1.) About one and a half months after the second winter 2009/10 - 4WD- Gilf Kebir trip, (around 3/9/2010), a member of our party, Mr. Roland Keller, released a summery of the discoveries made during this journey on his website. This ill advised action which constitutes a breach of our signed expedition agreement (reproduced below in English, figure 1), prompted me to rush the publication of my own official accounts of this expedition by means of various hurried instalments which I have posted on my website ahead of schedule, all the while, taking painstaking precautions to respect the publication rights of others. This indeed was a difficult balancing act and I don´t know if I have succeeded or failed in this effort. It was forced upon me by Keller´s brazen action which also worried others who, by fair agreement, had the right to first publish accounts of the discoveries they made before Keller´s arrival at the scene.
figure 1: handwritten expedition agreement of 1/8/2010 (erroneous 2009-year date)
signed by myself, Christian Philipp, Christian Kny and Roland Keller
Translation of the expedition agreement:
Under Carlo Bergmann´s guidance Christian Kny, Roland Keller and Christian Phlipp are taking part in an expedition across Egypt´s Western desert lasting from 1/6 to 1/24/20xx//2010. With regard to ancient settlements and rock art sites the participants commit themselves to a respectful treatment. They agree not to disclose results of the survey, as (our) upcoming analyses (and insights) are based on hitherto unpublished discoveries and studies made by Professor Miroslav Barta (Egyptologist at Charles University, Prague) and on information regarding waypoints obtained from Andras Zboray´s catalogue of rock art sites which, so far, have been kept disclosed. The copyright concerning publications is with the expedition leader (Carlo Bergmann). He decides when and how the results of the expedition are to be published.
Great Sand Sea, 1/8/20xx//2010
On account of his desire to publish a scoop by beating Professor Barta, Uwe George and myself to publication, Keller, shortly after I had introduced him to the archaeological treasures of the Wadi Sura area, had, in the interest of his own extreme self-promotion, begun to question the written agreement which he himself had signed only a short while before, the original text of which he wanted to get a hold of, whilst we were still in the desert. (All participants received a photocopy of the agreement on the 1/21/2010 at Bahariya oasis.). At that stage I was only willing to share publication with my main sponsor, Mr. Christian Kny.
After the second expedition, ie., the trip in which he took part, ignoring the fact that both 4WD-trips of winter 2009/10 were conceived, researched, planned and conducted by myself, Keller claimed that, as Mr. Kny had sponsored the trip, I was merely a guest, and that Mr. Kny had been the expedition leader. Despite his lack of experience in desert research and his strikingly fragmented knowledge of the prehistory of the area, after a single three week trip to Egypt´s Western Desert, Keller claimed to have been involved, for years, in the very subjects the expedition was concerned with and that his long involvement in such research entitled him to publish a work of his own, irrespective of the agreement he signed before the expedition that precluded him from any such publication. Consequently, on the 4/23/2010, he submitted to the main editorial office of GEO magazine, Germany, a much confused text containing the results of his alleged long research efforts. (His manuscript was rejected.) Lately, Keller posted a notice on his website saying that he and his friend, Christian Kny, will soon publish a book on their discoveries in Wadi Sura. Do I, here again, have to encounter a situation akin to the German saying: “Wer die Musik bezahlt, bestimmt was gespielt wird!” (“Whoever pays for the music, determines what´s gonna be played.”)? To stay with the metaphor, it seems Keller expects to take credit for the creation of the music that was composed and conducted by myself.
Although compiled somewhat hastily, my papers regarding the winter 2009/10 4WD-trips may still offer sound information about those ethnic groups who dwelt in the Wadi Sura region during the period concerned and whose religious iconography, surprisingly foreshadowed some of the characteristics of the much later Egyptian pantheon.
2.) Since the first part of my report was published on this website (on the 4/13/2010) the tide of events have piled up considerably. Miroslav Barta has to be credited as the first scientist, who may have fully understood the messages of the past as revealed in the Cave of the Swimmers and the Foggini-Mestekawi Cave. These insights he published (on the 4/23/2010) in his book “Swimmers in the Sand”, in which, at the very last minute, he also inserted parts of my interpretation of the “birth scene engraving” which I posted on my website ten days before (see On the Origins of the Egyptian pantheon, chapter 5.31). He also included two of my pictures of the spectacular sacrificial altar (at WG 61); the only one found so far in the Wadi Sura region. Unbelievable, but true, although this rock had been known and photographed previously by others, I was the first visitor to recognise that it was a magnificent, artistically embellished altar as was the larger rock next to it and that the cave was a place of offering and sacrifice. Accordingly, I named this site “Altar Cave”.
