Tassili n'Ajjer (1982)

Back to index

Located in a strange lunar landscape of great geological interest, this site has one of the most important groupings of prehistoric cave art in the world. More than 15,000 drawings and engravings record the climatic changes, the animal migrations and the evolution of human life on the edge of the Sahara from 6000 B.C. to the first centuries of the present era. The geological formations are of outstanding scenic interest, with eroded sandstones forming 'forests of rock'.  

Algeria 1983. Goat, and Tassili Mountains.

UNESCO (France) 1993. Rock art from Tassili n'Ajjer. 

Algeria 1983. Rock formation ("Forests of Rock").

Tassili-n-Ajjer in Algeria is one of the most famous North African sites of rock painting. Its imagery documents a verdant Sahara teeming with life that stands in stark contrast to the arid desert the region has since become. Tassili paintings and engravings, like those of other rock art areas in the Sahara, are commonly divided into at least four chronological periods based on style and content. These are: 

  1. an archaic tradition depicting wild animals whose antiquity is unknown but certainly goes back well before 4500 B.C.;  
  2. a so-called bovidian tradition, which corresponds to the arrival of cattle in North Africa between 4500 and 4000 B.C.; 
  3. a "horse" tradition, which corresponds to the appearance of horses in the North African archaeological record from about 2000 B.C. onward; 
  4. and a "camel" tradition, which emerges around the time of Christ when these animals first appear in North Africa.  
Algeria 1967. Cow. Algeria 1967. Antelope. Algeria 1967. Fleeing Ostriches Algeria 1983. Rock paintings from Tassili n'Ajjer, from the "camel tradition".
Engravings of animals such as the extinct giant buffalo are among the earliest works, followed later by paintings in which color is used to depict humans and animals with striking naturalism. 

In the last period, chariots, shields, and camels appear in the rock paintings. 

Although close to the Iberian Peninsula, it is currently believed that the rock art of Algeria and Tassili developed independently of that in Europe. 

  • Algeria 1967. Warrior. Scan by courtesy of Claude Chassagne, France. 

Algeria 1967. Warrior.

Algeria 1966. Bull.

Algeria 1966. Shepherd.

Algeria 1966, Two Girls.

Algeria 1967. Archers.

During glacial times the local climate was much moister, the desert was a rather fertile savannah and home to many people. The most frequent animals depicted are hippopotamus, elephant, rhinoceros and giraffe. The geology of this mountain range is important for the local vegetation. The sandstone is able to store water, and even transport it through its pores by capillary forces. This results in a higher amount of moisture and a different, more abundant vegetation. In the eastern half of the range, in higher parts, a very scattered woodland of Saharan Cypress and Saharan Myrtle exist. 

Sources and links:

Other World Heritage Sites in Algeria (on this website). Eventually refer to the UNESCO-listing, Algeria-section, for further information on the individual properties. 

Back to index

Click the banner to return to Heindorffhus

Revised 13 nov 2006  
Copyright © 1999-2007 Ann Mette Heindorff 
All Rights Reserved