The Petroglyphs of Jebel Youmkat, Morocco

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This paper describes the petroglyphs that my wife and I recorded at the rock art site of Jebel Youmkat in Wadi Tamanart in 2019. As far as I could check, this site has not been published anywhere. The petroglyphs mainly concern images of quadrupeds and some ostriches.

By Maarten van Hoek



The Petroglyphs of Jebel Youmkat



Maarten van Hoek


Cover Photo: The rock art site of Jebel Youmkat described in this study (looking east). Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek. Click on any illustration to see an enlargement (which can be enlarged again).




This study will start with a (minor) problem. In 2019 my wife Elles and I made a trip from Tafraout to Icht in southern Morocco via the rock art site of (Guelta) Oukas in the Tamanart Valley (Figure 1; also see Figure 12 and also my video). Our driver stopped at a spot on the west bank of Wadi Tamanart, which he said was the rock art site of Oukas, but we were certain that it was a different site. Having published a paper and video about Guelta Oukas (Van Hoek 2015), I knew that Guelta Oukas was located further south in the wadi. Although I now know exactly where this “new” rock art site is located, it proved almost (?) impossible to find the correct name for the site, or a scientific publication describing the site.

Figure 1. The (approximated) location of the “new” petroglyph site of Jebel Youmkat in the valley of the Wadi Tamanart, southern Morocco. Map © by Maarten van Hoek, based on the map © by OpenStreetMap – Contributors.

The “new” site is located on the west bank of a wadi – a dry river – at a spot called Assif Ousgine in Google Earth, which runs SW in the Upper Valley of the Oued (Wadi) Tamanart (Figure 2). The track just to the NE of the “new” site is at 986 m asl. The rock art site itself is located at about 29° 25′ 50.92″ N and 8° 50′ 47.27″ W – at 997 m asl (all data according to Google Earth). Subsequently the “new” site proved to be located only 2300 meters NNE of the well-known and earlier-described, larger rock art site of Guelta Oukas (Blanc et al. 2003; Van Hoek 2015), which is located on the east bank of the same extensive wadi (at 29° 24′ 44.45″ N and  8° 51′ 28.78″ W – at 965 m asl).

Figure 2. The exact location of the “new” petroglyph sites of Jebel Youmkat and Guelta Oukas in the valley of the Wadi (Oued) Tamanart, southern Morocco. Map © by Maarten van Hoek, based on Google Earth.

Because this “new” site was unknown to me, the first thing I did back home was to consult the extensive thesis about Moroccan rock art by Susan Searight (2001), in which I could only find the site of Guelta Oukas (2001: 305; her Site S63), not the “new” site. Two other “nearby” sites mentioned by her (Guelta Grinkane and Tissifriouine) did not have the content to match the imagery of the “new” site in the wadi. Therefore, the “new” site just north of Guelta Oukas must have been recorded by a different name.

The solution was finally found in Google Earth, which marked a rock art site very near the “new” site as “Jebel Youmkat”, indicating a ridge projecting to the SW between two wadis. Later I found a few photos on the internet – made by Ibrahim Lamnay – that clearly depicted the same “new” site, but he referred to the “new” site as “N° 26 gravures Nord Icht”. However – except for a Google Earth map with no sites marked on it – there were no further location details provided by Ibrahim Lamnay. Moreover, both Oukas as well as Jebel Youmkat have incorrectly been marked on another map by Ibrahim Lamnay (both sites are located too far south on his map). Finally, his indication “Nord Icht” is not that revealing, because to me it suggests a location “near Icht”, while the site is found no less than 42 km due north of the village of Icht.

Somewhat later I found out that Jacques Gandini (n.d.) once published a webpage called Jebel Oukas and Jebel Youmkat, clearly referring to the “new” site that is the subject of this paper. Unfortunately Gandini did not describe the site (he only gave the direction to the site) and he also did not offer any photographs. For all those reasons I decided to indeed label this “new” site “Jebel Youmkat” in this study. And yet there is more confusion regarding “Youmkat”.

