Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus, LIBYA
- Keywords: Libya Cultural Landscapes, Rock Art sites, paintings, engravings, desert, Tadrart Adacus, Adad, Awiss, Wadi Tashwinat, Wadi Tanshalt, Tin Khilqa, Forzhaga Arch, Wan Kaza, Murzuch.
1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES
1.1 National and International Classification Lists
Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus Cultural Landscape is list in the World Heritage List of UNESCO (Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus), in category: cultural, with date of Inscription: 1985 and criteria: (iii).
- World heritage list of UNESCO
1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology
Organically evolved landscapesRelict (or fossil) landscape
1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med
*** Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus is a World Heritage Site, well known for two things: thousands of prehistoric cave paintings, dating from 12000 BC to 100 AD, and its alien-like, jagged landscape of bizarre basalt monoliths, towering granite mountains (the highest point being 1506m), endless wadis, and mushroom-shaped rock formations. 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 Acacus was included on the World Heritage List only based on criterion III: an exceptional testimony to a series of civilizations which have disappeared. Whilst the Algerian Tassili appears now to be incorporated in a list of mixed sites, this has not happened for the listed territories of Libya. Beyond a pure exercise in terminology this oddity stresses that reassessing the status of some areas in terms of cultural landscapes could be not only an instrument for merging Heritage Sites that spread across trans-national borders, but also for re-thinking the statusof the sites themselves (“Sharing the Libyan Sahara. Relating local communities and tourists through cultural landscapes”, 2005. University of Cambridge). According to this considerations, Med-O-Med has found appropiate to give another step considering this site as a Cultural Landscape taking into account its natural and cultural heritage, and the same criteria that UNESCO (UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Article 1, 1972, Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention, 2008) followed to classify The Gobustan Rock Art, in Azerbaijan, as a Cultural Landscape: -Its Natural Heritage components: The massif of Tadrart Acacus, a vast mountainous region (more than 250 km2) which is today a desert, is situated in the Fezzan, contains some of the most extraordinary scenery in the world and has its unique natural wonders: dunes, isolated towers emerging from the sand and eroded into the most bizarre shapes, petrified arches, and canyons carved by ancient rivers. Some places of interest because of its natural components are: Adad, a rock with the shape of a finger before entering Awiss, where Tadrart Acacus region is specifically, Wadi Tashwinat (Tashweenat), the Capital of Acacus, which is one of the main wadis of the Acacus region, with high cliffs surrounding the area, about 60 kilometres long, with numerous art sites at the bottom of the rock formations, and with several side wadis branching off towards more formations and prehistoric cave treasures, Wadi Tanshalt, with fantastic panoramic views over the Acacus, Tin Khilqa (Tin Halega), fine three-columned natural rock arch, made of soft sand stone, Forzhaga Arch, the giant natural arch of the area, Wan Kaza, a north-south chain of golden multicoloured sand dunes, running down along the eastern edge of the Acacus mountains, and the Murzuch desert. -Its Cultural Heritage components: This territory has outstanding universal value for the quality and density of its rock art engravings, for the substantial evidence the collection of rock art images presents for hunting, fauna, flora and lifestyles in pre-historic times and for the cultural continuity between prehistoric and mediaeval times that the site reflects. Tadrart Acacus has thousands of cave paintings in very different styles, dating from 12,000 BC to AD 100, bearing traces of the different phases of the Palaeolithic. For example, in Wadi Tashwinat there is anintricate network of caves, which provided shelter for prehistoric people for thousands of years. In Wadi Tanshalt there issome of the best rock art in the southern parts of Acacus, with cenes of cows, stylised human figures, and ancient Tuareg Tifinagh inscriptions. In Wadi Anshal there are elephant and giraffe engravings, and paintings of women, and in Wadi In Ferdan hunting scenes of humans carrying bows and arrows in pursuit of animals. For all these reasons, Med-O-Med, using the UNESCO categories of Cultural Landscapes, classifies Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus as a Cultural Landscape in the second category: “organically evolved landscape”, specifically in the subcategory: “a relict (or fossil) landscape “.
2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY
- Current denomination Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus Cultural Landscapes.
- Current denomination Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus Cultural Landscapes.
- Original denomination Tadrart Acacus (Arabic: تدرارت أكاكوس / ALA-LC: Tadrārt Akākūs).
- Popular denomination Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus.
