gilf Kebir, in An expedition to the Gilf Kebir and Uweinat, 1938, The Geographical Journal XCIII No 4, April 1939, p. 297)


During my expedition to the Gilf Kebir of winter 1999/2000, I had found the ascent of Bagnold´s “prehistoric road” only 2.78 kilometres away from dump “D4” (N 23 24 27.6 + E 26 31 46.5) later set up at El-Aqab el-Qadim. (see part one, expedition map 2 of winter 1999/2000, picture 149, and part two, expedition map 2 of winter 2000/1, picture 250) After scaling this ancient ascent and reaching the top of the plateau we followed the trail which in parts, was clearly visible and which passed through a cluster of stone circles indicated on the British map. I noticed that it indeed was marked by a few alamat. I also noticed Bagnold´s car tracks which join the “Stone Age road” about half a kilometre to the west of the ascent. However in those days, I did not consider this trail to be a continuation of the RYT as the ascent was not even topped by a single clearly visible cairn. This is why I did not include the waypoints of Bagnold´s trail in “part one” of this report.


Inspired by Alessandro´s observation I have re-evaluated the full body of evidence relating my work to track the RYT. I now come to the conclusion that Bagnold´s ancient road might well be a side track of the RYT as although it is not well marked by alamat, it leads to the west-southwest, bypassing the long winding gorges of Wadi el-Maftuh to the north and most likely it connects with the main trail described in chapters 1.331 & 1.334 at a point close to the alamat listed in chapter 1.331.o. The 13 waypoints revealed below belong to the first leg of this trail:


b.a.) 12/18/2000: N 23 24 11.8 + E 26 30 10.0 (at the foot of the ascent, no road sign visible)

b.b.) 2/3/2000: N 23 24 06.8 + E 26 30 05.2 (at the top of the ascent; stone construction, picture 208)


picture 208: A stone construction on the top of the ancient ascent. Not far from the base of the conical hill embellished with a sand sheet covering its southern slope almost to the top (to be seen slightly to the right) my “D4” dump was set up. To the left, in the plain Two Tits (Muhattah Rashid) are to be seen in the distance.


b.c.) 2/3/2000: N 23 23 55.7 + E 26 29 33.3 (stone circle, two piles of rocks and alignments of stones oriented crosswise to the trail, circa 3 metres long)

b.d.) 2/3/2003: N 23 23 56.3 + E 26 29 31.0 (stone circles)

b.e.) 2/3/2000: N 23 23 49.5 + E 26 29 19.3 (stone wall & alam)

b.f.) 2/3/2000: N 23 23 38.7 + E 26 29 01.9 (trail clearly visible, stone wall)

b.g.) 2/3/2000: N 23 23 37.6 + E 26 28 53.6 (alam)

b.h.) 2/3/2000: N 23 23 30.0 + E 26 28 38.4 (2 stone circles, alignment of stones)

b.i.) 2/3/2000: N 23 23 27.0 + E 26 28 30.5 (two stone walls)

b.j.) 2/3/2000: N 23 23 23.1 + E 26 28 14.1 (stone walls)

b.k.) 2/3/2000: N 23 23 22.9 + 26 28 10.5 (stone wall)

b.l.) 2/3/2000: N 23 23 15.2 + E 26 27 30.5 (alam)

b.m.) 2/3/2000: N 23 22 48.3 + E 26 26 16.5 (trail visibile)


picture 209: On our way back to Dakhla Oasis. Midday camp at World War II remains. In the

background the slopes of the Gilf Kebir at the mouth of Wadi el-Maftuh.


1.34 Introducing K. P. Kuhlmann to Djedefre´s Water Mountain and to RYT- way stations situated close to Dakhla Oasis (2/14/2001 – 2/18/2001)


1.341 Djedefre´s Water Mountain (DWM)


picture 210: Back in Bir Hamsa



picture 211: Bir Hamsa´s first-graders greeting the caravan

picture 212: In front of my house at Bir Hamsa. Ashan asking for his share of the welcome lunch.


