About Al Jassasiya
Al Jassasiya in Qatar is the half-mile-wide site of a fascinating and vast collection of stone carvings or petroglyphs, yet it is unknown as to when the mysterious petroglyphs were created. Ships of Greek design appear to be represented perhaps signifying local occupants observed a Greek reconnaissance mission by Alexander the Great‘s Admiral, general Nearchus.
Al Jassasiya history
The mysterious petroglyphs were first reported by Danish archaeologist Peter Glob. Beginning in 1961, a Danish archaeological mission studied Al Jassasiya but could not determine the date or culture of the people who created the petroglyphs at the site. Habitation of Qatar dates back 50,000 years, and ruins of dwellings containing both local and foreign pottery were found nearby which dated to the 15th century BC.
At this time, Qatar is believed to have been trading with the Kassite Babylonians, and engaging in shellfish dye production. However, while some researchers have argued the carvings at Al Jassasiya are much older, others have highlighted the softness of the rocks on the outcrops that can be shaped quite easily. This argument suggests that the carvings were made more recently.
The researchers documented around 900 petroglyphs in Al Jassasiya, portraying a wide array of subjects ranging from abstract shapes to animals including ostriches and scorpions and ships. The designs included 71 patterns in daisy shapes composed of 9 small holes – some have speculated these were part of a game called ‘ailah’. Also identified were the common cup shapes, although the most unusual feature were the thick-finned fish fossils.
Al Jassasiya today
Today, the Qatari authorities are consulting experts for further understanding of Al Jassasiya. You can visit without charge – do not be put off by the fenced-off site as there are gates to enter through. Once inside, there are no obvious signs but the petroglyphs are located along the ridge following the main road.
Try for yourself to decipher what the patterns of the carvings mean: do you think they were made for storing pearls, traded from the nearby sea port, or are you more convinced that these are records, telling the story of the mysterious people who inhabited the jebel thousands of years ago?
Getting to Al Jassasiya
Accessible by car, drive north of Doha on the Al Shamal Road, exiting at Ras Laffan. Follow the road for 8km before turning left and Al Jassasiya is 3km down the track. You can park at the site.