25 May 2009
One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, is the rock art of the Wadi Mathendoush (in the Libyan Sahara), which was created almost ten thousand years ago. You will see all kinds of wild animals: elephants, rhinoceruses, hippopotamuses, giraffes, and crocodiles. Obviously, the desert was more fertile back then, and indeed, it seems to have been some kind of savana. (Petrified forests are additional evidence.) You will also find rock paintings of ostriches, cattle, horses, and dromedaries in the desert, but these are younger.
I have made a page on the history of those ancient works of art, which you can find here. It is one of the pages I love best. The Wadi Mathendoush is here, and finally, there is a brief note on a related subject: the Troglodytes, or cave men. I recommend starting here, and I promise you will find it interesting.
24 May 2009
Garamantian chariot. Rock painting at Tina Nivin (Libya)
The Garamantes are described in the classical sources as nomads and brigands, and there will be some element of truth in this, but it must be noted that they were also the builders of a big city in the center of the desert, which has been found near modern Germa. The Greek researcher Herodotus of Halicarnassus (fifth century BCE) refers to them as great warriors, who still use chariots; later, the dromedary was domesticated, and they became caravan traders, who connected the Roman Mediterranean with Sub-Saharan Africa. Still, Rome had to fight several wars with the Garamantes.
It’s fascinating how a civilization could exist under the extreme desert conditions. Read more about them here, in my first real contribution to the Livius website in a couple of months.