Tassili N'Ajjer

   This name refers to the prehistoric site of thousands of rock art documenting the archaeological record of North African prehistoric peoples and cultures. In the highlands of Tassili, Tibesti, the Ahggar, Kabylia, and the Saharan Atlas and along the Atlantic coast are found several elaborate rock art and paintings. These "frescoes" indicate how the Saharan environment supported a Neolithic economy and society. The dates of rock art and engraving range from 6000 B.C. to A.D. 100. At the beginning of the Neolithic period, the climate was much wetter than in historic times. A Neolithic civilization emerged and combined fishing and cattle herding with connections to Sudan and then to the Capsian to the north. Frescoes show black people. At the end of the second millennium, paintings begin to depict white people with long hair and elongated beards. By the middle of the second millennium, the paintings show men using horses to pull war chariots, armed with spears, and wearing kilts similar to those of the Egyptians. Other frescos show shaman-like figures indicating a priestly discourse, probably used to maintain the social organization of society.
   With the domestication of the horse, the Mediterranean groups in North Africa were capable of greater mobility than they had had before. They were able to exploit the now arid zones of the Sahara for pastoral nomadism. Both the horse and their stratified society allowed them to subjugate the existing black population, whose development since around 2500 B.C. was slowly arrested by the drying out of the Sahara. Evidence from the Tassili paintings tells of a striking resemblance to the Egyptian tombs of the 13th century B.C., which show "Libyan," "Libu," or "Mashwash" sporting kilts and ostrich feather headdresses, their hair in locks, their beards short and pointed, and their faces covered with tattoos or ritual marks. These are said to be the northern equivalent to the Tuareg groups in Tassili. They apparently had trade connections with the Egyptians. In 1220 B.C. and again in 1180 B.C., they invaded the Egyptians, and figures of 9,300 and 28,000 Libyans are recorded as having been killed in these two assaults. It is with these events that the Saharan Berbers, especially the Garamantes of the Fezzan, first came to be noticed by the ancient world historiography. The Garamantes are the protohistoric peoples of North Africa, and the valleys of the Fezzan are rich prehistoric settlement sites. Archaeological evidence from the Fezzan excavations shows that both wheat and barley were cultivated. Sheep were also raised as livestock. Garamante villages were composed of black and Mediterranean peoples. Prehistoric art of the central Sahara was investigated and documented by Henri Lhote and others in the 1950s, with the considerable assistance of Machar Djebrine Ag Mohammed (1890/1892-1981), a Tuareg explorer and guide who discovered numerous rock art sites in Tassili n'Ajjer, Tamrit, Djanet, Sefa, Tessoukay, Jebbaren, and the plateau of Tadjihanine.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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