- Address: The massif of Tadrart Acacus, a vast mountainous region (more than 250 km2) which is today a desert, is situated in the Fezzan, to the east of the city of Ghat.
- Geographical coordinates: N24 49 59.988 E10 19 59.988
- Area, boundaries and surroundings: The Acacus Mountains or Tadrart Acacus form a mountain range in the desert of the of the Ghat District in western Libya, part of the Sahara. They are situated east of the Libyan city of Ghat and stretch north from the Algerian border about 100 km, and as such it is part of Jabel Tassili (Tassili n'Ajjer) with which it shares its history and culture.
- Access and transport facilities: Acacus is accessed from Awaynat (north of the mountain), from Ghat (west of the mountain), or it can be reached from Tkerkiba or Germa via Wadi Metkhandoush and then across the sand dunes of Wan Casa into Akakous. The most popular entry route is Awaynat (Serdeles), via Adad then Awiss.
3. LEGAL ISSUES
- Owner: Libyan Government.
This rocky massif has thousands of cave paintings in very different styles, dating from 12,000 B.C. to A.D. 100. Cave paintings and carvings of various styles are scattered throughout almost all the valleys, representing hunting or daily life scenes, ritual dances and animals. The site also includes the Murzuch desert, which bears traces of the different phases of the Palaeolithic.
- Oldest initial date /building and inauguration date: The Italo-Libyan archaeological missions have catalogued numerous rock-art sites since 1955.
5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION
5.1. Natural heritage
- Heritage: Archaeological
- Geography: Arid Mountain
- Site topography: Natural
- Geological and Geographical characteristics: The mountain chain is rich in various types of rocks and unique features, including sandstone and dark basalt mountains, with sand dunes sweeping its high cliffs, most of which had eroded away into hundreds of complex rock formations and monoliths, overlooking sand rivers and endless wadis, zigzagging their way through this bizarre region of the great Sahara desert.
Although this area is one of the most arid of the Sahara, there is vegetation, such as the medicinal Calotropis procera.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:
The Acacus Mountains have a large variation of landscapes, from differently coloured sanddunes to arches, gorges, isolated rocks and deep ravines (wadis). Major landmarks include the arches of Afzejare and Tin Khlega. The Top Attractions of Acaccus are: Adad: the name Adad means ‘finger’ or ‘thumb’ in Berber language, from the fact that the stone resemble the shape of a finger (see above). Coming down from Awaynat you will see this site, before you enter Awiss. Awiss: Awiss is a general name for the northern region of Acacus Mountain(s), namely for the area after Adad and before Tashwinat. The southern part of the region is known as Tadrart Acacus. Wadi Tashwinat (Tashweenat): the Capital of Acacus. Wadi Tashwinat (or Tashweenat) is one of the main wadis of the Acacus region, with high cliffs surrounding the area, about 60 kilometres long, with numerous art sites at the bottom of the rock formations, and with several side wadis branching off towards more formations and prehistoric cave treasures. It was said that there are at least 101 wadis in Wadi Tashwinat. Its intricate network of caves, which provided shelter for prehistoric people for thousands of years, is the home of thousands of drawings and engravings, telling various stories about the desert’s primeval past. Wadi Tanshalt: fantastic panoramic views over the Acacus, and some of the best rock art in the southern parts of Acacus. Scenes of cows, stylised human figures, and ancient Tuareg Tifinagh inscriptions. Wadi Anshal: elephant and giraffe engravings, and paintings of women. Wadi In Ferdan: hunting scenes of humans carrying bows and arrows in pursuit of animals. A camel-shaped rock formation. Tin Khilqa (Tin Halega): fine three-columned natural rock arch, made of soft sand stone. Also written as, Tin Khaleqa, Tin Khlega, Tin Halega, or Tin Ghalaga. Forzhaga Arch: The big arch, also known as: Afozdjar, Afozedzhar, Afozedhar, Fozzigiaren, Afozzigiar, or Forzhaga Arch (Arco di Forzhaga). The giant stone gateway, located on the junction of three wadis, is the most impressive of Acacus’ rock formations. Some of the prehistoric images of the human figures found around this area are strikingly modern in style. Wan Kaza (Wan Casa): a north-south chain of golden multicoloured sand dunes, running down along the eastern edge of the Acacus mountains.
5.2. Cultural Heritage
A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general
In the case of gardens: original and current style:It is not the case.
