Isolated monuments, most frequently paintings and relief sculpture, for which there is no known context are designated art sites. The best known are found in Iran and date from the Elamite period (c. 1925–1120 BCE) through the third century CE. Four groups of Elamite reliefs are carved into the rocky ravines at Izeh (formerly Malamir), east of Susiana. The Kul-i Farah ravine has six reliefs, the principle one representing King Hanni and his minister, Shutruru, attending a sacrifice in the presence of musicians. A twenty-four-line inscription runs along the width of the relief. The Shakaf-i-Salman ravine has four reliefs, two of which represent King Hanni and his spouse. A similar relief was carved into the rocky face of the mountain at Naqsh-i Rustam, four miles north of Persepolis, during the Neo-Elamite period. Naqsh-i Rustam, which became the royal necropolis of the Achaemenids in the time of Darius I (522–486 BCE), has four tombs cut into the vertical rock that are adorned with reliefs. In the third century CE, the Sasanian king Shapur I (241–272 CE) had a victory relief carved in the rock below the Achaemenid tomb, where other reliefs also celebrate Sasanian victories. [See Izeh; Naqsh-i Rustam; Elamites; Sasanians.]

Less sophisticated in style and conception are the thousands of rock drawings and rock inscriptions in the southern Sinai Desert. The rock drawings, which are impossible to date, were probably engraved by desert people and pilgrims. Their subjects are predominantly local animals, mostly camels and ibex, but occasionally more exotic ones, such as oryxes and ostriches. A few hunting scenes are known. The most extensive of the rock paintings is one found in Jordan, east of Amman, that depicts an antelope hunt inside an enclosure, or desert “kite.” A rock drawing representing a man with his arms raised over his head, perhaps a cultic gesture, has been found at Timna῾ in the Negev. [See Timna῾ (Negev).]


  • Berghe, Louis Vanden. “Les reliefs élamites de Mālamīr.” Iranica Antiqua 3 (1963)): 22–39.
  • Berghe, Louis Vanden. Reliefs rupestres de l'Iran ancien. Brussels, 1983. Most recent and authoritative work on the Iranian reliefs. There are no English-language works devoted exclusively to the Iranian reliefs.
  • Meshel, Zeev. “New Data about the ‘Desert Kites.’” Tel Aviv 1 (1974): 129–143.
  • Meshel, Zeev, and Israel Finkelstein, eds. Sinai in Antiquity: Researches in the History and Archaeology of the Peninsula (in Hebrew). Tel Aviv, 1980.

Lucille A. Roussin