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Home Forums Location of Mount Sinai Attributes of the proposed mountains Reply To: Attributes of the proposed mountains

  • Deborah Hurn

    February 24, 2021 at 9:56 pm


    I posted this comment on Dan Greer’s update, but updates tend to sink in the news feed and cannot be found again. Here is the link anyway I will post the comment here again as it relates to the subject of the black-top on Jebel al Lawz-Maqla and its significance to the identity of Mount Sinai. Also I can format the footnotes somewhat.


    No rocks can be burned, Dan, only heated. If rocks go black in fire it is because of organic matter that has been burned with them, depositing carbon on the surface. Reducing the search for Mount Sinai (in this video) to darkened rocks and an erosion basin at the base of a mountain (not required by the narrative) and the remains of some undated campsites (so common throughout the region) is sadly off-base. Darkened rocks are a feature of the whole region: the rocks get progressively darker with time. The colour is called patina. There seem to be a couple of ways it can form (organic and mineral deposits), as in the references below:

    “Another method for determining the antiquity of rock drawings is “the thickness of the patina, the hard dark layer that forms on the surface of desert rocks. In ancient carvings, the colour of the patina is similar to that of the surrounding rock, while in more recent carvings the patina is a lighter shade than its surroundings. The patina seems to be created by the secretions of micro-organisms, composed mainly of mucous covered with dust.”

    Shalmon, P. “Pet Rocks.” Eretz Geographic Magazine, Mar/Apr 1996.

    Patina (or patina), a thin crust (5 μm–1 mm) that develops on Negev limestone (including the Avdat ridge and Har Michia) is composed of iron, manganese oxides, quartz, clays and carbonates. Patina on boulders and re-patination of petroglyphs is highly affected by daily and seasonal variation in temperature, precipitation, wind direction and atmospheric dust, and the size and physical character of the underlying rock, (Krumbein and Jens 1981; Pope et al. 2002; Schneider and Bierman 1997) [16–18]. Therefore comparisons between patina shades were limited to single surfaces. Single surfaces, i.e., panels, present minimal change in inclination and are as constant a surface as can be found in the Negev desert. The governing factor followed is that the darker the patina, the longer it has taken for it to form (Krunbein and Jens 1981) [16]. Applying varying degrees of pressure or using different tools may penetrate the patina to different depths resulting in diverse patina shades (Macdonald 1981) [19]. In an attempt to compare like data, the technique used was noted. (For further discussions regarding patina formation see Dorn 1998, Fleisher et al. 1999; Liu and Broecker 2000) [20–22].

    Eisenberg-Degen, Davida, and Steven A. Rosen. “Chronological Trends in Negev Rock Art: The Har Michia Petroglyphs as a Test Case.” Arts 2, no. 4 (2013): 225–52.

    “At the nearby main site of Janin, one of those in the Kingdom that are protected by long steel fences, the patination of a zoomorph resembling an antelope was sampled for accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon analysis. The result, 1820 ± 50 years BP (OZF900) was, however, regarded as an inconclusive and conservative minimum date, because of the inherently open carbon system of such deposits (Bednarik, Khan 2005, pp. 61-62).”

    NB: the al-Lawz site is not the only archaeological site that is fenced off.

    Bednarik, Robert G., and Majeed Khan. “A Chronology of Saudi Arabian Rock Art.” In Prospects for the Prehistoric Art Research: 50 Years Since the Founding of Centro Camuno, edited by Federico Troletti. Capo di Ponte: Centro Camuno Di Studi Preistorici, 2015.

    “In contrast to other sites of rock art in the Saudi desert, no artifacts were found here that could help date Camel Site, which was explored in 2016 and 2017. Also, <b style=”font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit;”>patination (formation of a mineral film) and erosion have almost entirely destroyed the tool marks.”

    Schuster, Ruth. “2,000-Year-Old Life-Size Camel Art Found in Heart of Saudi Arabian Desert.” Haaretz, February 13, 2018.

    “The survey area is comprised of limestone hills; one of its characteristic features is concentrations of rocks with a dark crust or patina, comprised of micro-organisms, clay minerals, and oxides and hydroxides of iron and/or manganese. These rocks appear as layers, outcrops, or separate boulders, and may occur in riverbeds, mountaintops or on the slopes.

    “A special characteristic of these dark rocks is that when their patina is scratched, the light color of the stone is revealed. Ancient inhabitants of the region were familiar with this and by pecking, incising or carving, removed the patina to create various designs. The etched scenes are clearly visible due to the contrast between the dark patina and the light-colored stone.

    “Petroglyphs in the Negev were carved over an immensely long period of time, and in many cases individual rock panels were repeatedly incised at different times. But since new patina is continually formed on the rock face, older engravings gradually turn dark until they eventually regain the original color of the patina that covers the entire surface. In cases of multiple engravings on the same rock surface, the different hues of the etched scenes and their overlap may make it possible to discern the order in which the scenes were engraved.”

    Schwimmer, Lior, and Yuval Yekutieli. “Visitors from the Intermediate Bronze Age? Crescent Headed Figures in Negev Rock Art.” The ASOR Blog (blog), December 12, 2017.