Advertisement

African Archaeological Review

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 407–423 | Cite as

Patina and Environment in the Wadi al-Hayat: Towards a Chronology for the Rock Art of the Central Sahara

  • Maria Guagnin
Original Article

Abstract

This paper proposes a broad chronological framework for the engravings of the Wadi al-Hayat that is based on environmental parameters rather than stylistic observations. During the Holocene, the climate of the central Sahara changed from savanna to desert. This environmental background informed the experience of the engravers and underpinned the weathering of rock surfaces. To establish a link between images and climatic sequence, 2,466 individual animal engravings were analyzed with regard to the depicted species, patina and the location of the panel in relation to the dated shorelines of the al-Hayat palaeolake. Based on their patina, engravings are grouped into a broad, four-stage chronological sequence. The chronological relevance of this framework is tested in three different ways. The dates and sequence of the introduction of domestic animals match their depiction across the four engraving groups. The habitats of the depicted wild animals reflect a dramatic change from savanna to desert that is consistent with climatic records and the physical process of the patina formation. In addition, Early and Middle Pastoral engravings are shown to be in locations that correspond to the high lake levels of the African Humid period. Late Pastoral and Garamantian engravings are also recorded in areas that only became accessible once the palaeolake had dried up. Although the proposed methodology cannot provide precise dates for individual engravings, it can be used to establish a broad chronological framework that allows us to place the rock art within its archaeological context.

Keywords

Sahara Rock art Palaeoenvironment Chronology Patina Pastoral period 

Résumé

Ce papier propose un large cadre chronologique pour les gravures rupestres de Wadi-al-Hayat, qui est fondé sur des paramètres environnementaux plutôt que par des observations stylistiques. Pendant la période Holocène, la région du Sahara a changé de climat de la savane à celui du désert. Cet environnement a façonné l’expérience de ces gravures et a soutenu l’altération des surfaces rocheuses. Pour établir un lien entre la chronologie des images et celle du climat 2,466 gravures individuelles de faune ont été analysées en espèces, en patine et dans la localisation de panneaux pertinents à la date des littorales du paléolac de al-Hayat. D’après leur patine les gravures sont systématiquement classées en quatre stages successifs. La pertinence chronologique d’une telle structure est testée en trois façons différentes. Premièrement les dates et l’ordre de l’apparition de la faune domestique correspondent à leur représentation à travers les quatre groupes de gravures. Puis l’habitat de la faune sauvage représentée, reflète un changement dramatique du climat de la savane à celui du désert. Ceci correspond effectivement aux archives climatiques ainsi qu’au processus physique de la formation de la patine. Ensuite les gravures faites au début et au milieu de la période Pastorale se manifestent dans les lieux qui correspondent aux hauts niveaux d’eaux des lacs durant la période africaine humide. Les gravures ultérieures des périodes Pastorale et Garamantian sont aussi enregistrées dans des secteurs qui sont devenus accessibles seulement après le dessèchement du paléolac. Quoique cette méthodologie ici proposée ne puisse fournir de dates précises sur les gravures individuelles, elle peut cependant établir généralement une structure chronologique qui nous permet de classer l’Art Rupestre dans son contexte archéologique.

Notes

Acknowledgments

This paper is based on the results of the author’s PhD research at the University of Edinburgh, which included the creation of a database to record and identify individual animal depictions, their patina, state of preservation, stylistic properties and any superimpositions and modifications. This research was partly funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Fieldwork in Libya was directed by Tertia Barnett, who kindly made the record of the rock art panels available for my research. The Wadi al-Hayat rock art survey was funded by the Society for Libyan Studies and a British Academy small research grant. My participation in the Wadi al-Hayat rock art survey and additional survey work were funded by the University of Edinburgh Abercromby Fund and a University of Edinburgh Small Project Grant. Thanks to Nick Drake (King’s College London) for the valuable discussions and improvements on the manuscript and to the anonymous reviewers for the constructive comments and helpful suggestions.

