- Museum number
Digital photograph (colour); view of engraved rock art on a rock face (sandstone) showing two elephants. Centre: outlined (polished) elephant upright facing left, trunk curled forward, grooved lined pattern markings at ears. Behind elephant and under tail, three circular and one oval shapes divided in two by vertical line (faeces). Trunk has been cut off by stone breaking. Bubalus period. Top right: outlined (pecked) elephant upright facing left. A 10 cm photo scale has been fitted at the bottom of the tableau. Wadi Mathendous area, Libya.
- Production date
23 February 2006 (date digitized)
March 1998 (original photograph)
File size: 120 megabytes
Resolution: 300 dots per inch
- Curator's comments
- Close-up of 2013,2034.2905.
The photograph shows two large engravings of elephants, one of them defecating. Elephants are relatively common in Messak depictions, usually represented in a large size. Their depiction while defecating is uncommon but not exceptional (around 20 cases have been documented insofar), and seems almost exclusive of this specie (with the only probable exception of a rhino). The central engraving can be ascribed to the so called Bubalus period, characterized by its naturalistic style. The one to the top right could be a later addition or was left unfinished.
The engravings are located near Wadi Mathendous, one of the main dry riverbeds on the southern edge of the Messak Plateau in southwest Libya, near the borders between Algeria and Niger. That plateau, which runs southwest-northeast through the Libyan province of Fezzan, is divided in two by the Tilemsin pass, which defines two smaller plateaus (Settafet to the north and Mellet to the south). Throughout these plateaus, numerous dry riverbeds run to the east into Murzuq erg. Rather than a single dry riverbed, Wadi Mathendous can define a wide area which includes the In Habeter (the middle course of Wadi Mathendous) and tributaries as the Wadi Tilizaghen. The valley and its tributaries are full with tens of thousands of rock art engravings –only a few paintings have been located insofar-, mostly depicted in vertical rocks. As a whole, Wadi Mathendous and its surrounding area constitutes the core of the Messak rock art.
The Messak rock art has been known since Heinrich Barth’s expedition in 1850, although it wasn’t until 1932 when the engravings were systematically studied by Leo Frobenius. In more recent times the area has been extensively studied by Pesce (1969), Graziosi (1970) and Jelinek (1984, 1985). Figures appear both isolated and within complex scenes which include engraved life-size elephants, giraffes, crocodiles, buffaloes and figures which mix human and animal features (therianthropes) along with numerous figures of more modern periods as horses and camels. Most of the engravings belong to the so called Bubalus style, but Tazina, Pastoral, Horse and Camel styles are also well represented. The area is home to some of the oldest engravings in the Sahara desert (around 10,000 years old) and some of the most popular depictions in Saharan rock art, as the “Sparring Cats” or the so-called “Apollo of the Garamantes”.
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Africa, Oceania and the Americas
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: LIBMES0090018 (TARA number)