Tassili n'Ajjer (Berber: Tasili n Ajjer, meaning "Plateau of the Rivers"; Arabic: طاسيلي ناجر) is a mountain range in the Algerian section of the Sahara Desert. It is a vast plateau in south-east Algeria at the borders of Libya and Niger, covering an area of 72,000 km2.
Prehistoric art 
The range is also noted for its prehistoric rock art and other ancient archaeological sites, dating from the Neolithic era when the local climate was less dry, savannah rather than desert. The art is no older than 9–10 millennia, according to OSL dating of associated sediments, but may be younger. The art depicts herds of cattle, large wild animals including crocodiles, and human activities such as hunting and dancing. According to UNESCO, "The exceptional density of paintings and engravings...have made Tassili world famous as from 1933, the date of its discovery. 15,000 engravings have been identified to date."
The Tassili n'Ajjer range extends from 26°20′N 5°00′E / 26.333°N 5.000°E east-south-east to 24°00′N 10°00′E / 24.000°N 10.000°E, and the highest point is Adrar Afao, 2158 m, at 25°10′N 8°11′E / 25.167°N 8.183°E. The nearest town is Djanet, about 10 km southwest of the range. Much of the range, including the cypresses and archaeological sites (see below), is protected in a National park, Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site, named the Tassili n'Ajjer National Park.
The plateau is also of great geological and aesthetic interest: the panorama of geological formations with "rock forests" of eroded sandstone resembles a strange lunar landscape.
The range is composed largely of sandstone. Erosion in the area has resulted in nearly 300 natural rock arches being formed, along with many other spectacular landforms.
Because of the altitude and the water-holding properties of the sandstone, the vegetation here is somewhat richer than in the surrounding desert; it includes a very scattered woodland of the endangered endemic species Saharan Cypress and Saharan Myrtle in the higher eastern half of the range.
The ecology of the Tassili n'Ajjer is more fully described in the article West Saharan montane xeric woodlands, the ecoregion to which this area belongs. The literal English translation of Tassili n'Ajjer is 'Plateau of the rivers' referring to a time when the climate was repeatedly far wetter than it is today (see Neolithic Subpluvial).
In popular culture 
- Tassili is the recording location and the title of a 2011 album by the Tuareg-Berber band Tinariwen.
- In his 1992 book Food of the Gods, new-age icon Terence McKenna hypothesized that the Neolithic culture that inhabited the site used psilocybin mushrooms as part of its religious ritual life, citing rock paintings showing persons holding mushroom-like objects in their hands, as well as mushrooms growing from their bodies.
- Tassili Plain is a track on the 1994 album Natural Wonders of the World in Dub by dub reggae group Zion Train.
Further reading 
- Bahn, Paul G. (1998) The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
- Bradley, R (2000) An archaeology of natural places London, Routledge.
- Bruce-Lockhart, J and Wright, J (2000) Difficult and Dangerous Roads: Hugh Clapperton's Travels in the Sahara and Fezzan 1822-1825
- Chippindale, Chris and Tacon, S-C (eds) (1998) The Archaeology of Rock Art Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
- Clottes, J. (2002): World Rock Art. Los Angeles: Getty Publications.
- Coulson, D and Campbell, Alec (2001) African Rock Art: Paintings and Engravings on Stone New York, Harry N Abrams.
- Frison-Roche, Roger (1965) Carnets Sahariens Paris, Flammarion
- Holl, Augustin F.C. (2004) Saharan Rock Art, Archaeology of Tassilian Pastoralist Icongraphy
- Lajoux, Jean-Dominique (1977) Tassili n'Ajjer: Art Rupestre du Sahara Préhistorique Paris, Le Chêne.
- Lajoux, Jean-Dominique (1962), Merveilles du Tassili n'Ajjer (The rock paintings of Tassili in translation), Le Chêne, Paris.
- Le Quellec, J-L (1998) Art Rupestre et Prehistoire du Sahara. Le Messak Libyen Paris: Editions Payot et Rivages, Bibliothèque Scientifique Payot.
- Lhote, Henri (1959, reprinted 1973) The Search for the Tassili Frescoes: The story of the prehistoric rock-paintings of the Sahara London.
- Lhote, Henri (1958, 1973, 1992, 2006) À la découverte des fresques du Tassili, Arthaud, Paris.
- Mattingly, D (ed) (forthcoming) The archaeology of the Fezzan.
- Muzzolini, A (1997) "Saharan Rock Art", in Vogel, J O (ed) Encyclopedia of Precolonial Africa Walnut Creek: 347-353.
- Van Albada, A. and Van Albada, A.-M. (2000): La Montagne des Hommes-Chiens: Art Rupestre du Messak Lybien Paris, Seuil.
- Whitley, D S (ed) (2001) Handbook of Rock Art Research New York: Altamira Press.
See also 
External links