Shortly after an exhausting march back to my house in Bir Hamsa, I had contacted my friend, K. P. Kuhlmann, an Egyptologist and associate at the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo, and had informed him about the cartouches of two kings and of the inscriptions which I had discovered on the 12/9/2000, the third day of my expedition to the Gilf Kebir. (pictures 170 + 171, 214 - 219) Rather than anyone else, I wanted him to translate and to publish the inscriptions as for years he had patiently responded to whatever question concerning ancient Egypt buzzed in my head, and I wished that his name be closely associated with my discovery.



picture 213: DWM               picture 214: inscription of Bepi


picture 215: inscription of Ij-Meri and Bepi



picture 216: names of masons & a meteorological notation 

picture 217: meteorological notation

picture 218: name of a mason



picture 219: Inscription below the depiction of a giraffe announcing the return of the conscripts.

picture 220: sandstone stopper and fragment of a mouthpiece of a jar matching to it;, two artefacts that I resisted to be taken as a souvenir by Kuhlmann

picture 221: decorated potsherds



picture 222: mouthpieces of 4th dyn. jars

picture 223: DWM´s natural terrace fenced in by a dry wall



picture 224: Pharaoh smiting the enemies (an enemy barely to be seen below

his stretched out hand).

Picture 225: Two human figures exhibiting extremely long fingers. Engraving found on the southern slope of the DWM hill.


Travelling to DWM by 4WD, Kuhlmann and I arrived there in the afternoon of the 2/14/2001. (picture 168 + 213) The site, which under his expert eyes, revealed itself as a mining expedition camp frequented during the reigns of Cheops and his son Djedefre, is located half way up the eastern flank of a sandstone hill, where a natural terrace had been enlarged to an average of three metres in width. A path leads to the terrace from the south and the entire camp is fenced in by a dry wall which in parts, is about 1.2 metres high (picture 223). (K.-P. Kuhlmann, The „oasis bypass or the issue of desert trade in pharaonic times, in Tides of the desert. Köln 2002, p.134) 


I led Kuhlmann up the path. When we arrived in front of the first cartouche (picture 170) my friend exclaimed “4th dynasty!” Then he read: “Djedefre, eternally given his life, endurance, happiness and prosperity”. After taking a deep breath he continued, “the son of Cheops, the brother of Chephren - fantastic.” A little later, standing at the second name of a king (picture 171), Kuhlmann being even more impressed, read with lowered voice: “Horus Medjedu, the one who crushes (the enemies), may he be gifted with life eternally”, and added: “Cheops! Accession to power 2,625 BC. Here a dating! This is the oldest material from pharaonic times found in the Western Desert and the oases. A sensation. Up to now, the oldest remains from dynastic Egypt discovered in Dakhla dated back as far as the 6th dynasty only. Congratulations, Carlo!”


Soon after, Kuhlmann placed himself in front of the inscriptions (picture 226) and within two days had copied and translated them. I felt privileged to watch and to partake as his understanding and treatment of the texts and of other epigraphic material nearby progressed. Eventually, he leant back and said: “ This is fantastic, Carlo, the history books have to be rewritten.”



picture 226: Kuhlmann copying one of the inscriptions    picture 227: my inscription (detail)


Strangely, Djedefre´s name and titles are surrounded by a unique contour which my friend interpreted as an enlarged hieroglyphic sign for “mountain” (with oblique strokes criss-crossing the mountain tops as an indication of ravines or valleys). As several similar contours enclose rows of hieroglyphic(?) water-signs (picture 172), the meaning of the arrangement as a whole was clear to Kuhlmann: “This is Djedefre´s Mountain of Water!” (ibidem, p 135) What a poetic name for my discovery! Because of the depiction’s uniqueness and because of its connection to water or to a well, I designated the site to Djedefre and not to his father Cheops thus, a little away, carved into the rock: “Wasserberg des Djedefre - discovered by Carlo Bergmann + 2 camels - 9.12.2000”. (picture 227)


