Official Listing: UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1982; National Park
Who Considers it Sacred? Touareg Nomads
Significance: Tassili-n-Ajjer, once a lush landscape filled with rivers, is now a vast desert area containing over 15,000 rock paintings and engravings made by the ancestors of the Touareg people. The rock art dates to 6000 BC when the earliest images were made. This period ran until 4000 BC and is known as the Hunters Period because of the numerous animals depicted. The period from 4000-4500 BC is called the Stockbreeder tradition because it corresponds to the introduction of livestock. The next period around 1500 BC corresponds with the emergence of horses in the region and is referred to as the Horse Period. Finally, around the time of Christ the camel was introduced and the landscape had been transformed into the arid region that still persists. The Touareg people inhabit the region and still make paintings on the rocks including images of modern modes of transportation like jeeps and trucks. The site is a National Park that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982 and a UNESCO Biosphere in 1986.
The Threat: Vandalism/Looting
Preservation Status: Vandalism, looting, and smuggling of rock art has become problematic, especially near the Libyan border. Pneumatic drills are being used to dislodge rock paintings; they are then being shipped to Libya, Sicily, and Italy. Other problems include graffiti on the rock art. Some tourists put white paint on the rock art to enliven the images for photographic purposes.
For More Information: Sacred Sites Newsletter Volume XIII, Number 3, Spring 2003; http://www.philipcoppens.com/tassili.html