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Author Topic: THE SAHARA  (Read 4726 times)
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« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2009, 08:54:36 am »

The noonday sun turns the desert sprawl below us into a shimmer, and the tender breeze at this relaxing spot tempts us to imagine prehistoric hunters whiling away their hours painting scenes on rock walls as they keep watch for prey in grassy savannah below.

On the walls, dramatic scenes of hunters armed with spears, aggressively moving in on herds, excite team member Maria Gaugnin, who’s here researching Saharan rock art for her doctoral degree at the University of Edinburgh.

Earlier, while researching in the Fezzan, “we found depictions of hippo and water buffalo,” she says—which could mean the climate was a lot wetter when they were painted. If similar animal images are here, and the art can be dated, she figures it would go a long way toward defining the time of the last wet period. “No one has seriously attempted to match the animals with their environments here in the Sahara,” she says.

Geological dating of the end of the last wet period here falls to another team member, Ann Mather, an earth scientist from the University of Plymouth who specializes in geomorphology and sedimentology. She avidly watches Brooks shoveling out the rock shelter, hoping she’ll be able to sample its lowest layer.

All the sand buildup that has reduced the shelter to a crawlspace would have occurred after the dry period began, and so, she reasons, if the lowest layers could be dated, it would help pin down when that drifting started—essentially, when the first wisps of sand blew in.

The team members, myself and three volunteers all arrived in the desert a week earlier on a night flight from Algiers to Tindouf, in southwestern Algeria, where we met with our guides and drivers, Osman and Sidi Ahmed.

They are Sahrawi (Tuaregs): indigenous Bedouins of Western Sahara.

They loaded us into two Toyota Land Cruisers and drove us to the white-walled Rabuni camp, where
we provisioned for our two-week foray. Rounding out the local team is our Sahrawi archeologist Hussein Mohammed Ali.
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