Reflecting on the water mountain signs, of which we counted 11, a few of them connected to each other (via lattice field designs which, much to Kuhlmann´s dismay, I interpreted as irrigated fields) by deeply engraved lines (water channels), I finally directed my friend’s attention to a cluster of them saying: “Peter, here is another superlative, the oldest map of the world – or: mankind’s oldest land register.” (picture 228) “You must be joking”, he replied. Pointing out that not all the epigraphic material at DWM´s dated to the pharaonic period (for instance, one of the water mountain signs seemed to be superimposed by Neolithic fauna; see picture 169) I insisted that the epigraphs which I considered to be a map probably date to a time before the pharaohs. “As soon as we are back in Bir Hamsa, I shall saddle my camels and look for the wells shown on this map”, I said to Kuhlmann. He did not even laugh. Did he consider me nuts? Finally he decreed with apodictic certainty: “You’ll find nothing. Ancient Egyptians have come up to here but they did not go any further. And that’s that!”


picture 228: DWM – the oldest map of the world or mankind’s oldest land register


1.342 Visiting RYT-Muhattahs discovered in the vicinity of Dakhla Oasis


After dumping 90 litres of water and 20 kg of millet close-by DWM for my upcoming exploration of the area, we left for Meri´s rock and the el-Askeri RYT-way station, where we arrived on 2/17/2001. At the latter Kuhlmann wondered about the conspicuous stone alignments (pictures 47 + 48) which I had found next to it, but had, as myself, no idea of their use or meaning. Finally, reaching a consensus that the alignments could be interpreted as remains marking an assembly point for troops or donkeys, we continued on to Muhattah Amur. In addition to two names written in Greek (Appollonius, son of…; picture 117 and Arsenios; picture 123) which are enclosed by the contours of sandals (From Neolithic times onwards, depictions of footprints and sandals were considered as visiting cards of human beings.), Kuhlmann also identified a limited number of non-coherent hieroglyphic scribbles (such as Ero Anch, Amun, two chicks and pharaonic figure wearing a skirt in a New Kingdom design) and a coptic inscription carved into the top of Muhattah Amur hill. (picture 122)


Soon after bypassing the fenced in runway of Dahkla airport and crossing the Dakhla – Bir Tarfawi asphalt road, we arrived at Muhattah Maqfi, which my friend interpreted as an ancient place of prayer. Thus, the site had been used for final contemplation before setting out across the desert. In my opinion this meant the long journey via the Gilf Kebir and Gebel Uweinat to Ennedi or the Chad Basin. The supposed religious function of the place seems to be supported by engravings of a handful of Greek “horn-altars” (pictures 140 + 141) including depictions of “offering” grapes. Next to it, in one case (picture 140), the contours of a footprint and a libation basin were seen. (Note that the latter depiction consists of a water (zigzag) line enclosed by the contours of a rectangle. (picture…). These rock engravings I had found at the base of the hill. Carved on the flat, rocky floor of the hilltop, I had discovered several depictions of Seth, a banner, another horn-altar, a depiction of a possibly, shed for keeping birds as offerings, as well as a few depictions of donkeys, antelopes, tesms (Egyptian hunting dogs) and human figures. Up there, 34 hollows that had probably been used as supports for jars and drinking cups also strike the eye. Kuhlmann was quite impressed by the site and later incorporated some of the photos of Muhattah Maqfi in his article “Der Wasserberg des Djedefre”. (K.-P. Kuhlmann, Der Wasserberg des Djedefre (Chufu 01/1), op. cit., pp. 274, 280)


Side note: It is unbelievable that nine months before my discovery, Kuper and his family had celebrated New Year on the nearest southeast hill, only about 750 m afar. While gazing at that elevation it seemed to me that Count Almasy´s memento “Wärest du noch ein wenig weiter vorgedrungen, du hättest vielleicht das Ziel Deiner Suche erreicht.“ (“If you would have advanced just a little further, you would have arrived at the destination of your search.” L. E. Almasy, Schwimmer in der Wüste. 2nd edition, München 1998, p. 134) must indeed be haunting Kuper as if it were a black magic spell.


