Art and Civilizations in the Sahara during Prehistoric Times

Giulio LUCARINI
President
Latifa SARI
Vice-President
Christian DUPUY
Vice-President

This UISPP commission, founded following a proposal by Gabriel Camps and Eduardo Ripoll Perelló back in 1991, aims to update and increase knowledge of Saharan societies within their environmental contexts and gain further insights into their rock art. The commission considers the Sahara region in its maximum extension, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. Within this context, the commission aims to provide an overview of the research carried out in the territory, and to organize periodic meetings for the exchange of information on key issues, such as Holocene climate and environment, cultural interactions, rock art and the cognitive world of North African regions during prehistory.

A group of people pose together for a photograph.

A strong interest in the environment has always characterized Saharan archaeology and is the basis of ecological studies, aimed at investigating the relationship between a changing environment and the transformations of societies. At the same time, since the Sahara has one of the greatest rock art heritage in the world, the research has developed methods to derive meanings from rock art images, which give us back the ideological world and the first glimpse of man on the world around him. This dual approach has meant that the two fields – excavation research and study of the art – very often proceeded separately.

The commission has placed the integration of the two traditions as its main objective, paying special attention to transversal visions that succeed in integrating both of the two research traditions. What emerges from current research is the strong interest in the social and economic aspects that took place in the Early Holocene with the new Neolithic organization.

At the same time, a new social and symbolic structure of human groups is represented in the rock images. The importance given to the studies on Neolithic also shows that today the purely ideological debate about the proper use of the word “Neolithic” in the African context, and the initial rejection of using this expression to safeguard the originality and autonomy of the processes of the African territories, has been completely overcome. Therefore, the main research focus of Saharan studies is once again represented by one of the main phases of change and transition for human society; a multifaceted theme with multiple aspects: e.g. study of the environment; bio-archaeology of plant and animal resources; technology and typology of materials; experimental reconstruction of techniques; ethnographic comparisons.

Furthermore, the resuming of old excavations leads to the revision of stratigraphies; new dating programmes; analysis on lithic and ceramic collections; identification of use. wears and substance residues; bioarchaeological and molecular analyses of botanical and faunal resources. Finally, the theme of the preservation and conservation of archaeological sites is important, particularly the programmes for the protection of rock art complexes.

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Members

Barbara E. BARICH
Fondazione Roma Sapienza (Italy)
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Lotfi BELOUCHET
Institut National du Patrimoine (Tunisia)
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Alessia BRUCATO
Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro (Italy)
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Yasmina DAMOUCHE
Université d'Alger 2 Abou El Kacem Saâdallah (Algeria)
Christian DUPUY
Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (France)
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Maria Carmela GATTO
Instytut Kultur Śródziemnomorskich i Orientalnych Polskiej Akademii Nauk (Poland)
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Khansa HANNACHI
Institut National du Patrimoine (Tunisia)
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Naomi IMPOSIMATO
Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro (Italy)
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Saida KASRI
Université d'Alger 2 Abou El Kacem Saâdallah (Algeria)
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Lorena LOMBARDI
Università di Pisa (Italy)
Giulio LUCARINI
Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (Italy)
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Adelaide MARSILIO
Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro (Italy)
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Souhila MERZOUG
Centre National de Recherches Préhistoriques, Anthropologiques et Historiques (Algeria)
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Giuseppina MUTRI
Università degli Studi di Firenze (Italy)
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Rocco ROTUNNO
University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
Latifa SARI
Centre National de Recherches Préhistoriques, Anthropologiques et Historiques (Algeria)
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Daniela ZAMPETTI
Fondazione Roma Sapienza (Italy)