Tag Archives: Libya

Holocene human peopling of Libyan Sahara

Holocene human peopling of Libyan Sahara – Molecular analysis of maternal lineages in ancient and extant populations of Fezzan

The present work provides an important view of a region of Africa that is still almost unknown: the Central Sahara. The aim of the project as a whole, was to reconstruct from the maternal side, through the genetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), the origins of a Pastoral nomad population in the Libyan Sahara, the Tuareg. The availability of both modern and ancient samples from the Fezzan (Libyan Sahara), collected in collaboration with the Italian Archaeological Mission in Libya directed by Prof. Savino Di Lernia, represented an important means of relating the mtDNA pool of extant Libyan Tuareg, with that of Pastoral people inhabiting the Central Sahara in prehistoric times, and with the Garamantes, the hypothetical ancestors of Libyan Tuareg. Nevertheless, molecular analysis carried out on the bones collected from the archaeological sites of the Acacus region, showed a very low state of preservation of the DNA, this probably due to the high temperatures that characterised burials over the centuries. Failure of the genetic analyses in the ancient individuals, necessarily limited the present work to the study of the extant Tuareg sample. Nevertheless, comparison with other genetic data collected so far in the modern African populations, and moreover the multidisciplinary integration with archaeological and ethnological data, helped to hypothetically reconstruct the origins of Libyan Tuareg, and their relationship with the ancient human migratory dynamics that occurred in Northern Africa during the Holocene.

A total of 129 individuals from two villages in the Acacus region, in Fezzan, were genetically analysed at the mtDNA level. The results here reported clearly show the low level of genetic diversity in the Libyan Tuareg sample, that is hypothetically due to high endogamy. Furthermore, phylogenetic analyses indicate that the mtDNA genetic pool of the Libyan Tuareg is characterized by a major “West- Eurasian” component, that is shared with many Berber groups and hypothetically comes from the Iberian Peninsula, and a minor “South-Saharan” component that shows some kind of  relationship with Central and Eastern African populations.

A pdf I located with a lot of information on North Africa and The Tuareg, for anyone interested in their history and culture and maternal ancestry.


The pdf book (it’s very long) shows H1 to be dominant in the Tuareg sample tested at  frequencies higher than 60%, H1 having roughly an 11,000 year old presence in North Africa. Eurasian lines H and V  make up nearly 2/3 of Libyan Tuareg mtDNA. This paper also finds traces of Eastern African ancestry in the Tuareg via the L2a lineage which has a coalescence date of around 5,000 years, which is tolerably close to the theorised Beja/Tuareg split of 6,000 years. It’s got a pretty detailed breakdown all all the Hg’s found.

Luis, you’ll like this one. Places the U in N Africa as Iberian in origin.

The ‘almost’ domestication of Barbary sheep at Uan Afada

A Barbary sheep.

Taming Barbary sheep: wild animal management by Early Holocene hunter-gatherers at Uan Afuda

Yet another Pdf involving the Libyan Sahara.

The main observation of this paper is the thick layers of Barbary sheep dung at the Uan Afada site. Since Barbary sheep were never actually domesticated, this seems to describe an intermediate stage seen in modern hunter gatherers where wild livestock is kept and fattened up, sometimes to provide a reliable source of meat for special occasions. It’s an intermediate and necessary step to domestication, but fully domesticated sheep and goats arriving from the near East in the neolithic probably interrupted the domestication process. As the paper says:

Management of animals does not  mean domestication, also in our view, but rational control of animal resources, which may not produce any morphologically domesticated animals. Such behaviour is not rare in the ethnographic record: we can recall activities of driving and containing animals such as bison, deer and antelope in North America (Chang and Koster 1986); the interaction between reindeer and humans in North Europe (Ingold 1980), and other operations in which wild animals are used by human groups to perform specialised activities like hunting.

Which is what I suspect was happening with the cattle in Nabta Playa too.

The Tadrart Acacus mountain range.


On a similar line;  New investigations in the Tadrart Acacus, Libyan Sahara, another pdf.

And this paper.

 Dismantling Dung: Delayed Use of Food Resources among Early Holocene Foragers of the Libyan Sahara

At Uan Afuda, and other Early Holocene sites of the Acacus mountains, in the Libyan Sahara, dung layers and plant accumulation are a major, but repeatedly neglected, feature of hunter-gatherer communities. To understand the formation and meaning of such features, a multidimensional analysis has been undertaken, combining micromorphological, palynological, botanical, archaeozoological, and archaeological data. The hypothesis here formulated is twofold: plant accumulations are evidence of anthropic activity aimed at the storage of fodder; and dung layers are related to a forced penning of a ruminant, very likely Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia). The exploration of these two features has hinted at the existence of a deep reciprocal relationship, which has been interpreted as the cultural control of wild Barbary sheep, leading to a delayed use of food resources. This behavior may be considered an opportunistic strategy adopted to minimize the effects of lean periods and implicates increasing cultural complexity within Late Acacus Saharan forager societies of the 9th millennium B.P.

Mosaics from the Villa of the Nile, near Leptis Magna

From this educational site. Just a few images from a  villa outside Leptis Magna, the second depicting the Nile in flood. All but the lion hunting scene date tro the second century AD.

Click on images to enlarge.



This last one is from the fourth century and depicts a lion hunting scene, a pastime of Libyan nobility.

A cropped detail of a fisherman from one mosaic.

Images Marco Prins.

Mobility and kinship in the prehistoric Sahara

Mobility and kinship in the prehistoric Sahara: Strontium isotope analysis of Holocene human skeletons from the Acacus Mts. (southwestern Libya)
Mary Anne Tafuri a,*, R. Alexander Bentley b, Giorgio Manzi a, Savino di Lernia c
a Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell’Uomo, Universita` di Roma ‘La Sapienza’, P.le A. Moro, 5, 00185 Roma, Italy
Received 15 October 2005; revision received 23 January 2006

The origins and development of pastoralism in Saharan North Africa involves societies and economies that, subjected to profound climatic changes and progressive desertification, came to be based on the movement of people and resources. The extreme conditions to which these groups were subjected made mobility a ‘resource’ in itself. Through the first analysis of Sr isotopes (87Sr/86Sr) in dental enamel of human skeletons from prehistoric burials of the Fezzan (southwestern Libya), we begin to investigate how mobility patterns changed with the onset of the desert. In combining our results with the archaeological evidence, we find that, the transformation in the economy of prehistoric groups correlated with a shift in mobility and possibly kinship systems.

More on ancient North Africa. It dates domesticated cattle arriving in Southern Libya about 7,400 BP. I’ll read properly later.

Bookmark to an Uan Muhuggiag dig pdf.


About a holocene site in southernmost Libya (virtually Niger).  Nothing to get excited over, just one for the file.

Saharan rock art.

Red and white figures, from Uan Muhuggiag, Libya.

Uan Amil. Apparently blond people washing their hair, ready for a wedding. It’s a part of a much larger picture.

For any Afrocentrist that believes Caucasians are newcomers to North Africa… how come there are blondes and white people painted here? These paintings are old. Just how old is a matter for debate, because you have to go by the items shown. They all seem to be well BC though. There are some excellent images of obviously black African people too.