Advertisement

African Archaeological Review

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 299–319 | Cite as

A (Digital) Future for Saharan Rock Art?

  • Savino di Lernia
Original Article

Abstract

First visited by westerners in the mid-nineteenth century, Saharan rock art has since received a great deal of attention. The richness and diversity of this region is recognised by the inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage list of three properties: Tassili-n-Ajjer in Algeria, Tadrart Acacus in Libya, and Ennedi in Chad. The situation in many North African countries now makes this vast region very difficult to access: safety in the field is not guaranteed and few research funds are available. Today, a new generation of African and foreign scientists has no access to rock art sites in the north of the continent and the lack of fieldwork may entail a lack of safeguard and awareness. The growth of digital technologies over the last 15 years has revolutionised methods for recording rock art sites. Digital technologies are also used to mitigate the gap between artworks and accessibility in those countries where turmoil and social instability make fieldwork impossible. However, much of the documentation and most digital recordings of artworks currently available on the Internet lack an archaeological context. Equally, many of these websites barely mention methodological and theoretical aspects. It is also difficult to understand the extent of awareness among local communities in remote areas—sometimes suffering a digital and linguistic divide—and if (and how) they are genuinely able to exploit these digital resources. Here, I collate some examples from different parts of the Sahara illustrating that the recording, management and dissemination of rock art still present highs and lows. I argue that we should share theories and methods within the digital scientific community, with a view to adopting a shared nomenclature and a public thesaurus, making our cataloguing criteria explicit and, finally, developing an ethical code of conduct involving local communities.

Keywords

Rock art Accessibility Conflict Digital divide Archaeology Context Sahara UNESCO WH list 

Résumé

L’art rupestre saharien, visité pour la première fois par les occidentaux au milieu du XIXe siècle, a reçu beaucoup d’attention depuis lors. La richesse et la diversité de cette région sont reconnues par l’inscription sur la Liste du patrimoine mondial de l’UNESCO de trois biens: Tassili-n-Ajjer en Algérie, Tadrart Acacus en Libye et Ennedi au Tchad. La situation dans de nombreux pays d’Afrique du Nord rend cette vaste région très difficile d’accès: la sécurité sur le terrain n’est pas garantie et peu de fonds de recherche sont disponibles. Aujourd’hui, une nouvelle génération de chercheurs africains et étrangers n’a pas accès aux sites d’art rupestre dans le nord du continent et le manque de travail sur le terrain peut entraîner un absence de sauvegarde et de sensibilisation. La croissance des technologies numériques au cours des 15 dernières années a révolutionné les méthodes d’enregistrement des sites d’art rupestre. Les technologies numériques sont également utilisées pour combler le fossé entre les œuvres d’art et l’accessibilité dans les pays où les bouleversements et l’instabilité sociale rendent le travail de terrain impossible. Cependant, une grande partie de la documentation et la plupart des enregistrements numériques d’œuvres d’art actuellement disponibles sur Internet ne sont pas liés à un contexte archéologique. De même, beaucoup de ces sites internet ne mentionnent guère les aspects méthodologiques et théoriques. Il est également difficile d’évaluer le niveau de sensibilisation des communautés locales dans les zones reculées - qui souffrent parfois d’une fracture numérique et linguistique - et si (et comment) elles sont réellement capables d’exploiter ces ressources numériques. Ici, je rassemble quelques exemples de différentes parties du Sahara illustrant les inégalités des modalités (ou moyens) d’enregistrement, de gestion et de diffusion de l’art rupestre. Je soutiens que nous devrions partager les théories et les méthodes au sein de la communauté scientifique numérique, en vue d’adopter une nomenclature commune et un thésaurus public, de rendre explicites nos critères de catalogage et, enfin, d’élaborer un code de conduite éthique impliquant les communautés locales.