Confusingly, in the inventory in her thesis Searight (2001) included a site called Assif Youmkat (S-58), but the content (mentioning only four petroglyphs and two pictographs) did not match the imagery at the site of Jebel Youmkat at all. Assif Youmkat might thus well be a third site in the area. Probably the same site – Assif Youmkat – (also with pictographs) was reported by Searight in 2017. She also remarked that the site was catalogued by Simoneau (1977) as Site 150.160, but all the relevant documentation was said to have been lost. Assif Youmkat may well be the name of the wadi directly west of Jebel Youmkat (indicated by a green arrow in Figure 2), but I could not find the name of Assif  Youmkat on any map I have available, so the green arrow may well indicate a wadi (assif) of another name and Assif  Youmkat may be located at a completely different spot.

The solution to this problem was provided by the book by Renate Heckendorf. Heckendorf lists Oukas as Site FH9/01 (2008: Abb. 16), but her book does not seem to offer any information about the site of Jebel Youmkat, although she lists a site called Assif  Youmkat (Moussrag) by her (Site FH8/02) and a site called Assif  Youmkat (FH5/01) (2008: Abb. 16), which are – however – both located at a spot about 16 km east of Wadi Tamanart. Therefore, Jebel Youmkat and Assif  Youmkat (or Assif Toumikat?) probably are different sites, not even located “near” each other in the Tamanart Valley. Realising that the name “Jebel Youmkat” could be incorrect after all, I still decided to use the name Jebel Youmkat for the “new” site in this study.

Although it is said that Klug first reported the nearby rock art site of Guelta Oukas in 1939 (Blanc et al. 2003: 80), it is uncertain if also the site of Jebel Youmkat was visited by Klug. Moreover, the location of “Oukkas” was marked on a sketch-map published by André Simoneau (1972), but not Jebel Youmkat or any other rock art site north of Oukas. The same goes for the map published by the Proyecto Tamanart (2012: Fig. 7) that only shows the site of Oukas, but again not Jebel Youmkat.

This paper now aims at presenting an impression of the “new” rock art site of Jebel Youmkat, without offering a complete, scientific inventory. This paper is also accompanied by a video that gives an impression of Wadi Tamanart and some of the rock art sites in the wadi. At Jebel Youmkat (possibly the northernmost rock art site in the Wadi Tamanart) my wife and I only inspected the first band of hard and dark-coloured sandstone, but photographs revealed that a second band – somewhat higher-up – also has petroglyphs and most likely there are more decorated panels at a higher and/or lower level that went unnoticed.

Unfortunately, we could not spend much time at Jebel Youmkat, because in 2019 we actually planned to visit only Guelta Oukas. After having visited the petroglyphs of Guelta Oukas (and this was for the first time), our excellent and skilful driver – Moha Mouhou – continued along the long and arduous track (many stretches completely destroyed by earlier flash-floods) through Wadi Tamanart, until reaching (after a very rough and bumpy trip of about 40 km through the wadi) the newly (2019) tarred road to the village of Icht.


The Petroglyphs of Jebel Youmkat

First of all it must be emphasised that this study only gives an impression of what Jebel Youmkat has to offer and thus this “inventory” is definitely incomplete. Yet I have tried to present the petroglyphs in a well-organised manner. To achieve that, I have marked the panels of which I know the location in the photo below, which shows the south facing facade of the steep hill with the decorated outcrop panels. I have numbered the panels that are located in the first belt of hard and dark sandstone 1 to 6 (Figure 3), and the panels that are found a little higher 7 to 9 (but there may well be other panels with petroglyphs that escaped our attention). Most “panels” are fractured and thus comprise several sub-panels that will not be described individually. Some petroglyphs are visible in the photos that I have, but without showing the whole panel. Those panels are not numbered, only mentioned in this study. There are also three panels that I could not trace in the photo of Figure 3 and these are labelled Panel X, XI and XII in this study.

Figure 3. The locations of the roughly south facing outcrop panels bearing petroglyphs at Jebel Youmkat. My wife Elles (at Panel 5) may serve as a rough scale indicator. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek. Photos of the Panels 7 to XII are not available for publication in this study.

Most petroglyphs at Jebel Youmkat concern images of zoomorphs (quadrupeds), but not being an expert in defining species of mammals, I will not try to label every zoomorphic image correctly. Therefore, I will mainly use the term “quadruped”. Some petroglyphs look “fresh”, while others prove to be almost invisible, being as deeply patinated as the natural rock surface. Minor markings will not be mentioned. Scales are not available and distances are only very approximate.



The westmost panel that we recorded has at least four petroglyphs of quadrupeds; three fully, yet lightly pecked (two of which most likely unfinished) and one outlined example with simple interior decoration (Figure 4). All animals involved seem to be looking to the left (west).