B) Related to ancient remains
- Archaeological components:
Tools have been unearthed across an area covering thousands of kilometres. In the Tadrart Acacus Mountains, cave paintings and carvings of various styles are scattered throughout almost all the valleys, representing the various cultural groups that lived there during long periods of prehistory. Like Tassili n’Ajjer (Algeria), various periods, corresponding to successive climatic phases which brought about underlying modifications in the flora and fauna and, thus, in the ways of life of the local population, may be distinguished. They are characterized by very definite artistic styles: -During the naturalistic phase, corresponding to the last phase of the Pleistocene epoch (12,000-8000 BC), one sees numerous outline engravings, representing the large mammals of the savannah: elephants, rhinoceros, etc. during the round-head phase (c. 8000-4000 BC) engravings and paintings coexisted. The fauna was characteristic of humid climate, magic religious scenes appeared. -The pastoral phase, from 4000 BC, is the most important in terms of numbers of paintings and engravings, numerous bovine herds are found on the decorated walls of the grottoes and shelters. -The horse phase, from 1500 BC, is that of a semi-arid climate, which caused the disappearance of certain species and the appearance of the domesticated horse. -The camel phase (first centuries BC) saw the intensification of a desert climate. The dromedary settled in the region and became the main subject of the last rock-art paintings.
- Traces in the environment of human activity: Paintings and engravings.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values
- Population, ethnic groups: The region is the home of the Berber Tuareg people, who sadly began, after all these thousands of years, to move away from their native habitat to the nearby centres, camps and oases. The remaining few Tuareg families who failed to let go have now been targeted by some tourists as one of the main attractions of the region.
- Languages and dialects: Berber Tadrart is the feminine form of 'mountain' in the Berber languages (masculine: Adrar).
Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:*** Recently, the search for petroleum hidden underground has placed the rock art itself in danger. Seismic hammers are used to send shock waves underneath to locate oil deposits, and have noticeable effects on nearby rocks, including the ones that house the Tadrart Acacus rock art. The site is also vulnerable to deterioration caused by climatic phenomena, and to damage caused by visitors and excessive tourism.
Quality of the night sky, light pollution and possibility to observe the stars:Total silence and solitude, clean air, total possibility to observe the star and the magic of the desert.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:
-All the caves with paintings and engravigs cited in this file. -The arches and rocks with strange forms. -The espectacular panorama of the Libyan desert. -The arid mountains with their springs and gueltas.
Authenticity:Tadrart Acacus has thousands of cave paintings in very different styles, dating from 12,000 B.C. to A.D. 100. They reflect marked changes in the fauna and flora, and also the different ways of life of the populations that succeeded one another in this region of the Sahara. The site also includes the Murzuch desert, which bears traces of the different phases of the Palaeolithic.
Universality:*** The Acacus was included on the World Heritage List only based on criterion (iii): an exceptional testimonyto a series of civilizations which have disappeared. Med-O-Med considers, taking the Algerian Tassili as a similiar example, that it must been included the criteria (i), (vii) and (viii): i) The impressive array of paintings and rock engravings of various periods gives world recognition to the property. The representations evoke possible magic-religious practices some 12,000 years old tat can be observed in the naturalistic phase (12,000-8000 BC), the pastoral phase (from 4000 BC), the horse phase (from 1500 BC), and the camel phase (first centuries BC). iii): The rock art images cover a period of about 10,000 years. With the archaeological remains, they testify in a particularly lively manner to climate changes, changes in fauna and flora, and particularly to possibilities provided for farming and pastoral life linked to impregnable defensive sites during certain prehistoric periods. vii): With the eroded sandstone forming "rock forests", the property is of remarkable scenic interest. The sandstone has kept intact the traces and marks of the major geological and climatic events. The corrosive effects of water, and then wind, have contributed to the formation of a particular morphology (arches, caves, strange forms as fingers or mushrooms...). (viii): The geological conformation of Tadrart Acacus includes Pre-Holocene deposits that indicate wet phases of the Pleistocene, with early Paleolithic artifacts, organic lake deposits and fossils mostly associated with Acheulean artifacts. The molluscs and the fragments of ostrich eggs were dated to about 7000 BP. Also several fossilized remains of large mammals and reptiles have been found in the area.
Values linked to the Islamic culture and civilisation:*** There is a territory occupied by tuareg tribes, its cultures and customs must be preserved of the tourism influx.
Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):
*** Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus Cultural Landscapes is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Algeria which are included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.
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Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías
Date of data compilation: 27/04/2013 0:00