Notes

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to Elizabeth Galvin, Jorge de Torres and Helen Anderson for inviting me to contribute to this Special Issue on “African Rock Art.” I also take the opportunity to thank all the British Museum staff for their help and support during the conference. This paper is a review based on my experience in North Africa and benefited from discussions and exchanges with many colleagues over the years: in particular, I wish to thank Giovanni Boccardi, Nuria Sainz, David Coulson, Dirk Huyge, Karim Sadr, David Pearce, Rudolph Kuper, Heiko Reimer, Axel Van Albada and Marina Gallinaro. I wish to thank two anonymous reviewers, whose comments on a first draft of the manuscript greatly improved the final version. As noted above, all illustrations, unless otherwise specified, are based on the “Archive of the Archaeological Mission in the Sahara, Sapienza University of Rome.” Research in Libya was generously and continuously funded by Sapienza University of Rome (Grandi Scavi di Ateneo) and by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGSP). I thank Emanuele Cancellieri for GIS processing and maps. Any errors are the sole responsibility of the author.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Anag, G., Cremaschi, M., di Lernia, S., & Liverani, M. (2002). Environment, archaeology, and oil: The Messak Settafet rescue operation (Libyan Sahara). African Archaeological Review, 19, 67–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bahn, P. (2010). Prehistoric rock art: Polemics and progress. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barich, B. E. (Ed.). (1987). Archaeology and environment in the Libyan Sahara. The excavations in the Tadrart Acacus, 1978–1983, vol. 368. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.Google Scholar
  4. Barth, H. (1857-1858). Reisen und Entdeckungen in Nord und Central Africa in den Jahren 1849 bis 1855 (5.). Gotha: Justus Perthes.Google Scholar
  5. Beaton, J. (1991). Colonizing continents: Some problems from Australia and the Americas. In T. D. Dillehay & D. J. Meltzer (Eds.), The first Americans: Search and research (pp. 209–230). Boca Raton: CRC.Google Scholar
  6. Bennett, P., & Barker, G. (2011). Protecting Libya’s archaeological heritage. African Archaeological Review, 28, 5–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Biagetti, S., & di Lernia, S. (2013). Holocene deposits of Saharan rock shelters: The case of Takarkori and other sites from the Tadrart Acacus Mountains (Southwest Libya). African Archaeological Review, 30, 305–338.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10437-013-9138-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Biagetti, S., Cancellieri, E., Cremaschi, M., Gauthier, C., Gauthier, Y., Zerboni, A., & Gallinaro, M. (2013). The ‘Messak Project’: Archaeological research for cultural heritage management in SW Libya. Journal of African Archaeology, 11, 55–74.  https://doi.org/10.3213/2191-5784-10231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bradley, R., Boado, F. C., & Valcarce, R. F. (1994). Rock art research as landscape archaeology: A pilot study in Galicia, north-west Spain. World Archaeology, 25, 374–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brady, L. M., & Gunn, R. G. (2012). Digital enhancement of deteriorated and superimposed pigment art: Methods and case studies. In J. McDonald & P. Veth (Eds.), A companion to rock art (pp. 627–643). Chichester: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  11. Brady, L. M., Hampson, J., & Domingo Sanz, I. (2017). Recording rock art: Strategies, challenges, and embracing the digital revolution. In B. David & I. J. McNiven (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of the archaeology and anthropology of rock art (pp. 1–28). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Brooks, N. (2005). Cultural heritage and conflict: The threatened archaeology of Western Sahara. Journal of North African Studies, 10, 413–439.  https://doi.org/10.1080/13629380500336797.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cancellieri, E., & di Lernia, S. (2013). Middle Stone Age human occupation and dispersals in the Messak plateau (SW Libya, central Sahara). Quaternary International, 300, 142–152.