1.35 The discovery of Biar Jaqub (Wilkinson’s 2nd Zerzoora) (2/19/2001 – 3/2/2001)


On 2/19/2001, although quite exhausted from the previous surveys, I set out with two well-rested camels (Rashid and Maqfi) to search for additional water mountain sign engravings which I expected to find on the rock faces of hills situated in the wider surroundings of DWM. The discovery of such “ideograms” would add proof to my interpretation that the cluster of prehistoric type engravings consisting of water mountains, lattice patterns and “water channels” discovered at DWM did indeed present a map from prehistoric times. According to my interpretation of this prehistoric map, additional “water mountain outposts” in the form of wells or ponds, would be found within a semi circle that ranged at some distance from the west to the south of DWM. These would be marked by water mountain signs. (see Wilkinson’s zweites Zerzura - status: Sommer 2003; report in German on this website)


To prevent the risk of our tracks being followed to the 4th dynasty expedition camp, thus revealing its position to treasure seekers and grave robbers, we bypassed DWM by circa 20 kilometres to the west and then turned southeast towards a promising region scattered with numerous sandstone hillocks. We arrived in this area (which is situated south-southwest of the ancient camp; see map - picture 249) on 2/25/2001. By then Rashid had developed saddle soreness, which limited the scope of my survey. Unstable weather conditions (extreme changes in daily temperatures, dusty skies and a sand storm) also reminded me that the season for successful field reconnaissance had already come to an end. Additionally, my endeavours were complicated by unusually high water consumption on the part of Rashid.


The beautiful landscape more than compensated for all these obstacles. We had entered a virgin land completely undisturbed by cars. As at DWM, I could hardly believe that such a pristine paradise could exist so close to Dakhla.


a.) 2/25/2001: N 25 18.091 + E 28 12.355 (WB 0)

In the early morning of 2/25/2001 we came across two hillocks that contained rock-art. (pictures 229 – 234) They are situated at the southern fringes of a mud pan which itself, is surrounded by a number of higher hills. Whilst the pan was scattered with stone tools and ostrich eggshells, the adjacent rock art included usual representations of the Neolithic fauna and a few human figures, which may be ascribed to the same period. Surprisingly, amongst these pre-Pharaonic depictions, are a donkey, a crenellated and a zigzag line, which are noticeably related to the DWM rock art. For this reason (although no entirely preserved water mountain “ideogram” was found) I named the site “water mountain outpost No. 0” (WB 0)


Note that the designation “outpost” was chosen, mainly to emphasize that the site was discovered by means of an ancient or respectively, a pre-historic “sketch” and to stress its cultural link with DWM (as well as a possible function as a “subsidiary” of the latter).



picture 229: Water Mountain outpost No. 0                                picture 230: water line (?)



picture 231: crenellated line amongst Neolithic fauna                         picture 232: human figure



picture 233: human figure                           picture 234: Neolithic fauna & dotted lines


Referring to Petrie, Kuhlmann seems to interpret dotted lines as seen in picture 234 as decorative elements already in use in the pre-Pharaonic period. (K.-P. Kuhlmann, Der Wasserberg des Djedefre (Chufu 01/1), op. cit., p. 257) The occurrence of such lines at WB 0 and at other sites in Biar Jaqub further attests to their use in Neolithic times.


b.) 2/25/2001: N 25 18 02.2 + E 28 13 07.6 (potsherd at a boulder)

c.) 2/25/2001: N 25 19 25.5 + E 28 14 16.0 (Position at lunch break; rock art found at the neighbouring hillock 30 m to the northeast which include depictions of giraffes and a long snake. In the lee of the hill, 11 grinding stones and one grinding plate next to a deteriorated “Steinplatz” were found scattered on the ground. (picture 235)


picture 235: Neolithic rock art & stone tools found at the two hillocks in the foreground 


d.) 2/25/2001: N 25 19 45.4 + E 28 14 03.1 (Rock shelter comprising depictions of a long snake and ostriches.)

