Abstracts of Sahara volume 23
(published July 2012)

Robert Vernet
Le Chalcolithique de Mauritanie (3000-2500 calB.P.).
État de la question 9900-7600 years ago

In the Sahara, the Chalcolithic is present in two regions, Niger, where it is little known, and Mauritania, where the mass of data is considerable. In the first half of the first millennium BCE, large amounts of copper were extracted from mines in the Akjoujt mountains, western Mauritania, and transformed into tools, weapons and jewelry. 3000 objects are known – for a weight of approximately 60 kg. We can therefore assume that the production was much higher. Hardly anything is known about the miners/metalworkers settled around the Akjoujt. Their production was exported throughout the region, from the Atlantic coast, particularly around Nouakchott in eastern Mauritania, to remote areas of northern Sahara and down to the Senegal River. As yet no actual connection with Morocco is known, where an older Copper Age exists because of the influence of southern Spain, and with Niger in the same period. Nothing is known of the fate of the Akjoujt miners either, about 2500 years ago, at a time when iron was already present in the southern Sahara and the Sahel.

Steven E. Sidebotham and Iwona Zych
Berenike: Archaeological Fieldwork at a Ptolemaic-Roman Port on the Red Sea coast of Egypt 2011-2012

The 2011 and 2012 field seasons at the Egyptian Red Sea port of Berenike provided more data about the topography of this important Ptolemaic-Roman emporium and about the Hellenistic, early and late Roman periods of the city's history. The project continued geomagnetic surveys and geological coring and excavated trenches in the early Ptolemaic area at the western end of the site, in Ptolemaic and early Roman trash deposits, in the southwestern harbor (where some Ptolemaic and many early and late Roman remains were recorded) and in the so-called Serapis Temple. Survey work proceeded in the Roman era beryl/emerald mining region of Mons Smaragdus, about 120 km northwest of Berenike. Here, the project produced detailed architectural plans and elevations of two major settlements: Middle Sikait and North Sikait, and continued work at Nugrus. The project also initiated excavations at a Copper or Bronze Age (fifth-third millennium B.C.) cattle cemetery in Wadi Khashab where initial survey work had been conducted in 2010.


Julien d'Huy
Le motif de Pygmalion : origine afrasienne et diffusion
en Afrique

The aim of this paper is to retrace the existence of prehistoric Saharan myths telling the story of an image that arouses an erotic disorder, comes to life, or so it seems, and may get married to a human being. For this purpose we apply two methods. The first is based on a parallel between a current Kabylian tale, The skillful hunter, and an Egyptian tale dating back to 1200 BC, The tale of the two brothers. A close comparison of the two stories shows an anteriority of the Berber tale, that therefore existed 3000 years ago. With the second – and new – method, we created a database with the well-known variants of African Pygmalion tales. The mythological structural features were binary coded for their presence or absence in each of the target myths. We then treated these features as character traits distributed among taxonomic units (myths). The binary-coded set of data was processed thanks to a phenetic algorithm, in order to identify the optimal "family tree": Bio-Neighbor-Joining. The results show a diffusion of the tales from the Afro-Asiatic region to Southern Africa, which is consistent with a southward migration 2000 years ago (unrooted tree; Delta score = 0.3447; Q-residual score = 0.05968). According to archaeological, historical and ethnographic data, we can conclude that the ancient Saharan people certainly thought that theirimages could come to life.

Jean-Loïc Le Quellec
Iconoclasties rupestres au Sahara


A review of iconoclasms in the Sahara shows that these acts were perpetrated as if they concerned truemliving beings. In particular, new observations on the “beasts” painted in the Gilf Kebir area indicate that these figures seem to have been “injured” and “killed” with stones. The most plausible motivation for such a move is a fear of the animation of these images, regarded as dangerous.
Neuroscience has shown that the contemplation of such images excites in those who watch them the same neural circuits as those activated, for example, by the vision of a real lion at full speed. But the vision of certain pictures seems to provoke contradictory reactions: first, a certain fascination because of the effectiveness of the image in terms of communication, and also a rejection by fear of their animation, possibly linked to religious, mythical or ideological reasons. One can then assume that iconoclasm is a way to resolve this conflict.


Antonio Curci, Alberto Urcia, Lauren Lippiello
and Maria Carmela Gatto

Using digital technologies to document rock art in the Aswan-Kom Ombo region (Egypt)

Since 2005 the Aswan-Kom Ombo Archaeological Project (AKAP), managed by Yale and Bologna Universities, has investigated a number of selected areas in the region between Aswan and Kom Ombo. Many of the rock art sites identified within the concession areas are under threat, due to the impact of modern human activities. Three-dimensional technologies, such as digital surveying, laser scanner and photogrammetry, were used for the first time in the Egyptian Nile Valley in order to document the rock art and its environmental setting in a very detailed manner. The aim is that of improving data recording and analysis while saving economic resources and reducing field work time.


Mohamed El-Bialy, Lauren Lippiello and Adel Kelany
Rock art in Wadi Silwa Bahari, Egypt. Part 1: Occasion
of discovery and site content

The rock art in Wadi Silwa Bahari provides a unique case study for the application of relative dating techniques to ancient Egyptian rock art. Details in the engravings, specifically the depictions of watercraft and bovids, function as significant diachronic markers that are ascribed to a chronological time frame based on comparisons with material culture (e.g. painted pottery, painted and/ or carved temple and tomb decoration, palettes, models, and full-sized physical remains). Based on preliminary observations and recording at Wadi Silwa Bahari, as well as comparisons to previously dated material culture, typological and stylistic change strongly indicates a terminus post quem of the early New Kingdom for the rock art at Silwa Bahari.

Yahia Fadl Tahir
A Holocene palaeolake in El Ga'ab depression, Western Desert, Northern Sudan

El Ga'ab depression is situated in Northern Sudan west of the Dongola Reach. It extends about 125 km across the Western Desert in a NE to SW direction. The underground water is found at a depth of approximately 3.5 m. The basin is considered to be a palaeolake connected to the Nile during the Early Holocene. To demonstrate the possibility of water flow from the Nile towards the basin, some topographical studies of the basin were carried out. Whenever appropriate, the GPS was used to record the location and altitude. Fortunately, many bioarchaeological aquatic materials were collected. They were shells of Etheria elliptica, Coelatura sp. and Pila ovata; fossilized fish bones of Lates niloticus, Synodontis sp. and Clarias sp. and the skeletons of reptiles such as Crocodylus niloticus and turtle carapace fragments. Topographical studies and bioarchaeological materials were used to reconstruct the palaeoecology of the area. They reveal that the El Ga'ab depression during Early-Holocene times was a lake or a group of lakes with a meandering channel.

JaâfarBen Nasr
Des gravures rupestres de la Tunisie Centrale : Jebel Ousselat

Rock engravings in the shelters of R'mada and Dar H'ssine in Jebel Ousselat (central Tunisia). The art is in a "naturalistic style" and represents wildlife (rhinoceros, ancient buffalo, antelopes) and domestic animals (sheep, cattle) as well as the symbolic subject of the decorated ram.


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