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Wadi Mathendous


Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong.
Wadi Mathendous
Wadi Mathendous: prehistoric rock reliefs and paintings in the Fezzan, in the southwest of modern Libya.

Between about 10,000 and 6,000 BCE, great parts of what is now called the Sahara were not a desert, but looked more like a savanna. There were perennial lakes and there was sufficient vegetation to make sure that big, wild animals could feed themselves. On some places, you can still find the petrified remains of the ancient trees.
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A petrified forest. Photo Jona Lendering.
A petrified forest

There were also human beings living on the savanna, who made rock art, which is distinguished from later rock art because of the use of deep relief, which was created with tools made of flint stone. It is called the "Wild fauna" style, and the Wadi Mathendous is one of the best sites to see these works of prehistoric art. The artists depicted rhinoceroses, crocodiles, hippopotamuses, giraffes, wild asses, felines, and now extinct long-horned buffaloes (buffalus antiquus). This ancient museum has been recognized as World Heritage by the UNESCO. A satellite photo of the wadi can be seen here.
Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong.
A small hunter and a big elephant

One of the surprising aspects of these rock reliefs is the lack of proportion. Sometimes, the animals are shown way too large, while the humans - usually hunters - are too small. This has been taken as indicative of the fear that the wild beasts inspired, but the truth is that we do not know why the prehistoric artists did this.

Unfortunately, the thumbnails below give a poor indication of the quality of these rock reliefs - so click on them and enjoy.
Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong. Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong. Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong. Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong.
Cow Buffalo Giraffes Felines
Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong. Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong. Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong. Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong.
Rhinoceros Bull Lizard? Fennec fox
Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong. Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong. Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong. Rock reliefs of the Wadi Mathendous. Photo Erik de Jong.
Crocodile Giraffes Hunter and giraffe Wild ass

Thanks...

... to Erik de Jong, who made these photos when the batteries of my camera were running low.
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2009
Revision: 24 May 2009
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