References

  1. Armitage, S. P., Drake, N. A., Stokes, S., El-Hawat, A., Salem, M. J., White, K., Turner, P., & McLaren, S. J. (2007). Multiple phases of North African humidity recorded in lacustrine sediments from the Fazzan Basin, Libyan Sahara. Quaternary Geochronology, 2, 181–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnett, T. (2005). Patterns on the rocks: Report on recent work to survey rock art sites in the Wadi al-Hayat, Fezzan. Libyan Studies, 36, 121–134.Google Scholar
  3. Barnett, T. (2006). Dancing girls and insect-headed gods: Results of the rock art recording project in the Wadi al-Hayat, Fazzan, 2006. Libyan Studies, 37, 95–116.Google Scholar
  4. Barnett, T. (2009). Style, symbolism and cultural identity in the Wadi al-Hayat: Results of fieldwork in 2008 and 2009. Libyan Studies, 40, 155–170.Google Scholar
  5. Brooks, N., Drake, N., McLaren, S., & White, K. (2003). Studies in geography, geomorphology, environment and climate. In D. Mattingly (Ed.), The Archaeology of Fazzān, Volume 1: Synthesis (pp. 37–74). London: Society for Libyan Studies.Google Scholar
  6. Cremaschi, M. (1996). The rock varnish in the Messak Settafet (Fezzan, Libyan Sahara), age, archaeological context, and paleo-environmental implication. Geoarchaeology, 11(5), 393–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cremaschi, M. (1998). Late Quaternary geological evidence for environmental changes in south-western Fezzan (Libyan Sahara). In M. Cremaschi & S. Di Lernia (Eds.), Wadi Teshuinat–Palaeoenvironment and prehistory in south-western Fezzan (Libyan Sahara) (pp. 13–47). Milano: All’Insegna del Giglio.Google Scholar
  8. Cremaschi, M., & Di Lernia, S. (1999). Holocene climatic changes and cultural dynamics in the Libyan Sahara. African Archaeological Review, 16(4), 211–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cremaschi, M., & Zerboni, A. (2011). Human communities in a drying landscape: Holocene climate change and cultural response in the central Sahara. In I. P. Martini & W. Chesworth (Eds.), Landscapes and societies, selected cases (pp. 67–89). Heidelberg: Springer.Google Scholar
  10. Di Lernia, S., & Gallinaro, M. (2010). The date and context of Neolithic rock art in the Sahara: Engravings and ceremonial monuments from Messak Settafet (south-west Libya). Antiquity, 84, 954–975.Google Scholar
  11. Dorn, R. I. (1994). Rock varnish as evidence of climatic change. In A. D. Abrahams & A. J. Parsons (Eds.), Geomorphology of desert environments (pp. 539–552). London: Chapman & Hall.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dorn, R. I. (2001). Chronometric techniques: Engravings. In D. S. Whitley (Ed.), Handbook of rock art research (pp. 167–189). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.Google Scholar
  13. Drake, N. A., Wilson, A., Pelling, R., White, K. H., Mattingly, D., & Black, S. (2004). Water table decline, springline desiccation and the early development of irrigated agriculture in the Wādī al-Ajāl, Libyan Fazzan. Libyan Studies, 35, 95–112.Google Scholar
  14. Drake, N., White, K., & McLaren, S. J. (2006). Quaternary climate change in the Jarma region of Fazzan, Libya. In D. Mattingly, S. J. McLaren, E. Savage, Y. Al-Fasatwi, & K. Gadgood (Eds.), The Libyan desert: Natural resources and cultural heritage (pp. 133–144). London: Society for Libyan Studies.Google Scholar
  15. Drake, N., White, K., Salem, M., Armitage, S., El-Hawat, A., Francke, J., Hounslow, M., & Parker, A. (2009). DMP VIII: Palaeohydrology and palaeoenvironment. Libyan Studies, 40, 171–178.Google Scholar
