Mesak Settafet

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Coordinates: 25°45′N 11°50′E / 25.750°N 11.833°E / 25.750; 11.833

Meerkat carvings in the Wadi Mathendous in the Mesak Settafet region.

Mesak Settafet is a massive sandstone escarpment in southwest Libya.[1] It sits at an elevation of up to 300m.[2] The outcropping is abundant in prehistoric rock art and stone tools, particularly at the Wadi Mathendous site.

Rock Art[edit]

There are many distinctive and large prehistoric carvings at the Mesak Settafet escarpment, especially at Wadi Mathendous. The outcropping's exposed stones are covered in a dark varnish or patina containing minerals not currently present in the sandstone. The microns-thick patina of iron and manganese oxides were likely laid down on the rock when the area was much wetter, up to 5000 years ago. The majority of the rock carvings in the area were probably first scratched then ground, likely with water, to create a purposeful finish.[3]

Rock Tools[edit]

The Mesak Settafet is littered with stone tools from the Pleistocene and later ages. A recent survey of randomly selected areas in the region estimated the tool density to be as high as 75 per 1 square metre (11 sq ft) in places.[2] The researchers for the Libyan Department of Antiquities used this figure to call the escarpment the earliest evidence of an anthropogenic environment. The discarded tools and stone fragments are so thick that if their average were continued over the surface of Africa, there would be enough human-made stone tools and production débitage to be comparable in volume to between 1.3 and 2.7 Great Pyramids of stone tools and fragments every 1 square kilometre (0.39 sq mi) through Africa, or 42 to 84 million pyramids. That is 2.1 x 1014 cubic meters of rock total, all made of fragments each averaging only 7 cubic centimetres (0.43 in3). The researchers estimated this figure and suggested it might be "conservative."[2]


  1. ^ National Geospatial-intelligence Agency. "Mesak Settafet: Libya". Geographical Names. Retrieved 31 March 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c Robert A. Foley; Marta Mirazón Lahr. "Lithic Landscapes: Early Human Impact from Stone Tool Production on the Central Saharan Environment". PLOS One. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0116482. Archived from the original on 11 March 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2016. 
  3. ^ "Mesak Settafet and Mellet". Temehu. Retrieved 31 March 2016. 

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