In my reports so far, I have cited from Barta´s pre-print version of “Swimmers in the Sand” (short title: pre-print (which I had received as a download file in pdf-format on the 4/1/2010)), not knowing that the author would make last minute re-arrangements and text alterations to his final version. Regarding the two figures shown in my text “On the origins of the Egyptian pantheon”, figure 11. (For convenience of the reader the said figure is shown here again.) I had interpreted the figure on the right as a female connected to her child by an umbilical cord that in my view, established lineage between these two figures.
figure 11 (from “On the origins of the Egyptian pantheon”)
By adopting this interpretation in Swimmers just before going to print, Barta, so to speak, had granted my humble attempt at explaining a complex scene of rock art some scientific recognition.
Because of Barta´s last minute alterations, the pagination of the final printed version of Swimmers in the Sand differs from the pagination of the pre-printed version. Therefore readers of part one of my text “On the origins of the Egyptian pantheon” might not easily find the quotes which I cited from pre-print version. Under the circumstances, such confusion is unavoidable. As from 8/12/2010, all quotes from Barta will be cited from Swimmers in the Sand. In case former versions of his text are consulted, it will be explicitly mentioned.
3.) As a consequence of Barta´s publication the caves and rock-shelters in the Wadi Sura region are now in the focus of various scientific interests. Last winter for instance, Fekri Hassan visited the area and only recently, published a paper in Arabic which hopefully, will soon be translated into English. In addition, in its September 2010 issue, GEO printed an article regarding recent discoveries at Wadi Sura written by Uwe George. (U. George: In der Höhle der Himmelsgöttin. GEO, 9 (2010), pp. 58 – 76) In this article the sacrificial altar which I found at WG 61, receives much attention, with a pull-out page being dedicated to the spectacular item. As a result of these and other endeavours, Kuper and his team hurried, in the midst of the May 2010 heat, once more to the region. These combined efforts can only be welcomed. It is hoped that, in all their variety, such efforts will promote open discussion and contribute to a change of approach in dealing with the interpretation of the archaeological remains of the area as a whole. If, in the past, the relevant research had been a “one institute show”, now Barta´s interpretation may hopefully stimulate discussion allowing for a multitude of different approaches to unveil the mysteries of Wadi Sura, thus leading to a better understanding of the region´s past. (Unfortunately, since the discovery of the Foggini-Mestekawi Cave in 2003, such endeavours had been deliberately delayed until recently.)
In order to achieve meaningful progress in those fields that concern the history of the vast Western Desert of Egypt, it is in my view, essential that more scientific teams must become involved in this work than at present. If the burden of research covering this enormous area falls only on the shoulders of a single team as is more or less the case at present, the field work and subsequent studies take too long, and publication of findings are inordinately delayed because there is no competition providing the impetus to publish timely results, there are less minds working on the job, less pier review and less opportunity for results to be checked and tested against the independent results of others. The dearth of scientific teams assigned to the Western Desert means that major breakthroughs can rarely be expected.
Sidenote: In our times, such counter-checks which for instance, Günter Dreyer undertook on Flinders Petrie´s archaeological research carried out in 1900 at Um el Quaab, Abydos, and which resulted in the discovery of the, by then, oldest evidence of the Pharaonic writing system, should not be deferred until the next century. Even the team that, at present, is in charge of the research in Egypt´s Western Desert occasionally raises the rhetorical question if its work is biased by “… the dangers of subjectivism” (H. Riemer: Prehistoric rock art research in the Western Desert of Egypt. Archaeo-Nil 19 (2009) p.31 et seq.)
With the release of Barta´s book, this situation of affairs has hopefully come to an end. The book offers a chance for discussion of the arguments for and against the different interpretations of the evidence that has come to light at Wadi Sura. An improvement to our understanding can only be brought about by a culture of open discussion that welcomes new ideas and weighs them against the evidence obtained by various independent researchers, helping to merge these arguments and counterarguments into a more advanced level of insight and a higher standard of truth. This will help us to better penetrate the messages of the past which, since thousands of years have been waiting to be read in the Cave of the Swimmers, the Foggini-Mestekawi Cave and other rock shelters of the Wadi Sura region.
4.) A few month ago my son got severely sick. Although his health has been improving, I am, since lately, confronted with the need of taking care of my 82-year old mother. Therefore, I may find less time for work on my manuscripts and for the release of more unpublished results of different expeditions. I kindly ask for your understanding.
Sliema, Malta, 8/14/2010
Posted on this website 8/31/2010
As matters stand, hopes that my 2010 publications on this website, Barta´s book and Uwe George´s GEO article would lead to an open discussion about the Wadi Sura rock art, are, in parts, already shattered. According to hearsay Kuper and Kroepelin just recently convened a meeting at the Cologne Heinrich-Barth-Institute on which they made sure, how the members of their teams should deal with my recent Wadi Sura discoveries and with the conclusions drawn therefrom. Business as usual; to the astonishment of some observers it was decided to carry on sidelining my findings and suppressing my name. Thus the game is blithely continuing!