Email Print Share

Giraffe Petroglyphs

Two giraffe petroglyphs that were carved on red sandstone rock about 6000 years ago

Giraffe Petroglyphs

These two giraffe petroglyphs, slightly larger than life-size, were carved on red sandstone rock about 6000 years ago. Hundreds of the animals are engraved on a gently sloping rock face, known as Dabous Rock, located north of Agadez in Niger in the Air Mountains.

The carvings range in size from very small to life-size male and female animals (like those pictured here), and were made using a combination of techniques. Their outlines are deeply carved and the markings speckling the giraffes' bodies are carved in low relief to a depth of about an inch. Other sections have been polished smooth or scraped to form patterns.

At the time these petroglyphs were made, the climate in the Sahara area was much wetter than it is today, and the grassland that existed was rich with wildlife. There are many examples of these animals found in other rock engravings in the Air Mountains, but these particular giraffes are considered unique in their subject matter, style and scale. The spot is a World Heritage Site and is listed as one of the world's most endangered monuments. To aide in the site's preservation, a mold of the rock was taken in 1999, and a cast is on display in Niger as well as at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. (Date of Image: 1999)

Credit: Jean Clottes (France)

Special Restrictions:
Permission to use this image is granted by the owner for personal use only. Permission must be granted by the owner for any other use of the image. Under no circumstance can the image be used for commercial or for-profit use. Contact the owner, Jean Clottes at the Association pour le Rayonnement de L'Art Pariétal Européen (ARAPE) via email at

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

Also Available:
Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (2.2 MB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.