e.) 2/25/2001: N 25 19.845 + E 28 14.133 (Water mountain outpost No 1 –WB 01 – engravings of several water mountains clearly originating from the Neolithic period, giraffes and other Neolithic fauna. Sheikh Muftah pot sherds and petrified bone fragments found at short distance from the foot of the hill. pictures 236 -241)


picture 236: Water mountain outpost No. 1



picture 237: water mountain signs and giraffes             picture 238: a giraffe superimposing a water mountain



picture 239: water mountain with sprout picture 240: Sheikh Muftah potsherd  picture 241: enigmatic rock art


f.) 2/25/2001: N 25 20.259 + E 28 14.025 (Water Mountain outpost No 2 – WB 02 – a camel bone and depictions of steatopygous human figures, zigzag lines, a much deteriorated water mountain sign and Neolithic fauna. pictures 242 + 243)


picture 242: deteriorated water mountain ideogram, steatopygeous figures, Neolithic fauna and dotted lines

picture 243: enigmatic figures or ladies with extravagant hairdo(?)


g.) 2/25/2001: N 25 20 06.4 + E 28 14 14.9 (engravings of Neolithic fauna)

h.) 2/25/2001: N 25 19 39.8 + E 28 14 26.8 (engravings of human figures and Neolithic fauna; stone tools)

i.) 2/26/2001: N 25 20 02.7 + E 28 15 02.5 (camel bones)

j.) 2/26/2001: N 25 20.800 + 28 15.175 (Water mountain outpost No 3 – WB 03. Engravings of steatopygous human figures, Neolithic fauna and three zigzag lines partly framed by a contour; camel bones, two brownish pot sherds)

k.) 2/26/2001: N 25 20 47.4 + E 28 15 51.9 (engravings of Neolithic fauna comprising a hippopotamus.) 

l.) 2/26/2001: N 25 20.764 + E 28 16.062 (Water mountain outpost No. 4 - WB 04. - Pinnacle exposing Neolithic petroglyps including a cluster of well executed giraffes and a faint water mountain ideogram; the neighbouring hill to the north being decorated with a few engravings of animals. pictures 244 - 248)



picture 244: Water Moutain outpost No. 4                                     picture 245: eroded water mountain ideogram



pictures 246 + 247: depiction of a donkey(?) and of a wild cow(?)


picture 248: cluster of giraffes


As my small caravan ran out of water (Rashid already had crunched an empty plastic jerry can in which he had expected to find something to quench his thirst.) we had to return to the dump at DWM.


Reflecting on the discoveries made above I realized that on this brief survey I had most probably stumbled into Wilkinson’s second Zerzoora. This “lost” oasis was indicated by the British Egyptologist in his 1835 “Topography of Thebes and General View of Egypt” wherein he refers to the site under the above name giving a vague idea about its location: “…Zerzoora is only two or three days due west from Dakhleh, beyond which is another wadee; then a second abounding in cattle; then Gebabo and Tazerbo; and beyond these is Wadee Rebeena; Gebabo is inhabited by two tribes of the blacks, the Simertayn and Ergezayn.” (G. Wilkinson, Topography of Thebes and general view of Egypt (London 1835), p. 359) Three of the sites I had found contained camel bones which were probably 100 - 180 years old, which attests to the fact that this Zerzoora had been known to Arab travellers for a long time. Thus, Wilkinson’s informants were able to report its existence.


Anticipating my findings of winter 2008, the site, even back in 2001, could be shown to be a 2nd Zerzoora which (as proved by 14C dating) was inhabited from at least around 5,500 BC until the end of the Third Intermediate Period. (see Results of winter 2007/08 – expedition, preliminary report on the results of radiocarbon- and TL-datings)


How should the area be named? Situated circa eight kilometres south-southeast of DWM, this desert district (as found out on later expeditions) contains an astonishing number of prehistoric settlements as well as the biggest rock art archive between Dakhla oasis and the Gilf Kebir. Topographic features clearly separate and distinguish the region from DWM, a situation that its name should reflect. Likewise, the name should not be confused with the Zarzura discovered by Sir Robert Clayton East Clayton, Penderel, Patrick Clayton, Almasy and v. Heller in the northern section of the Gilf Kebir. It didn’t take long to find a suitable term. On the eve of my departure to Egypt my son had copied a map into which he had drawn a settlement just in the region of my new finds. Furthermore, the ancient map sketch at DWM had led me to the “lost” oasis. At least one reason to christen my Zerzoora “Biar Jaqub” – “Jaqub wells”. Surprisingly, I later found out that, Biar Jaqub was connected with Muhattah Jaqub by an ancient donkey trail which increased the probability that the empty jars of some of the RYT-way station were filled with water from Biar Jaqub (lateral supply of water; see results of winter 2003/04-expeditions).


