A giant artwork showing what Qatar animals it bans

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The carving in limestone. Image caption The mysterious ‘anti-cocks’ lions found in a cave. Image caption The cave carved with 491 ‘anti-cocks’ lions. Image credit: Tim Sutton

Hidden under a desert sand dune in Qatar is a giant artwork depicting the animals and plants that the country has banned from their fields.

Its creator has refused to come forward – so there is no way of knowing whether the work, which takes days to carve out, is an old rite.

It is similar to human sacrifice images found in central Asia and the Middle East, archaeologist Tim Sutton says.

Meanwhile, scenes from a cave in Qatar suggest the creatures have taken on a more savage element.

Image copyright Al Jazeera Image caption The creation works were discovered by locals near a desert dune

In July 2018, Al Jazeera’s Kazeem al-Wahdat spent four days filming the work in the Golestan desert, west of the capital Doha.

But no one from the local government has been able to attend the interviews.

Sutton, of the University of Edinburgh, works at the Qatar-Qatar National Museum of Archaeology.

The 64-year-old is obsessed with such images.

He has discovered hundreds of stone works across several countries, including 2,000 idols and sculptures, and a collection of more than 150 replica depictions of human sacrifice.

Image copyright Al Jazeera Image caption The cave drawings will be added to the Doha National Museum’s collection of works from the Nubian culture, ancient Egyptian items and carvings from the Gandhara culture, which flourished in Turkey. Image credit: Kazeem al-Wahdat

Two years ago, he was given access to a cave near the Doha International Airport.

There, the team found 491 artworks – depicting rabbits, goats, hawks, hyenas, ibex and the kind of animals found in the Golestan.

All are drawn against a backdrop of pale rock, so that the figures do not look human.

They also depict man and animal shapes in different poses.

Sutton says some of the cartoons show something not too dissimilar to a Muslim ritual – where a rabbit was believed to become a saint for its sacrifice.

“The act of obliterating oneself in worship to a god … was associated with the cocks and the dogs that are attached to the cocks of the hares,” he says.

But the drawings in the cave are not to be taken literally.

“The animatronic animals are all slightly make-believe – even with the rabbits.

“You could say that this allows for an alternate rendering of things that are forbidden in the book.”

Bahraini wedding rituals suggest the cocks have become a widespread symbol of debauchery, Sutton says.

In the country, women could no longer wear veils unless they went to a mosque in order to be taken out of the house at night.

According to a 1979 article by British anthropologist Thomas Delargy, cave drawings, which were also made in the Middle East, suggest that the animals are meant to serve as signs of both zealous piety and lust.

Image copyright University of Edinburgh Image caption Inside the cave containing 491 ‘anti-cocks’ carved into limestone. Image credit: Tim Sutton

“Animatronic cocks seem to symbolise lions and goats and swarms of insects,” he said.

“Men and birds are also depicted.”

Qatar on the other hand has strict rules on animal and bird ownership, although those regulations have been relaxed over recent years.

One form of animal sacrifice, called ‘the mock burial’ has been interpreted to mean a mother sacrificed her child to death.

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