THE TASSILI PREHISTORIC ROCK PAINTINGS - Page 4

 
1. INTRODUCTION

In early 1970, I read a fascinating book written in 1958 by Henri Lhote, a French Sahara specialist: The search for the Tassili rock paintings - A la découverte des Fresques du Tassili. In his book Lhote describes how he and a team of artists copied over a thousand of large prehistoric rock paintings and identified some further 20 000 paintings on the walls of caves and semi caves of the Tassili n’Ajjer plateau, Central Sahara, South Algeria, during fifteen annual expeditions between 1955-1970. The following three images from his book show the high quality of the Tassili rock paintings: tas004-006, showing two images of cattle herds and one of women praying to a divinity.

Studying the images of prehistoric rock paintings in Lhote’s book, it struck me that many of the prehistoric village life scenes appeared rather similar to those of traditional rural societies I observed daily in West Africa while conducting socio- economic surveys as an agriculturalist. I therefore decided to visit the Tassili n’ Ajjer plateau to see the prehistoric village scenes depicted in the rock paintings. I further liked the opportunity to travel again through the desert which had fascinated me since my travels through deserts in Tunisia 1961, Iraq 1966-1969 and Iran 1967.

Following this in January 1972, I joined a group of people with similar interests through Minitrek. This organization made available to us two skilled desert drivers and two Land Rover four wheel drive vehicles especially reinforced. In 1972 this was needed as the Sahara tracks at that time were still in poor condition. We started our trip in Algiers, which trip would cover about 4 500 km by car through the Sahara and about 100 km trekking on foot on the Tassili plateau, to visit the prehistoric rock paintings. A detailed account of my 1972 trip is presented in:                                                                Background Notes 3.1: My 1972 travel through the Sahara and the Tassili plateau. Route maps are shown in tas001-003.
After completion of my trip in 1972 I continued collecting information on the prehistoric pastoralists’ Tassili rock paintings. Reviewing early 2007 newly published publications and other information, available since 1972, I decided to write up my findings and compliment these with a photo gallery of the prehistoric rock paintings and my 1972 travel through the Sahara.