The unsettling Tassili Cave Art

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Tassili n’Ajjer (meaning “Plateau of the Rivers”) is noted for its prehistoric rock art and other ancient archaeological sites, dating from Neolithic times when the local climate was much moister, with savannah rather than desert. The art depicts herds of cattle, large wild animals including crocodiles, and human activities such as hunting and dancing. The art has strong stylistic links to the pre-Nguni Art of South Africa and the region, executed in caves by the San Peoples before the year 1200 BCE.

The range’s exceptional density of rock art paintings-pictograms and engravings-petroglyphs, and the presence of many prehistoric vestiges, are remarkable testimonies to Neolithic prehistory. From 10,000 BCE to the first centuries CE, successive peoples left many archaeological remains, habitations, burial mounds and enclosures which have yielded abundant lithic and ceramic material. However, it is the rock art (engravings and paintings) that have made Tassili world famous as from 1933, the date of its discovery. 15,000 petroglyphs have been identified to date.

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Some of the painting have bizarre depictions of what appear to be spacemen wearing suits, visors, and helmets. resembling modern day astronauts. This takes us to the west African tribe – the Dogon whose legends say they were guided to the area from another part of Africa that was drying up – by fish gods called the Nommo who came in huge ships from the sky.

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1978, Tassili N'Ajjer National Park, Tassili N'Ajjer, Algeria --- Cave paintings of sectioned houses at Tassili-n-Ajjer, in the Sahara Desert of Algeria. These paintings are from the Cattle Period, ca. 4000 B.C. - 2000 B.C. --- Image by © Kazuyoshi Nomachi/Corbis
1978, Tassili N’Ajjer National Park, Tassili N’Ajjer, Algeria — Cave paintings of sectioned houses at Tassili-n-Ajjer, in the Sahara Desert of Algeria. These paintings are from the Cattle Period, ca. 4000 B.C. – 2000 B.C. — Image by © Kazuyoshi Nomachi/Corbis

Ancient Astronauts

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