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#LIBYA The rock art of Tadrart Acacus dates back as far as 12,000 years

The rock-art sites of Tadrart Acacus are found in a vast area of desert landscape around (and mostly to the north of) the town of Ghat in south-western Libya.  The area includes the Acacus mountain range, and borders the Tassili N’Ajjer world heritage site in neighbouring Algeria.  Together with the Tassili N’Ajjer it is the premier rock-art area in the world, with hundreds of engravings and thousands of paintings.  The rock art of Tadrart Acacus dates back as far as 12,000 years. This incredible open-air gallery tells the story of the changing fortunes of this part of the Sahara and the people who have occupied the area over the millennia.  

It is a story that traces the environmental effects of climate change which can be divided into distinct periods according to the characteristics of the rock-art legacy.  The oldest art belongs to the so-called Wild Fauna Period (10,000-6,000 BC) characterised by the portrayal of animals – elephants, giraffes, hippos and rhinos – that inhabited the area when it was much wetter than today.  Overlapping with this era is the Round Head Period (8,000-6,000 BC) when human figures appear alongside painted circular heads devoid of features.  At this time people were living as hunter-gatherers, but this gradually gave way to the Pastoral Period (5500-2000 BC) characterised by art that depicts the introduction of domesticated cattle, and a more settled existence with human figures handling spears and performing ceremonies.  As the climate became progressively drier and long-distance travel more important, the art of the Horse Period (1000 BC – AD 1) shows the introduction of horses and horse-drawn chariots.  Finally, the most recent period of rock-art in the Sahara (from about 200 BC to present) is the Camel Period, as these animals have played an increasingly important role.

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