Abstracts of Sahara volume 22
(published July 2011)

Martin Williams and Geraldine E. Jacobsen
A wetter climate in the desert of northern Sudan
9900-7600 years ago

Early Holocene semi-aquatic and freshwater gastropod shells embedded in lake silts and clays occur in shallow depressions near Wadi Mansurab, ~15 km west of the lower White Nile in presently arid north-central Sudan. Ten new AMS radiocarbon ages obtained on shells from two of the clay pans accord with the four conventional radiocarbon ages from these sites published nearly forty years ago and show that the climate was significantly wetter in this part of the SE Sahara between 9.9 ka and 7.6 ka, with a concentration of ages (11 out of 14) within the six hundred year interval 9.0-8.4 ka. These ages are similar to the ages of the Mesolithic barbed bone harpoon sites of Tagra and Shabona, east of the lower White Nile, as well as the age of a recently mapped 450 km2 lake that was fed by an overflow channel from the main Nile in presently arid northern Sudan between 9.5 ka and 7.5 ka. Our results confirm that regionally wetter conditions away from the Nile coincided with times of high Nile flow in the early Holocene.

Per Storemyr
The ancient stone-built game traps at Gharb Aswan
and beyond, Lower Nubia and Upper Egypt

Spread along a 400 km stretch of the Nile, especially on the west bank from el-Hosh in Upper Egypt to the Sudan border in Lower Nubia, the poorly known stone-built game traps are evidence of large-scale ancient hunting practices in the region. This paper summarises field evidence at Gharb (West) Aswan and el-Hosh and includes results of a Google Earth search for traps south of the High Dam at Aswan. The game traps come as stone lines broken up by funnel-shaped openings called chutes; systems which in some places block wadis and valleys over dozens of kilometres slightly to the west of the Nile. Many are thought to predate the New Kingdom, perhaps belonging to the Nubian C-Group. More research is needed to clarify this hypothesis, as well as questions related to which animals that were trapped (dorcas gazelle?), the function of the traps (passive hunting?) and how the hunting was organised.


Henri Lhote, Translated and annotated by Mark Milburn
Discovery of a pendant made of schist in a preislamic tumulus in Aïr. Its connexion with the so-called Cross of Agadez and the origin of the latter

Probably over a long period Henri Lhote was visiting Tuareg areas and making notes about their pendants. Right at the end of his life he showed me the article which follows and said that it would be published before long. Something apparently went wrong, he died and the article was not published. I am grateful to his widow for asking me to try to do so.

Nicole Honoré, Susan Searight-Martinet,
France Soleilhavoup et François Soleilhavoup
Wa-n-Kalia: an exceptional engraved site in the Aramat massif (north-west Fezzan, Libya)

The engraved site of Wa-n-Kalia was first published in 2001 and has been the object of three further publications. The present article resumes the 2009 analysis of the 100-odd engravings and includes a number of clarifications and additional remarks. It also looks more closely into neighbouring rock art sites in the area and discusses possible links with the Messak plateau. The attempt to situate the site within a wider region including the Acacus calls for a consideration of the dates coming from Italian excavations. A very tentative reason for the choice of site and an explication for the engraved images is proposed.


Richard Wolff et Lorenzo De Cola
Les gravures rupestres du djebel Ben Ghnema (Sud libyen) : une relecture

The Ben Ghnema engravings have not been examined thoroughly. A visit to the sites, though short, made possible the detection of a number of unknown engravings. A new reading of all these figures is tempted in this paper, and in particular the most mysterious ones, dancers, musicians and perhaps singers. H. Ziegert's inventory (1967) is our guiding thread, with its "relative chronology of the groups of styles" of which we analyze the basic criteria. Animals and men roamed a particular landscape, from the mountain escarpments to the serir skirting it. Placed as a junction between the central Sahara and Fezzan, this area may have seen the passage of different people, some of them perhaps supplanting the natives. These events are probably a consequence of climatic changes. The cultural features evolve with the new people, but the "Tazinian" will not succeed in being established durably, facing the stockbreeders. The table of chronostyles of Ziegert has to be revised.


Alessandro Menardi Noguera and András Zboray
Rock art in the landscape setting of the western Jebel Uweinat (Libya)

A number of previously unreported rock art sites have been surveyed in the Libyan sector of Jebel Uweinat. Among the new finds, particularly remarkable is the first documentation of archers equipped with transverse arrowheads. These depictions belong to one of the hunter-gatherer groups predating the cattle herders in settling the massif. We also noted rare pictorial evidence of back aprons in the wardrobe of pastoralist women, based on ethnographic evidence very likely worn by adolescent girls. The transformation of the western Uweinat natural landscape into a cultural landscape with painting compositions on rock surfaces lasted some millennia. The emerging spatial distribution of painted sites, although a taphonomic pattern, still preserves some information about this process. The art attributable to the first settlers established an early pattern that could have inspired later newcomers. The observed preferences in decorating specific rock surfaces, overhangs or sheltering boulders, corroborated by superimposition of several painting styles, could be explained in the context of land use and survival strategies implemented by the different groups.

Lenka Suková
The "Venus" of Jebel Uweinat (SE Libya)

The sandstone anthropomorphic figurine discovered at the outer periphery of the western (Libyan) sector of Jebel Uweinat is the third example of the peculiar geometric style of anthropomorphic figurines so far known only from the Neolithic cemeteries excavated near Kadruka. These statuettes are discussed here as exotic, prestigious objects rather than items of religious or funerary significance. The distance between the sites of their discovery and the varying contexts in which they were found are explained in terms of a hypothetical "life-cycle" of such objects and of the dynamics and complexity of social life of the Neolithic cattle-herders' communities.


Last update Monday, September 2, 2013