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Author Topic: AFRICAN ROCK ART  (Read 6290 times)
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« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2009, 12:20:23 pm »

Despite the fact that the rock paintings of the Tassili can be visited, the few people who have written about these rock paintings in popular accounts have largely relied on the pioneering work of Henri Lhote and his team.

Lhote stated that the Tassilli was the richest storehouse of prehistoric art in the whole world. He wrote a series of books, the best known of which is “The Search for the Tassili Frescoes. The Rock paintings of the Sahara.” It is a popular account of the hardships he encountered in trying to discover and make drawings of the rock paintings that were scattered on the rock faces in the various corners of the Tassili. Lhote himself built on the work of Lieutenant Brenans, who was one of the first to venture deep into the canyons of the Tassili during a police operation in the 1930s. As the first European to enter that area, he noticed strange figures that were drawn on the cliffs. He saw elephants walking along with their trunks raised, rhinoceros with ugly looking horns on their snouts, giraffes with necks stretched out as if they were eating at the tops of the bushes. Today, the area is a desolate desert. What these paintings depicted was an era long gone, when the Sahara was a fertile savannah, teeming with wildlife… and humans.

Lhote spoke to Brenans after the war ; in co-operation with Lhote’s mentor Abbé Breuil, who had researched several of the Paleolithic cave paintings in Southern France, a mission to map and study the rock paintings of the Tassili was organised.

The conditions of the Tassili are very otherworldly. One could argue it is an otherworldy landscape. Some have actually described it as a “lunar landscape”.

Otherworldly is also a fitting description of the paintings. Lhote himself described some of them as “Martian faces”. Lhote used the term as they resembled the alien faces that he had seen on television sci-fi documentaries. And the term would later be used by the likes of Erich von Däniken to speculate whether some of the figures were indeed depictions of extraterrestrial visitors.

The “Martians” were what Lhote more scientifically had labelled “round-headed people”, though they do indeed look otherwordly. And that is what Terence McKenna believed that they were : otherworldly, not in the sense of extraterrestrial, but in the sense of another dimension. In his opinion, some of the rock art showed evidence of a lost religion that was based on the hallucinogenic mushroom. He saw figures that were sprouting mushrooms all over their bodies, like at Matalen-Amazar and Ti-n-Tazarift. Others were holding them in their hands, and still other figures were hybrids of mushrooms and humans. He noted that there was one depiction of a shaman in antler headgear with a bee’s face, clutching mushrooms and noted that these were the earliest known depictions of shamans with large numbers of grazing cattle. The fact that these were shamans was supported by the presence of masks, an instrument often worn by shamans during religious ceremonies. If anyone still was not convinced that these people went “out of their minds” to paint these scenes, McKenna noted the geometric structures that surrounded the shamans, which for McKenna and other specialists was evidence of the trance state that the painters had entered for painting.
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