Figure 4. Panel 1 at Jebel Youmkat. Photograph © by Elles van Hoek.



The next panel (Figure 5) is only a couple of meters further east and comprises at least eight images of quadrupeds (six looking to the right). Five examples are outlined, some with internal decoration. There is at least one unidentified petroglyph (an anthropomorph?). One outlined quadruped has a large, fully pecked, bulbous appendage attached to the groin area; an udder? An unmarked panel immediately to the right of Panel 2 has at least one petroglyph of an outlined quadruped (star in Figure 5; the rest of the panel did not show up in the photographs).

Figure 5. Panel 2 at Jebel Youmkat. The large quadruped in the centre of the photo has the possible udder-appendage. The star indicates an unnumbered panel with petroglyphs. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.



Again a few meters east is a large, much fractured panel that has a large collection of petroglyphs (Figure 6). Most remarkable are the at least ten petroglyphs of fully pecked birds of different sizes, which all are looking east. They most likely are ostriches. About 18 images of quadrupeds of much different sizes appear, most of them looking east and most of them outlined with interior decoration. At the far west end is a fine, partially pecked, left-looking quadruped (with two large un-pecked areas on its body) that superimposes an almost invisible pecked quadruped that looks to the right (Figure 7). Nearby are several more very faint petroglyphs of quadrupeds that are hard to identify. One small, fully pecked quadruped has two straight, parallel horns that run upwards. It may be an oryx (see the detail photo). There also are a few unidentified petroglyphs, but no recognisable abstract motifs.

Figure 6. Panel 3 at Jebel Youmkat with details of two ostriches and the possible oryx. Photographs © by Elles van Hoek (all enhanced by the author).

Figure 7. The westmost part of Panel 3 at Jebel Youmkat with details of the quadruped (1), its legs superimposed upon a much fainter quadruped (2). Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.



Again a couple of meters further east is a complex of panels that I have numbered 4 to 6. Widely distributed on the large, much fractured Panel 4 are at least ten petroglyphs of quadrupeds (seven [partially] outlined [some with internal decoration]; one fully pecked and two only very lightly pecked [one within an outlined contour]). All animals are looking to the right (except for perhaps one example). There is also one small, unidentified petroglyph (possibly zoomorphic) (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Panel 4 at Jebel Youmkat. Photograph © by Elles van Hoek.



Immediately “touching” Panel 4 to the east is Panel 5, which again is large and much fractured (Figure 9). The west part has at least eight petroglyphs of quadrupeds of much differing sizes (three looking to the left [west]). Two are fully pecked; five are outlined, some with internal decoration. There is one confusing petroglyph that may represent two (or three?) quadrupeds superimposed upon each other. Stacking and/or superimposing petroglyphs of zoomorphs is not unusual in this part of Morocco. It is also seen at nearby Guelta Oukas. There also are (two, or one?) areas of light (deeply patinated) pecking that could represent a zoomorph (perhaps an ostrich or quadruped), as well as more distinct (recent?) L-shaped grooves. Further east on Panel 5 are three, mainly outlined quadrupeds that all look to the right (east).

Figure 9. Part of Panel 5 at Jebel Youmkat. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.



This panel is found directly below Panel 5. It features one roughly pecked, large, outlined petroglyph of a quadruped with one horn that is curved downwards in front of and above the head (Figure 10). The animal is looking to the right (east). There is some random pecking to the right that might be an unfinished (zoomorphic?) petroglyph.

Figure 10. Panel 6 at Jebel Youmkat. Photograph © by Maarten van Hoek.



Faintly visible in a photograph (not included in this study) is at least one – apparently roughly pecked out – petroglyph of an unidentified quadruped (looking to the right [east]?).



Immediately to the east of Panel 7 is a group of small panels. The central part shows two clearly pecked petroglyphs of quadrupeds, most likely male bovines (one shown in Figure 13). They both are partially outlined, while legs and heads are fully pecked. They both have one horn above the head (curved backwards) and one horn below the head (curved forwards) Above the central part is a panel with at least two petroglyphs of a quadruped, while below the central part is a panel with at least one roughly executed quadruped. A later photo shows that the central panel seems to have been defaced at a later stage (vandalism?) by random (unpatinated) pecking (compare this with a similar, yet worse situation at nearby Guelta Oukas [Van Hoek 2015]).



