Abstracts of Sahara volume 16
(published July 2005)

Augustin F.C. Holl
Brève histoire d'un concept: le Débat Atérien

This paper deals with the amazing and surprising history of the «Aterian» concept. The discussion outlined in the article is based on a very simple presupposition: the presupposition that scientific concepts have a history; that history is generally tortuous and uncertain up to the development of an accepted consensus. It is well known that «the name is not the thing». The decision resulting in the 'naming' of a set of phenomena is fundamentally arbitrary; but this arbitrariness is far from random as it is constrained by a number of factors. In archaeological research, eponymy - the process through which place/site names are given to a whole artifactual complex - involves not only the prestige of a specific researcher, but also his/her credibility among peers, and the support that can be harnessed to use and spread the concept currently under elaboration. The Aterian Debate has all the ingredients of a suspense show. The solution was uncertain for at least 50 years and paradoxically the concept was adopted even before any significant investigation and agreement upon its logical content, a content that was worked out much later.


Friederike Jesse
Rock art in Lower Wadi Howar, northwest Sudan

During the field work conducted since 1995 by the multidisciplinary research project ACACIA of the University of Cologne in the southern Libyan Desert, petroglyphs were found in Lower Wadi Howar, an area up to then completely void of such evidence. Three rock art sites and one isolated engraving are now known, all located in an area between 110 and 150 km west of the Nile. The petroglyphs show schematic signs, animals (among them cattle, gazelles, giraffes and ostriches) and, rarely, human figures. At site Gala Abu Ahmed 02/2 the engraving of a giraffe was found, its legs still covered by playa sediment. After excavating a small trench about 40 cm deep, it was possible to expose the whole animal. Fragments of charcoal embedded in the sediment gave a terminus ante quem of about 1200/1300 cal BC for the rock art of the location.


Noura Rahmani et David Lubell
«Dessine-moi une autruche». La gravure de Kef Zoura D et la représentation de l'autruche au Maghreb

The study of a limestone fragment with complex engravings from Kef Zoura D rock shelter in Eastern Algeria is used to discuss Capsian and Neolithic representation systems for the illustration of the ostrich. Analysis of the engravings, using a combination of binocular microscopic observation and graphic treatment, makes it possible to follow the stages of incision and to detect at least three sets of engraved lines, the main one being associated with the representation of an ostrich. Today extinct in the Eastern Maghreb, this steppe animal formerly provided by its eggs an essential raw material for Capsian and Neolithic groups. Its roughly systematic absence in Capsian faunal assemblages suggests to some scholars that the ostrich was considered a sacred animal. The research reported here suggests that its representation in motion shows that the ostrich captivated prehistoric men just as it fascinates today the prehistorians who study it, and allows us to explore ideas about its place in the life and the imaginary thought of past groups. In spite of the slightly ambiguous context of discovery, comparative analysis with other Capsian and Neolithic engravings provides a firm suggestion for a chrono-cultural framework.

A. José Farrujia de la Rosa and Sergio García Marín
The Canary Islands and the Sahara: reviewing an archaeological problem

In this paper we analyze the archaeological relationship between the Canary Islands and the Sahara. We will show how nineteenth-century Canarian archaeology and later Francoist archaeology viewed this topic, discuss current research perspectives and present a new and previously unpublished example of anthropomorphic Canarian rock art which has connections with the Sahara.


Alain Rodrigue
Industries préhistoriques de la région de Fès (Maroc)
La collection Charles Rivollier

During more than ten years, Charles Rivollier made prospections and excavations in the region of Fes (Morocco). His work was then unpublished and nothing was known about the industries he collected. In 1999, a train of circumstances allowed us to rediscover a part of the private collection in France, and numerous documents as well, that leads to a clear analysis and description of the lithic industries, ceramic and a very interesting collection of tools made of bone. Although precise dating is lacking, we felt as essential to publish this collection, a particularly rich contribution to the knowledge of a poorly prospected region.


Baldur Gabriel, Rebecca Bradley, Pawel Wolf, Nuha Abdel Hafiz and Mohamed Faroug Ali
Nazca Lines in the Sudan? Gravel Features at the Fourth Nile Cataract

At the Fourth Nile Cataract (Sudan) a new barrage is under construction. The reservoir will have a length of 170 km along the river banks. During the 2003-2004 survey in the area endangered by inundation, 110 enigmatic man-made gravel features of different sizes and shapes have been found. They consist of lines and small clearings in the gravel ground showing similarities with the Peruvian Nazca lines. The main differences are the dimensions and the age (in Sudan they are smaller and perhaps not more than 100 years old) and the fact that with one single exception they do not show any real perceptible object or item. The gravel features are listed with their sizes and GPS positions. Examples are presented in drawings and photos. Their origin and purpose are discussed, but in fact the real and reasonable background of the phenomenon remains totally obscure.

François Soleilhavoup
Images «Têtes rondes» dans l'art rupestre saharien: la piste animiste

The so-called «Round head» art, essentially pictographic, is definitly the most original and mysterious of all Saharan rock art. It is totally neolithic and its definition is based on the concurrence of several elements: style (figuratively synthetic, pseudo-naturalistic images), technique (solid white, yellow and red colours, often with dark couloured outlines), pigments and subjects, representing a strongly spiritualized mental universe, dominated by immaterialism and symbolism. An iconographic analysis of the main artistic expressions in the different stages of the «Round head» art reveals the neolithic roots of African art, and at the same time appears to be one of the possible sources of African animism. The African features of the «Round head» art are indubitable, such as negroid face profiles, characteristic morpho-anatomies, tegumentary decors, depictions of masks and dances. The animistic interpretation is based on a number of elements which altogether show a certain coherence, on a material, intellectual, psychologic or symbolic ground. Without necessarily evoking shamanic practices, in order to try and shed some light on the mystery of «Round head» art it is important to investigate the present survivals of African animism. Could possibly ethnocomparatism shed some light on this art, definitely «out of the picture».


Alessandro Menardi Noguera, Paolo Carmignoto, Stefano Laberio Minozzi, Francesco Romanzi, Giannantonio Schirato, Michele Soffiantini and Tiziana Tormena
New rock art sites in the southwestern sector of Jebel Uweinat (Libya)

The SW highland of Jebel Uweinat, accessible only on foot, was partially explored in 1935 by Prof. Umberto Mònterin. The outcome of a recent reconnaissance inspired by the papers of this famed geologist was the discovery of twelve new painted shelters referred to the pastoralist peoples, who settled in the region during the 4th and 3rd millennium B.C. One of this newly discovered shelters, the Giraffe Cave, is adorned by a large number of subjects. Among these, the depictions of seven finely painted giraffes and an inhabited hut with five different detailed containers are remarkable.


Last update Monday, September 2, 2013