physical

Since about 7 000 years ago, possibly earlier, humans groups living in the wadi or visiting it periodically were creating engravings of objects found in their physical and cultural environments. As these objects were chosen deliberately, it can be assumed that only objects with cultural value and meaning were being represented and that these were selected specifically for what they symbolised and for the message that they conveyed.

cow
A series of successive engraving styles can be identified, which are also associated with changes in the content of the rock-art. These included early styles in which large wild animals only were depicted, to increasingly stylistic representations of domesticated animals (below left), smaller wild animals and giraffe (below right).
The Garamantian period can be associated with the emergence of highly stylised images of domesticated cattle (pictured above), sheep and goats, horses, camels, wheeled vehicles and human figures, many of which brandish weapons or other objects of some description. There are few representations of wild animals during this period, these being mainly limited to giraffe (which may have been herded as semi-domesticated animals) and ostrich. Since the Garamantian period, there have been numerous inscriptions in tifinagh, the Tuareg script, but figurative rock-art effectively ended with the Garamantians. The demise of figurative imagery suggests that it no longer served its purpose and was possibly made obsolete by new forms of cultural expression and communication.
domesticated
giraffe
Context of the rock-art

In contrast to the various significant changes in style and content of the rock-art, the same physical settings have been selected continually and used consistently. Although hundreds of different engravings have been identified in the wadi, these are restricted to only a few locations which are associated with particular types of visually dominant topographic feature. In other words, the spatial arrangement of the rock-art is patterned in relation to specific aspects of the natural landscape. Three types of spatial patterning can be described, each of which is illustrated by a specific case study:



Case Study (i): Discrete clusters of images are associated with the ends of escarpment promontories where these jut out into the wadi. The distribution of images in these locations is very constrained, even though several hundred engravings representing several thousand years of use may be depicted.

Case Study (ii): The majority of engravings concentrated at the ends of promontories are situated around the base of the escarpment in visible, easily accessible locations. In addition, a second, smaller group of engravings is situated at the uppermost tip of the promontory in an obscure, inaccessible location.

Case Study (iii): Rock-art is also concentrated along natural routes of passage and communication into and out of the wadi.

giraffe