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Changing Places: Rock Art and Holocene Landscapes in the Wadi al-Ajal, South-West Libya

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image of Journal of African Archaeology

This article examines the relationship between rock art and landscape use by pastoral groups and early settled communities in the central Sahara from around 6000 BC to 1000 AD. During this period the region experienced significant climatic and environmental fluctuations. Using new results from a systematic survey in the Wadi al-Ajal, south-west Libya, our research combines data from over 2000 engraved rock art panels with local archaeological and palaeoenvironmental evidence within a GIS model. Spatial analysis of these data indicates a correspondence between the frequency of rock art sites and human settlement over time. However, while changes in settlement location were guided primarily by the constraints on accessibility imposed by surface water, the distribution of rock art relates to the availability of pasture and patterns of movement through the landscape. Although the reasons for these movements undoubtedly altered over time, natural routes that connected the Wadi al-Ajal and areas to the south continued to be a focus for carvings over several thousand years.

Affiliations: 1: School of History Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh, Old Medical School ; 2: School of Archaeology, Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, University of Oxford


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