The camels were sweating. As there was no water left, we had to set out for Bir Hamsa where we arrived on 3/2/2001.


1.36 Summary


Not only did my endeavours to track the RYT reveal that the ancient trail lead up and across the Gilf Kebir plateau and further to the southwest but also my efforts resulted in the discoveries of DWM and Biar Jaqub.


Contrary to Kuhlmann´s appraisal the water mountain petroglyphs found at DWM and Biar Jaqub testify that these “ideograms” are not hieroglyphic expressions belonging to the 4th dynasty but they are in fact, the first attempts towards the creation of a written language during the Neolithic period. More than 1,500 years later, these efforts at Biar Jaqub which are embedded in a solely pre-pharaonic context, finally evolved into the hieroglyphic script. (see results of winter 2007/08-expedition – On the Origins of the Hieroglyphic Script)


Unfortunately, I did not succeed in identifying the descent of the RYT from the southwestern tip of the Gilf Kebir plateau into the plain which stretches between the Gilf Kebir plateau and the so-called “Little Gilf”. Any future survey would have to work on this task. In particular, the tracking of the ancient trail across the plain is expected to be difficult. The two map sections below illustrate the area which my caravan traversed on the winter 2000/01-expeditions to the Gilf Kebir and to Biar Jaqub.


In order to ensure undisturbed further examinations of the south-westernmost leg of the RYT further GPS coordinates of the finds in this area have been deliberately omitted.



pictures 249 + 250: Winter 2000/01: expedition maps No. 1 + 2 revealing

a.) the alignment of the RYT across the Gilf Kebir plateau

b.) the position of DWM mapped on the 3rd day of the journey

c.) a part of Biar Jaqub/Wilkinson´s 2nd Zerzoora surveyed on a second expedition in Feb./March 2001


Some of the RYT-muhattahs found were covered with Neolithic petroglyphs, the most prominent one being Khasin el Ali. Does this indicate that the ancient trail was in use before the reign of Pepi II (2,279 – 2,219 BC) and was the trail already loaded with traffic in late Neolithic times? According to Kuhlmann who linked one of Harkhuf´s expeditions to Yam with a road passing through Dakhla Oasis (K. P. Kuhlmann, The oasis bypath, op. cit., pp. 139 – 144) and who affirms that the words “… “Wb3 “open, explore”, as used by Harkhuf, never referred to “exploring the unknown”, by 6th dyn. times, both the Oasis Road leading from the Nile Valley to Dakhla and the much older road setting out from Elephantine constituted fixed terms of reference regarding Yam expeditions. These roads cannot be assumed to have been unknown and in need of being “explored”.“ (ibidem, p. 142, footnote 21) Furthermore, Kuhlmann asserts that it “.. appears extremely unlikely that besides the so-called “Elephantine” Road, the Oasis Road and the most natural route following the Nile, yet another fourth route towards Yam needed to be found.” (ibidem, p. 142) But what about the section of the RYT between the Dakhla Oasis and the Gilf Kebir? In contradiction to the facts Kuhlmann postulates that “from Dakhla the Yam-expedition must have proceeded south.” (ibidem, p. 143) In his view, the newly found ancient trail to the Gilf Kebir does not “… constitute compelling evidence that Egyptian caravans used this road engaging in “trans-Saharan” … trade expeditions.” (ibidem, p. 149) Would Kuhlmann be convinced, if one finds an inscription of Harkhuf somewhere on this road - between Dakhla Oasis and the Ennedi or the Tschad basin? So far, only Seth (picture 251) knows.



picture 251: Another image of Seth;

the god wearing an Egyptian dress






Sehlis 7/28/2009


Carlo Bergmann



- to be continued -