In 1933, in one of the most remote areas in south-east Algeria, over 15,000 rock carvings and engravings were discovered on the Tassili n’Ajjer plateau at an altitude of 1500 to 1800 m. The oldest images are almost 10,000 years old and come from a time when the Sahara was still a fertile area. Pictures include hippos, elephants and giraffes.
Tassili n’Ajjer rock paintings: facts
|Official title:||Rock paintings of Tassili n’Ajjer|
|Cultural and natural heritage:||in the 80,000 km² national park in the »valley of the rivers«, the longest side of which measures 700 km, more than 15,000 rock carvings and rock carvings, among others. of hippos, bubalus cattle, elephants, rhinos and giraffes, as a chronicle of climate change, changes in flora and fauna and the development of human civilization, some of which have been under protection since 1972, heights of 1150 to 2158 m of the Tassili plateau and of the Adrar massif with a dry climate with an average of 30 mm of precipitation per year|
|Country:||Algeria, eastern part of the Algerian Sahara, near the state border with Niger and Libya|
|Location:||Tassili-n’Ajjer National Park, northwest of Djanet|
|Meaning:||one of the most important sites of prehistoric rock art in a “forest of sandstone rocks”|
|Flora and fauna:||28 country-specific rare plant species such as Ficus ingens and in the “Valley of the Cypresses” 100 cypresses of the species Cypressus dupreziana, of which there are only 240 worldwide, as well as olive trees and the myrtle family Myrtus nivellei as well as species such as Potamogeton hoggariensis and Lupinus tassilicus; 23 mammal species such as Dorcas gazelle, barbary sheep, cheetah and desert lynx; also resting migratory birds such as the purple heron, white stork, night heron, buzzard, short-toed eagle and red chalk falcon|
Tassili n’Ajjer rock paintings: history
|7500 or 6000 BC Chr.:||oldest settlements and naturalistic rock carvings of the so-called “Bubalus” or “Hunters Period” and the “Round Head Period”|
|5000 to 2500 or 2000 BC Chr.:||Rock carvings from the “cattle period”|
|around 1500 BC Chr.:||Rock drawings and carvings from the “Horse Period”|
|around 200 BC Chr.:||Illustrations of camel caravans|
|1847:||Discovery by an officer of the French colonial forces|
|1933:||Journey of the archaeologist Henri Lhote to the southeast of the Algerian Sahara|
An open-air gallery in the desert
“Have we discovered the submerged Atlantis?” Noted Henri Lhote in his notebook with a hint of enthusiasm. Having become aware of the Oued Djerat gorge through a patrol report by an officer of the French army, the archaeologist traveled to the southeast of the Algerian Sahara according to findjobdescriptions. What he found in the mountains of Tassili n’Ajjer exceeded all the scientist’s expectations. The rocky overhangs of the 30-kilometer-long gorge were covered over and over with scratches and, above all, rock paintings.
Thousands of pictures bear witness to a »unique world«. Giraffes, elephants, antelopes, lions and cattle tell of the life of the hunters and shepherds in a time before the great drought put an end to the abundance on the 700 km long and 100 km wide high plateau. Lhote made up four stylistic epochs: The “time of the round heads” is characterized by the monochrome violet drawings of naked people, without any division of the limbs or a clear distinction between the sexes. Only with the discovery of ocher tones do the paintings become more detailed. The muscles of the arms and legs can be clearly identified. The most outstanding example is the portrait of a white, kneeling lady with long hair, as if in a dance, with her arms spread apart and her breasts faithfully reproduced. Impressed by her beauty, Lhote baptized her with the name Antinea. The first sedentary pastoral peoples discovered new colors. The mix of red and white with the already familiar ocher made countless shades possible – from light yellow to dark chocolate brown. The drawings in the “Age of the Ungulates”, which lasted until the third millennium BC, grow beyond the real proportions of what is depicted. It seems that they should impress not with their beauty, but with their size. At the same time, people and animals become more natural. At lightning speed, herds and herdsmen race across the cliffs, and people swim in the current of a river. grow beyond the real proportions of what is depicted. It seems that they should impress not with their beauty, but with their size. At the same time, people and animals become more natural. At lightning speed, herds and herdsmen race across the cliffs, and people swim in the current of a river. grow beyond the real proportions of what is depicted. It seems that they should impress not with their beauty, but with their size. At the same time, people and animals become more natural. At lightning speed, herds and herdsmen race across the cliffs, and people swim in the current of a river.
Images of teams of horses testify to the progressive cultural development of the residents of Tassili during the “age of the horses”. Later the camel became the common farm animal and the drawings gradually lost their importance in people’s lives. In the “Era of the Camels” that now follows, the lifelike representation gives way to a return to the schematic. Even with the round heads, Lhote made the first stylistic parallels with drawings from ancient Egypt. This connection seems to be strengthened by the canon of images of the “Algerian” pastoral cultures after Lhote had discovered on the Tassili n’Ajjer the image of six boats, as they were common on the Nile. “Our shepherds were related to Egyptian civilization. They probably come from the East, ”the archaeologist concludes. The fact that people of other origins also settled in Tassili is shown by a painting of cows whose legs end with a clear cut between knee and hoof. Only the visit of a high UNESCO official from Mali recently solved the riddle of the mutilation: It was a representation of the Lotori festival, as it is celebrated by the people of the diplomat, the Peul, to this day. Animals are led through a body of water, believing that this is where they come from. This made it clear what Lhote had already suggested years earlier: Some of the desert residents have their ancestors in the black African peoples further south. “We did not discover Atlantis,” said Lhote at the end of his journey, “but we have achieved something far more important. We can prove that the Central Sahara has been one of the most important settlement areas in prehistory since the Neolithic Age. Long ago the desert was covered with huge pastures, populated by countless civilizations that are anything but a legend. ”