Ten millennia ago, around the end of the last glacial period, the Sahara was quite hospitable. Nothing like the dry desert we know today. Back then, the Sahara hosted ancient cities and prosperous trade routes. It’s along one of these routes that we find a trove of prehistoric, spiritual rock art that suggests the spiritual life of those ancient people.
The rock formation at Tassili n’Ajjer, located in the Algerian section of the Sahara Desert, contains more than 300 arches, pillars, and cliffs. This archeological site is renowned for its amazing volume of prehistoric rock art. The earliest of this art was created around 10,000 BC. Many of the pieces are from 9,000 BC and depict antelope, crocodiles, and humans. All told, there is an amazing number of rock-art pieces at the site – over 15,000.
Climate Change Transforms Spiritual Rock Art
Through the ages the style of the art changed, and some was quite stylized. Odd looking creatures with horns, and people with round heads are depicted. By 1,200 BC, the savannah of Tassili began to transform into the desert we know today. This climatic change enabled horses to be used along the trade routes. These horses then appeared in the rock art.
The lunar-style landscape of Tassili can look like an alien world. Some analysts have taken this perspective when describing the creative rock art there. For instance, the archeologists who worked on the site suggested that the engravings were made from a sense of magic and religious beliefs. More popular analysts such as Erich von Daniken speculate that the images have more of an other-worldly origin. But overall, the importance of the Tassili site is shown in its high regard by UNESCO as a significant World Heritage site.
At the famed MOMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, you can view 3,600 works from the late nineteenth century to today. Some of these MOMA pieces were painted by well-known artists such as Paul Cézanne and Vincent van Gogh. I wonder if eleven-thousand years ago people walked the along the Tassili spiritual rock art seeking their favorite artists.
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