The eastmost panel that I could locate has a large, almost fully pecked petroglyph of a quadruped (most likely a bovine) with internal decoration and two forward pointing horns, one above and one below the head. It also has a large, fully pecked bulbous appendage from the groin area (compare with a similar image on Panel 2). Above this image is a smaller petroglyph of a fully pecked quadruped, while below there are three (possibly four) petroglyphs of smaller, fully pecked quadrupeds. To the right of this central panel is another panel with at least three petroglyphs of quadrupeds (possibly all unfinished). All the animals are looking to the right (east?). To the left are some possibly recent (unpatinated) markings.



It was not feasible to locate this much fragmented panel. It features a large, partially outlined quadruped (again with legs and head fully pecked), while a smaller, fully pecked example is situated between its legs. There are at least four more quadrupeds, two of them being unfinished (and thus dubious). They all seem to be looking to the right (east?). A short distance to the east may be another panel with at least (?) one (outlined) petroglyph of a quadruped.



It is also unknown to me where Panel XI is located. It features one large and one small petroglyph of a quadruped that both are partially outlined; the smaller positioned behind the larger. Both are looking to the right (east?). There also is an amorphous area of light pecking just in front of the larger animal.



Also this “last” panel I could not locate. A close-up reveals the petroglyph of a partially outlined quadruped (legs and head fully pecked) with one horn curved backwards above the head and another curved forwards below the head. The animal looks to the right (east?).



This study attempts at offering an impression of what is available at the rock art site of Jebel Youmkat in southern Morocco. It does not pretend to be complete, neither accurate in its presentation. It is a well-known fact that the results of almost every survey of a major rock art site show inaccuracies. For instance the otherwise excellent presentation of the petroglyphs of nearby Guelta Oukas by Blanc et al. (2003) has (only!) one drawing of a petroglyph that is incomplete. It concerns the bovine shown in Figure 11. It appears to have two tails.

Figure 11. Photograph (oblique and inverted) and drawing of a bovine at Guelta Oukas. Photograph and drawing © by Maarten van Hoek; drawing based on Blanc et al. 2003: 106.

Because this study only offers a brief and most likely incomplete record of what Jebel Youmkat has to offer (and will no doubt be corrected), it is highly recommended that a full, scientific survey of the site will be carried out, which will then – hopefully – be published soon after.

Despite being located very near the Guelta Oukas rock art site (which is found only 2300 m further south) there are some remarkable differences between the two sites. At Jebel Youmkat I counted a minimum of 75 petroglyphs depicting quadrupeds and at least ten (perhaps 11) images of birds (ostriches?), excluding one uncertain example on Panel 5 (only 5 ostriches have been counted at Guelta Oukas). Most quadrupeds apparently represent bovines, but there may be some antelopes among those quadrupeds, like the possible oryx on Panel 3. However, all these numbers are only approximations.

Absent at Jebel Youmkat are petroglyphs depicting felines (1 at Guelta Oukas); elephants (10 at Guelta Oukas); goats (30: 19 and 11? at Guelta Oukas) and anthropomorphic figures (11 at Guelta Oukas, among which is one purported archer; see Van Hoek 2023: Fig. 5). The estimated total of petroglyphs at Jebel Youmkat (again this figure only represents a minimum!) is about 86 petroglyphs (against 178 at Guelta Oukas [Blanc et al. 2003: 82]). Like at Guelta Oukas, most quadrupeds at Jebel Youmkat look to the right, and are – regarding their layout – in general similar to the examples at Guelta Oukas. Another (minor) difference is that the ostriches at Guelta Oukas prove not always to have been fully pecked out (some are outlined), but all look to the right as well. Recognisable abstract petroglyphs, like circles (modestly present at Guelta Oukas) are absent at Jebel Youmkat (as far as I know). What both sites have in common is that (as far as I know) there are no petroglyphs of the well-known Tazina Style, which are yet found further south along the Wadi Tamanart, near Icht (see my Tamanart video).

A final difference between Jebel Youmkat and Guelta Oukas is that the latter site has – despite its remote and hard to reach location – suffered quite a bit from vandalism, most of it described by me earlier (Van Hoek 2015). Unfortunately, also in 2019 we recorded further vandalism at Guelta Oukas, evidenced by the name of “Nasser” painted in white on one of the rocks. The petroglyphs of another panel (Blanc et al. 2003: 93 Fig. 12) were superimposed by an ugly, fully white painted zoomorphic figure.