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2012.08.2054.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chippindale, C., & Taçon, P. S. C. (1998). The archaeology of rock-art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Ch'ng, E., Gaffney, V., & Chapman, H. (2013). Visual heritage in the digital age. London: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Conkey, M. W. (2012). Foreword: Redefining the mainstream with rock art. In J. McDonald & P. Veth (Eds.), A companion to rock art (pp. xxix-xxxiv). Chichester: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  17. Cremaschi, M., & di Lernia, S. (Eds.). (1998). Wadi Teshuinat. Palaeoenvironment and prehistory in south-western Fezzan (Libyan Sahara). Quaderni di Geodinamica Alpina e Quaternaria, vol. 7. Milano: CNR and All'Insegna del Giglio.Google Scholar
  18. Cremaschi, M., & di Lernia, S. (1999). Holocene climatic changes and cultural dynamics in the Libyan Sahara. African Archaeological Review, 16, 211–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Cremaschi, M., & di Lernia, S. (2001). Environment and settlements in the Mid-Holocene palaeo-oasis of Wadi Tanezzuft (Libyan Sahara). Antiquity, 75, 815–825.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 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.), Landscape and societies (pp. 67–89). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  21. di Lernia, S. (1999a). Rock art paintings of the “round heads” phase. In S. di Lernia (Ed.), The Uan Afuda Cave. Hunter gatherer societies of Central Sahara (pp. 39–48). All’Insegna del Giglio: Florence.Google Scholar
  22. di Lernia, S. (Ed.). (1999b). The Uan Afuda Cave. Hunter gatherer societies of Central Sahara. Florence: All’Insegna del Giglio.Google Scholar
  23. di Lernia, S. (2002). Dry climatic events and cultural trajectories: Adjusting Middle Holocene pastoral economy of the Libyan Sahara. In F. Hassan (Ed.), Droughts, food and culture (pp. 225–250). New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publisher.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. di Lernia, S. (2008). Una memoria finale. In S. di Lernia & D. Zampetti (Eds.), La memoria dell'arte. Le pitture rupestri dell'Tadrart Acacus tra passato e future (pp. 369–372). All'Insegna del Giglio: Rome.Google Scholar
  25. di Lernia, S. (2015). Save Libyan archaeology. Nature, 517, 547–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. di Lernia, S. (2017a). The archaeology of rock art in northern Africa. In D. Bruno & J. M. Ian (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of the archaeology and anthropology of rock art (pp. 1–35). Oxford: Oxford University Press, Oxford.  https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190607357.013.17.Google Scholar
  27. di Lernia, S. (2017b). Archeologia Africana. Preistoria, storia antica e arte rupestre. Carocci Editore: Rome.Google Scholar
  28. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. di Lernia, S., & Gallinaro, M. (2011). Working in a UNESCO WH site. Problems and practices on the rock art of the Tadrart Acacus (SW Libya, central Sahara). Journal of African Archaeology, 9, 159–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. di Lernia, S., & Manzi, G. (Eds.). (2002). Sand, stones, and bones: The archaeology of death in the Wadi Tanezzouft Valley (5000–2000 BP). AZA Monographs, vol 3. Florence: All'Insegna del Giglio.Google Scholar
  31. di Lernia, S., & Tafuri, M. A. (2013). Persistent deathplaces and mobile landmarks. The Holocene mortuary and isotopic record from Wadi Takarkori (SW Libya). Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 32, 1–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. di Lernia, S., & Zampetti, D. (Eds.). (2008). La memoria dell'arte. Le pitture rupestri dell'Tadrart Acacus tra passato e futuro. Rome: All'insegna del Giglio.Google Scholar
  33. di Lernia, S., et al. (2013). Inside the “African cattle complex”: Animal burials in the Holocene Central Sahara. PLoS One, 8, e56879.  https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0056879.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Durand, P., & Lavauden, L. (1926). Les peintures rupestres de la grotte d’In Ezzan. L’Anthropologie, XXXVI, 409–427.Google Scholar
