Abstracts of Sahara volume 19
(published July 2008)

Savino di Lernia, Lucia Mori and Andrea Zerboni
Geo-archaeological survey in the Kufra Region (Eastern Sahara, SE Libya)

The results of a geo-archaeological survey in an area south of Kufra (SE Libya) are discussed. The campaign, organised by the Department of Archaeology of Tripoli (Libya) with the University La Sapienza (Rome), was funded by ENI North Africa BV. The survey brought to light an unexpectedly rich cultural heritage, testifying human occupation from the Old Stone age to Late Holocene. Palaeo-environmental evidence, on the contrary, is rare because of wind erosion. Archaeological evidence is from large Old Stone age sites for the exploitation of raw material (close to quartzarenite outcrops), and sites belonging to the Pastoral Neolithic horizon. Sites with lithics, ceramics, fireplaces and grinding stones are few, while isolated tethering stones are scattered all over the investigated area. They testify the marginality of this region during the Middle Holocene. Finally, some stone structures were identified, including tumuli, alignments and road markers. The project stressed the archaeological importance of the area and allowed to collect a sufficient amount of data to define a spatial and chronological relationship with better known regions of the Sahara.


Lamia Messili et François Fröhlich
Figurines néolithiques en argile cuite du Cap Achakar
(Sud Détroit de Gibraltar, Maroc nord-atlantique). Approche analytique

This study deals with ceramic technology involved in prehistoric clayey figurines production. The corpus, forty-nine baked modelages, was excavated from a Neolithic context in Achakar Cape’s district, north-Atlantic Morocco and is still seen as exceptional in North Africa late prehistory. Clay provenience and heating temperatures are here far concerned. Prospecting, in May and November 2004, gave three potential raw materials, located in the near- and middle vicinity of the cape. Combined Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis attest local raw materials use: one“s.l.” clayey sediment and a rather sandy or sand-enriched clayey sediment, as displayed by the geological background. FTIR is particularly useful to study phyllosilicates dehydroxylation process under thermal treatment. It provides good mineralogical determination in terms of major components and showed its performance in assessing figurines’ firing temperatures: on average 800°C; this threshold being coherent with siliceous temper use and pit firing conditions. Already highlighted by Maniatis et al. (2002), the combination FTIR/XRD supplied an accurate mineralogical‘thermometer’ tool despite the fact that sampling was limited on art mobilier artefacts.



Jean-Loïc Le Quellec
À propos des molettes zoomorphes du Sahara central

A zoomorphic quern depicting a bovid recently discovered in the central Sahara gives an opportunity to discuss the style, the extension and the datation of this type of artefacts. The usual interpretation as «idols» or «pseudo-grinding stones» is rejected, and a possible cultural parallel with the artists of the Iheren-Tahillâhi school is suggested.

Per Storemyr
Prehistoric Geometric Rock Art at Gharb Aswan, Upper Egypt

Recent survey has shown that Gharb Aswan (Upper Egypt) is a significant location of Prehistoric geometric rock art. Situated in the desert hinterland, two assemblages have been identified: the“Cobble Ridge Group”, which is characterised by a wide range of motifs, from circles to complex compositions, often associated with crocodiles, and the“Wadi el-Faras Group” that features few geometric patterns related to giraffes. On the basis of comparison with datable boats and varnish development it is only possible to propose c. 3,000 BC as a terminus ante quem for both groups. However, considering nearby parallels, it is hypothesised that part of the former group may predate the 5th millennium BC, whereas the latter should rather be placed in the (early?) 4th millennium. No convincing interpretations of origin and meaning is yet possible, but for interpretative approaches it is significant that the occurrences are situated in a landscape where grinding stone was procured for 15,000 years, from the Late Palaeolithic to Roman times. Hunting practices, often used in explanations of the motivation for creation of geometric rock art, are also attested in the archaeological record, but temporal associations between the two remain inconclusive.


Lotfti Belhouchet
Les gravures sur coquilles d’œufs d'autruche en Afrique du Nord : interprétation des décors géométriques

We propose a methodological approach to study the geometric art engraved on ostrich eggshells. The application of this method of interpretation to a considerable number of fragments of eggshells coming from North African Capsian and Neolithic sites allowed us to identify two distinct groups of geometric decorations, the first group is geometric figurative, the second one is geometric schematic.


Martin Williams, Peter Glasby and John Blackwood
A note on an Acheulian biface from Adrar Bous, Ténéré Desert, south central Sahara, Republic of Niger

Adrar Bous is an isolated Silurian ring complex located east of the Aïr massif in the Ténéré Desert of Niger. Although situated some 1500 km inland in the geographical heart of the Sahara, the valleys around the mountain have been occupied during intermittently wetter climatic interludes from Acheulian times until the mid to late Holocene. We here present the results of path form analysis of a single very symmetrical Acheulian biface from Adrar Bous. Our aim was to test the hypothesis that the Acheulian stone toolmakers had a mental template based on naturally occurring forms and had an instinctive practical knowledge of geometry.

Mark Milburn
National Heritage: Some Problems & Tragedies in the Sahara and North-West Europe including Britain

This text attempts to deal with difficulties in preservation of rock pictures in two widely-different areas, namely the Sahara and northern Britain. The effects of weathering of rock pictures is weighed against the damage normally caused by human interference, be this deliberate or fortuitous. Certain stone structures of the Sahara are covered in some detail. One major barrier to comprehension by readers, especially students, lies in the variety of names used in French-language texts plus complex wording and photos not accompanied by simple explanatory sketches. In northern Britain the amateur excavations carried out during the 19th century have created a complex situation with regard to modern evaluation of structures and grave-goods.


Mohssine El Graoui, Mohamed Alifriqui, Högne Jungner, Abderrazzak Nahid et Susan Searight-Martinet
Recherche d’indices chronologiques sur le passage des graveurs de rochers de l’Oukaïmeden (Haut Atlas, Maroc)

Seven trial trenches were made on the Oukaimeden plateau in the High Atlas in July 2006. Two of them produced hearths. The 14C dates obtained from the charcoal proved to be much younger than the flints of the Toulkinian culture found on the surface of the plateau and dated, by extrapolation, to the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC. Nor can the hearths be attached to the engravings of weapons, the prototypes of which come from the Early Bronze Age in the Iberian peninsula.

Alessandro Menardi Noguera and Michele Soffiantini
The rock art sites of the upper Wadi Waddan (Jebel Uweinat, Libya)

The rock art sites, archaeological surface findings and stone structures observed along the Wadi Waddan trail, in the southern-central sector of Jebel Uweinat, attest a human exploitation of the valley extended at least from the Neolithic up to the recent historical past. Among the newly found rock art sites in this area of the massif, a shelter named WWD 21 stands out for the large number of paintings in the Uweinat Pastoral style, for the quality of their execution and their excellent state of preservation. These paintings shed light on the uncertain identification of a few special motifs of the pastoral art already known from the more than 500 rock art sites surveyed in the region. Among these motifs, sophisticated leather bags shown with pictorial emphasis constitute a special case. The multiple layer of paintings in the Uweinat Pastoral style observed in site WWD 21 is superimposed on an older layer of paintings in the Uweinat Round Head style, unusual for the large size of the human figures represented.


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