Unfortunately it is impossible to protect these remote sites in Wadi Tamanart. Therefore I hope that every visitor to this area (and to any other rock art region) will at least respect the rock art sites and the fabulous landscape they are culturally cemented in and will have the decency not to desecrate those Sacred Sites or the ritually charged landscape in whatever way.


Regarding the Video about Wadi Tamanart

The video that I uploaded onto YouTube in 2023 only serves to give a (completely incomplete) picture of the landscapes of the Wadi Tamanart and of a small selection of the rock art imagery that my wife Elles and I visited in its drainage (see Figure 12). This wadi (a mainly dry riverbed) stretches roughly 130 km from north to south (following its course), were it empties its seasonal waters (heavy downpours sometimes causing serious flash-floods, however) into the River Draa. All along its course are many rock art sites (mainly with petroglyphs), of which the most northerly seems to be the rock art site of Jebel Youmkat, subject of this study. Because of the limited time that we had to spend in southern Morocco in 2019, it was impossible to visit all those sites and thus we selected a number of rock art sites that were “easily” accessible from Tafraout and Icht. The photos (often enhanced) and video-fragments in the video are all made by me or my wife Elles.

Figure 12. Map of the course of the Wadi Tamanart, southern Morocco. The circles roughly indicate the rock art sites that my wife Elles and I visited in 2019 in the wadi. The squares approximately mark a selection of the other rock art sites in the area. The blue square roughly marks the remote petroglyph site of Tiouli (Pichler and Rodrigue 2002). Tachokalt seems to be the most southerly rock art site (that I know of) and south of Tachokalt Wadi Tamanart continues for about 16 km before it reaches the River Draa (not shown on this map; see Figure 1). Map © by Maarten van Hoek, based on the map © by OpenStreetMap – Contributors.



I am grateful to Heribert Bechen (Germany) for helping me with photographs and information about Guelta Oukas in 2015. His help triggered us to arrange a rock art trip to southern Morocco in 2019 in order to visit Wadi Tamanart and Guelta Oukas ourselves. I am also indebted to Mrs. Liesbeth van Woerden of the Auberge Kasbah Chez Amaliya in Tafraout. She arranged a transfer for us (in a 4×4) with Moha Mouhou, our excellent chauffeur, from Tafraout to Icht via the gorge of Ait Mansour and Wadi Tamanart; a trip which we will never forget. I am also indebted to my wife Elles who – as ever – skilfully assisted me on our rock art trips in southern Morocco and also supported me at home when writing this paper.

Figure 13. One of the petroglyphs on Panel 8 at Youmkat. Drawing © by Maarten van Hoek, based on a photograph posted (on the internet) by Ibrahim Lamnay.



Blanc, C., W. Pichler and A. Rodrigue. 2003. Le site rupestre de Guelta Oukas (Morocco). Almogaren. Vol. XXXIV; pp. 79 -111. (Institutum Canarium). Wien.

Gandini, J. n.d. Le site du Jebel Oukas ou de l’assif Youmkat. In: Le Maroc avant l’histoire.

Heckendorf, R. (2008) – ‘Bubalin’ und ‘Bovidien’ in Südmarokko: Kontext, Klassifikation und Chronologie der Felsbilder im mittleren Draa-Tal. Forschungen zur Archäologie Außereuropäischer Kulturen; Band 6. Bonn.

Pichler, W. and A. Rodrigue. 2002. Tiouli: A new rock engravings site in the Tamanart valley (Morocco). Almogaren. Vol. XXXII – XXXIII; pp. 275 – 286. (Institutum Canarium). Wien.

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Van Hoek, M. 2015. The Case of Guelta Oukas. Desecrated Rock Art Panels in the Anti-Atlas of Morocco. In: TRACCE – Online Rock Art Bulletin, Italy. Linked with my video “Le Site Rupestre de Guelta Oukas, Maroc”.

Van Hoek, M. 2023. The Archers of Oum el Aleg, Morocco. In: TRACCE – Online Rock Art Bulletin, Italy. Linked with my Oum el Aleg video.  

Proyecto Tamanart. 2012. Prospección y documentación de yacimientos con arte rupestre del valle de Tamanart (provincia de Tata, región de Guelmin Smara, Marruecos). Campaña de 2011-2012 (Cornella et al.) . Informes y trabajos. Excavaciones en el exterior 2011. Vol. 9; pp. 490 – 506.

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