  35. Foley, R. A., Maíllo-Fernández, J. M., & Mirazón Lahr, M. (2013). The Middle Stone Age of the central Sahara: Biogeographical opportunities and technological strategies in later human evolution. Quaternary International, 300, 153–170.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.quaint.2012.12.017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Foureau, F. (1894). Rapport sur une mission au Sahara et chez le Touareghs Azdjer”. s 92. Comptes Rendus des Séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres, 92.Google Scholar
  37. Fritz, C., Lenssen-Erz, T., Sauvet, G., Barbaza, M., López-Montalvo, E., Tosello, G., & Azéma, M. (2013). L’expression narrative dans les arts rupestres: Approches théoriques. Les Dossiers d’archéologie, 358, 38–45.Google Scholar
  38. Frobenius, L. (1925). Hadschra Maktuba, urzeitliche Felsbilder Kleinafrikas. Munich: Kurt Wolff.Google Scholar
  39. Gallin, A., & Le Quellec, J. L. (2008). Les ensembles céramiques du Bassin de Murzuq—Une contribution de l'archéologie préventive à la connaissance du Messak. Les Cahiers De L'AARS, 12, 71–88.Google Scholar
  40. Gallinaro, M. (2013). Saharan rock art: Local dynamics and wider perspectives. Art, 2, 350–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Gallinaro, M., et al. (2012). The Messak project. Cultural and natural preservation and sustainable tourism (south-western Libya). Antiquity, 086.Google Scholar
  42. Garcea, E. A. A. (1996). Archaeological investigation in the Messak Settafet Libya. Antiqua (New Series), 2, 15–21.Google Scholar
  43. Garcea, E. A. A. (Ed.). (2001). Uan Tabu: In the settlement history of the Libyan Sahara. AZA Monographs 2. Florence: All'Insegna del Giglio.Google Scholar
  44. Gibbon, G. (2017). The science of rock art research. In B. David & I. J. McNiven (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of the archaeology and anthropology of rock art (pp. 1–24). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Graziosi, P. (1942). L'arte rupestre della Libia. Naples: Edizioni della Mostra d’Oltremare.Google Scholar
  46. Graziosi, P. (2005). Arte rupestre del Fezzan. Missioni Graziosi 1967 e 1968. Florence: Istituto Italiano di Preistoria e Protostoria.Google Scholar
  47. Holl, A. F. C. (1994). Pathways to elderhood: Research on past pastoral iconography: The paintings from Tikadiouine (Tassili-n-Ajjer). Origini: Preistoria e protostoria delle civiltà antiche, 18, 69–113.Google Scholar
  48. Holl, A. F. C. (2016). ‘Here come the brides’: Reading the Neolithic paintings from Uan Derbuaen (Tasili-n-Ajjer, Algeria). Trabajos de Prehistoria, 73(2), 211–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Holl, A. F. C., & Dueppen, S. (1999). Iheren I: Research on Tassilian pastoral iconography. Sahara, 11, 21–34.Google Scholar
  50. ICOMOS (2016). Ennedi Massif (Chad). ICOMOS.Google Scholar
  51. Jelinek, J. (1984a). Tilizahren, the key site of Fezzanese rock art (a). L'Anthropologie, 23, 125–165.Google Scholar
  52. Jelinek, J. (1984b). Mathrndush, in Galgien, two important Fezzanese rock art sites; Part I, Mathrndush east, Mathrndush main gallery (MMG). L'Anthropologie, 22, 117–170.Google Scholar
  53. Jelinek, J. (1984c). Mathrndush, In Galgien. Two important Fezzanese rock art sites. Part II. Anthropologie, 22, 237–268.Google Scholar
  54. Jelinek, J. (1985). Tilizahren, the key site of Fezzanese rock art (b). L'Anthropologie, 23, 223–275.Google Scholar
  55. Jelinek, J. (2004). Sahara. Histoire de l’art rupestre libyen. Grenoble: Jérôme Millon.Google Scholar
  56. Karzabi, S., Hachid, M., & Garcia, M. A. (1982). L’Art rupestre Saharien: Conservation, méthodologie et gestion. Études et documents sur le patrrimoine culturel. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  57. Keenan, J. (2005). Looting the Sahara: The material, intellectual and social implications of the destruction of cultural heritage. Journal of North African Studies, 10, 471–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Kröpelin, S. (2002). Damage to natural and cultural heritage by petroleum exploration and desert tourism in the Messak Settafet (central Sahara, southwest Libya). In T. Lenssen-Erz, U. Tegtmeier, & S. Kröpelin (Eds.), Tides of the desert. Contributions to the archaeology and environmental history of Africa in honour of Rudolph Kuper, Vol. 14. Africa Preistorica (pp. 405–423). Köln: Heinrich Barth Institute.Google Scholar