  16. Drake, N. A., Blench, R. M., Armitage, S. J., Bristow, C. S., & White, K. H. (2011a). Ancient watercourses and biogeography of the Sahara explain the peopling of the desert. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of America, 108, 458–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Drake, N., Salem, M., Armitage, S., Francke, J., Hounslow, M., Hlal, O., White, K., & El-Hawat, A. (2011b). DMP XV: Palaeohydrology and palaeoenvironment: Initial results and report of 2010 and 2011 fieldwork. Libyan Studies, 42, 139–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dunne, J., Evershed, R. P., Salque, M., Cramp, L., Bruni, S., Ryan, K., Biagetti, S., & di Lernia, S. (2012). First dairying in green Saharan Africa in the fifth millennium BC. Nature, 486, 390–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grant, A. (2006). Animal bones from the Sahara: Diet, economy and social practices. In D. Mattingly, S. McLaren, E. Savage, Y. Al-Fasatwi, & K. Gadgood (Eds.), The Libyan desert: Natural resources and cultural heritage (pp. 179–185). London: Society for Libyan Studies.Google Scholar
  20. Guagnin, M. (2010). From savanna to desert: Animal engravings in the changing prehistoric environment of the Wadi al-Hayat, Libyan Sahara. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Edinburgh.Google Scholar
  21. Le Quellec, J.-L. (1998). Art rupestre et préhistoire du Sahara. Paris: Payot & Rivages.Google Scholar
  22. Lézine, A.-M., Hély, C., Grenier, C., Braconnot, P., & Krinner, G. (2011). Sahara and Sahel vulnerability to climate changes, lessons from Holocene hydrological data. Quaternary Science Reviews, 30(21–22), 3001–3012.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Masseti, M. (2010). Holocene mammals of Libya: A biogeographical, historical and archaeozoological approach. Journal of Arid Environments, 74, 794–805.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mattingly, D. (Ed.). (2003). The archaeology of Fazzān, volume 1: Synthesis. London: Society for Libyan Studies.Google Scholar
  25. Mattingly, D. (2006). The Garamantes: The first Libyan state. In D. Mattingly, S. McLaren, E. Savage, Y. Al-Fasatwi, & K. Gadgood (Eds.), The Libyan desert: Natural resources and cultural heritage (pp. 189–204). London: Society for Libyan Studies.Google Scholar
  26. Mercuri, A. M., Trevisan Grandi, G., Mariotti Lippi, M., & Cremaschi, M. (1998). New pollen from the Uan Muhuggiag Rockshelter (Libyan Sahara, VII-IV Millennia BP). In M. Cremaschi & S. Di Lernia (Eds.), Wadi Teshuinat. Palaeoenvironment and prehistory in south-western Fezzan (Libyan Sahara) (pp. 107–122). Milano: All’Insegna del Giglio.Google Scholar
  27. Muzzolini, A. (2000). Livestock in Saharan rock art. In R. M. Blench & K. C. MacDonald (Eds.), The origins and development of African livestock: Archaeology, genetics, linguistics and ethnography (pp. 87–109). London: UCL.Google Scholar
  28. Peters, J., & von den Driesch, A. (2003). Holocene faunas from the Eastern Sahara: Past and future zoogeographical implications. In G. Grupe & J. Peters (Eds.), Decyphering ancient bones. The research potential of bioarchaeological collections (pp. 265–284). Rahden: Verlag Marie Leidorf.Google Scholar
  29. Trevisan Grandi, G., Mariotti Lippi, M., & Mercuri, A. M. (1998). Pollen in dung layers from rockshelters and Caves of Wadi Teshuinat (Libyan Sahara). In M. Cremaschi & S. Di Lernia (Eds.), Wadi Teshuinat. Palaeoenvironment and prehistory in south-western Fezzan (Libyan Sahara) (pp. 95–106). Milano: All’Insegna del Giglio.Google Scholar
  30. Watchman, A. (2000). A review of the history of dating of rock varnishes. Earth-Science Reviews, 49, 261–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Zerboni, A. (2008). Holocene rock varnish on the Messak plateau (Libyan Sahara): Chronology of weathering processes. Geomorphology, 102, 640–651.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of ArtUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations