When the Sahara was green (V)

The Sahara has not been always the most impressive desert in the world. Instead of this kingdom of rocks and sand, desolated and arid, existed in remote times a verdant and populated region. This is the testimony of the civilizations that flourished on the Central Sahara, civilizations that were extinguished when the wind of the desert covered the greenery with a shroud of sand.

Archaeology in the Sahara

Shale rocks, which are more or less rich in iron oxide, are abundant in certain sectors of Tassili-n-Ajjer, and provided the painters with a coloring matter that encompassed the entire range of red ochres, from the clearest to the darkest ones, besides yellow ochres, or even greenish or blueish ones. The black pigment lacked, for in the region did not existed manganese oxide, but the white one was of frequent use, obtained from kaolin. Stoneware palettes tainted with remains of ochre pigment, stone cups where colors were diluted and mortars with their mace, used to grind the pigments, have been found. Occasionally the motif was previously sketched with a silex pointer before painting with brushes, whose strokes are visible in certain spots. Have been found as well stony high reliefs, most of them in the form of bovids, but also hares and human heads, soberly elaborated. Crafts in stone included pulished bowls as well.

Rock art in Tassili-n-Ajjer.

This scene, depicting a familiar image in the lives of the herders in the "bovid period", was painted around 3500 BC in Takédédumatine, in Tassili-n-Ajjer. The cattle is tied in front of the oval huts (to the left) while a herd returns from the pastures (to the right).

Rock art in Tassili-n-Ajjer.

This great sun disc attached to the head of the bovids looks like a replica of the representation of the egyptian god Ra, god of the sun of Heliopolis. This image was painted around 3500 BC in Tissou-Kai, in Tassili-n-Ajjer.

Rock art in Tassili-n-Ajjer.

This painting, executed around 3000 BC in Ouan Derbaouen, in Tassili-n-Ajjer, shows a prophylactic ceremony. In the center of the scene a cow is about to cross a threshold made of palms. This custom, several thousand years old, was still practiced in the beginning of the 20th century by the fulbe of the middle Niger, which indicates that exists a relationship between the traditions of the bovid herders that inhabited Tassili-n-Ajjer in the Neolithic and the herders of the fulbe villages, distant descendants of them.

The landscape of Terarart in Tassili-n-Ajjer.

The sandstone reliefs of Térarart, nearby to Djanet, in Tassili-n-Ajjer, were a favourite place for the "bovidian" artists, who traced there many of their artworks. In the background, are visible the dunes of the Erg Admer.

The great number of grinding stones found in the habitats of the herders, as well as the pieces of ceramic vessels induced to think during long time that these peoples practiced the agriculture during the Neolithic. However, the palynological tests effectuated by specialists have not found any evidence of the cultivated vegetables, while the biologists found that the insects that depredate crops in the saharan oases did not belonged to the local fauna on the Neolithic. Specialists agreed that the grinding stones were used exclusively to grind wild gramineaes.

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