Numiscollect draws upon the fascinating subject of African rock art for its first in a new Prehistoric Art silver coin

As far as the world of art goes, is there anything more fascinating and mysterious as prehistoric rock art? Away from the sheer pretentiousness of much of the art world, especially the often comically appalling modern art scene (yes, it’s my opinion, but I’m taking it to the grave…), cave art is a uniquely interesting and important look at early civilisation, often an only look.

Obviously, we think it’s a great idea for a coin series, and so do Numiscollect, who’ve decided to resurrect an old 2011 series with a more ambitious 2023 issue. That old series, I actually have one here, I believe, was a simple, part-coloured, half-ounce sterling silver coin, and ran for just two releases. This one is a three-ounce, smartminted high-relief design, rocking (sorry) a 65 mm diameter, and a very esoteric subject.

The Abourma site, in Djibouti, seems to be quite amazing. Some three kilometres of literally thousands of rock carvings dating back as far as 5,000 BCE. The biggest of these is called ‘The Zoo’ and depicts an impressive selection of the fauna of the time. Numiscollect have chosen it for the reverse of their coin, realised in impressive high-relief, and what we can only describe as a quite superb colouring job. It’s a very accurate rendering, and clearly well above the 2011 coins.

That excellence continues on the obverse, with a mix of ancient art carvings, some in the process of creation by an artist. It’s packed to the rim, we love it. In another great touch, the coin is actually issued for Djibouti, and their neat national emblem takes pride of place in a ring-fenced area. The coin will come boxed with a COA, of course, and the mintage is capped at 499 pieces. Even ignoring our bias for the theme, it’s an excellent coin, in our view, done with a clear passion for the subject. Available to order now.

MINTS DESCRIPTION: Prehistoric art in general is art that was produced in ancient times by civilizations until they developed writing or other methods of record keeping. This means prehistoric art, can be younger in some parts of the world than in others. The oldest art, engraved shells, dates up to half a million years ago. Earliest rock art and drawings in general date to 40000–75000 years ago with art pieces as old as 40000 years. Prehistoric art varies from small carvings, rock carvings and paintings to beautiful statues.

The Abourma Rock Art site is a huge, 3-kilometre stretch, of rocks with hundreds of carvings in the north of Djibouti on the Makarrassou massif. These rock carvings tell a story about the society at that time. Some images represent messages of the social class, the interaction with nature and hunting. There are many wild animals present like elephants, giraffes, hippos, rhinos and more but also domestic animals. This means that the climate at that time wasn’t as inhabitable as today.

The site was rediscovered in 2008 by a French archaeologist. He was working more north in Djibouti at various small rock art sites when, at a restaurant in Randa for lunch, the waiter asked what he was doing. He showed pictures of the rock art and the waiter said: “We have so many of these as well nearby”. The next day he walked 5 hours to get to the places and was surprised to find all this rock art. After his return, he came back and stayed and studied the site for many months. In 2014 a road was constructed, cutting the walk to just 2 hours. It still takes a total of 6 hours to get to the site from Djibouti city today. It is off the beaten track. It’s listed to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

DENOMINATION 200 Francs (Djibouti)
COMPOSITION 93.3 g of 0.999 silver
FINISH Antique
MODIFICATIONS High-relief, colour, smartminting