  59. Kuper, R. (2007). Archaeology of the Gilf Kebir National Park. Köln: Heinrich-Barth-Institut.Google Scholar
  60. Kuper, R. (Ed.). (2013). Wadi Sura: The cave of beasts; a rock art site in the Gilf Kebir (SW-Egypt). Africa Praehistorica, Vol 26. Köln: Heinrich-Barth-Institut.Google Scholar
  61. Le Quellec, J.-L. (1996). L'art "classique" de la civilisation du Messak (Fezzân, Libye). Studia Africana, 7, 8–42.Google Scholar
  62. Le Quellec, J.-L. (1998). Art rupestre et préhistorie du Sahara. Le Messak Libyen. Paris: Bibliotheque Scientifique Payot.Google Scholar
  63. Le Quellec, J.-L., Kropelin, S., & Maury, S. (1999). State of conservation of the site of Messak. Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  64. Le Quellec, J.-L., Anag, G., & Salem, M. J. (2003). PalaeoArt & Cultural Centre (Ghât & Tripoli). Desert Heritage Museum (Germa). Cultural and Educational Project in Libya, Preliminary report. Tripoli: Ghaddafi Foundation/Total TEP Libya /French Cultural Institute.Google Scholar
  65. Liverani, M., Cremaschi, M., & di Lernia, S. (2000). The “Archaeological Park” of the Tadrart Acacus and Messak Settafet (south-western, Libya). Sahara, 12, 121–140.Google Scholar
  66. Mattingly, D. et al. (2007). Desert migrations: People, environment and culture in the Libyan Sahara. Libyan Studies, 38.Google Scholar
  67. Micallef, M. (2017) The human conveyor belt: Trends in human trafficking and smuggling in post-revolution Libya. The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime WMO Building, 2nd Floor. http://globalinitiative.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/global-initiative-human-conveyor-belt-human-smuggling-in-libya-march-2017.pdf. Accessed June 25 2017.
  68. Mori, F. (1956). Ricerche paletnologiche nel Fezzan. Rivista di Scienze Preistoriche, 11, 211–229.Google Scholar
  69. Mori, F. (1965). Tadrart Acacus. Arte rupestre e culture del Sahara preistorico. Torino: Einaudi.Google Scholar
  70. Muzzolini, A. (1995). Les images rupestres du Sahara. Toulouse: Ed. par l'auteur.Google Scholar
  71. Smith, B. (2013). Rock art research in Africa. In P. Lane & P. Mitchell (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of African archaeology (pp. 145–162). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  72. Smith, O. (2017). Mapped: The world according to internet connection speeds. The Telegraph, April 9, 2017.Google Scholar
  73. Sundstrom, L. (2012). Rock art in situ: Context and content as keys to meaning. In J. McDonald & P. Veth (Eds.), A companion to rock art (pp. 325–340). Chichester: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  74. UNESCO. (2004). Workshop on the conservation and management of the proposed Jebel Ouenat protected area (Egypt, Libya and Sudan). Paris: UNESCO.Google Scholar
  75. UNSMIL. (2016). “Detained and dehumanised.” Report on human rights abuses against migrants in Libya. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.Google Scholar
  76. Van Albada, A., & Van Albada, A. M. (2000). La montagne des hommes-chiens: Art rupestre du Messak Libyen. Paris: Edition du Seuil.Google Scholar
  77. Whitley, D. S. (2011). Introduction to rock art (2nd ed.). Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.Google Scholar
  78. Wienhold, M. L., & Robinson, D. W. (2017). GIS in rock art studies. In B. David & I. J. McNiven (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of the archaeology and anthropology of rock art (pp. 1–30). Oxford: Oxford University Press.  https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190607357.013.1.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze dell’AntichitàSapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental StudiesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations