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Author Topic: THE SAHARA  (Read 4318 times)
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« on: August 10, 2008, 08:15:40 am »

                              The prehistory of Western Sahara in a regional context

Nick Brooks1, Savino Di Lernia2 and Nick Drake3
1Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and School of Environmental Sciences, University of East
Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK. Email;
2Department of Scienze Storiche, Archeologiche, e Antropologiche dell’Antichità, Faculty of Human
Sciences, University of Rome “La Sapienza”, Via Palestro 63, 00185 – Rome, Italy. E-mail:
3Department of Geography, King’s College, Strand, London WC2R 2LS. Email:
Extended Abstract

The disputed territory of Western Sahara has long been inaccessible to research as a result of the militaryand political conflict between Morocco, which occupies some eighty per cent of the territory, and the Frente Polisario, the Algeria-based Western Saharan independence movement.

This paper presents the findings of a two-week reconnaissance survey of the archaeology and environment of the Northern Sector of the Polisario-controlled zone of Western Sahara (Figure 1),
which took place in September and October 2002, and comprised researchers from the UK and Italy.

The results of the survey are described within thecontext of their relevance to the archaeology and environmental history of the wider Saharan region, after a consideration of the general environmental history of he Sahara as a whole.

The cultural history of the Sahara is intimately related to the existence of a succession of humid and
arid episodes, which in turn are associated with periods of global warming and cooling respectively.

Evidence from throughout the Sahara indicates that the region experienced a cool, dry and windy
climate during the last glacial period, followed by a wetter climate with the onset of the current interglacial, with humid conditions being fully established by around 10,000 BP, when we see the first evidence of a reoccupation of parts of the central Sahara by hunter gathers, most likely originating from sub-Saharan Africa
(Cremaschi and Di Lernia, 1998; Goudie, 1992; Phillipson, 1993; Ritchie, 1994; Roberts, 1998).

The cycle of glacial desiccation followed by interglacial greening is believed to be driven predominantly by variations in northern hemisphere insolation resulting from changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis associated with the precessional cycle (Roberts, 1998).

Stronger insolation leads to increased heating of the NorthAfrican subcontinent, intensifying the African Monsoon which penetrates deep into the Sahara.

Superimposed on the interglacial humid episodes are brief periods of aridity lasting from decades to
centuries, broadly coincident with cold events in the Atlantic that appear to be manifestations of internal
climate variability that
(Alley et al. 1997; Bond et al., 1997; Cremaschi et al., 2001, 2002; Di Lernia and Palombini, 2002).

In the early Holocene, when northern hemisphere summer insolation was strong, these arid episodes were followed by recovery; however, the onset of aridity around 5000 BP was followed by a
long-term desiccation throughout the Sahara
(Cremaschi, 1998; Jolly et al. 1998; Lioubimsteva 1995).
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