Macizo de Tagant

Macizo de Tagant



Ksar al Barka: Kasr el Barka was a moorish town on the banks of the now dry Wad el Abiod (White River), visted by the caravans which used to cross the desert to trade in gold, salt and slaves. There were earlier settlements here but the town proper endured from the late 17th century until the late 19th century, when it was abandoned as a result of warfare between various arab tribes and the French colonisers.

Mosque. Ksar al Barka

It now emerges as a ghost city from the desert, with its disquieting empty patios, its walls still well preserved with their triangular decorations, its ruined houses from which birds fly out when a visitor enters, its sand-covered lanes, the great mosque with all its columns still standing and its mihrab from which you can still face Mecca and pray... The writer H. P. Lovecraft once imagined a mysterious city lost in the desert where a monstrous civilisation existed before humanity, a "nameless city" of which the mad poet Abdul Alhazred Abdul Alhazred may well have dreamt the night before he wrote these verses: "What may lie eternally is not dead, and beyond the ages, even Death may die".

Agneitir Dalma (The "Dark Caves").Agneitir Dalma (The "Dark Caves") cows, These are very similar to the "Bovidiense" of the Algerian Tassili and probably expressed an idealised view of pastoral life, which we can glimpse today in the great importance still attached to lifestock in southern Saharan towns, from Mauritania to Sudan and Somalia.

Gazelle. Agneitir Dalma

One group of drawings is especially enigmatic: a large figure of a man appears over images of nine mammals, some of them clearly domestic (cows with large udders) and others which could be wild (perhaps gazelles ?): Is it a surviving example of ancient hunting lore controlling "the animals´ spiritual force" via rituals and rock paintings? Further on, other people have set to painting riders on horseback, with lances and shields, alone or in groups. Some are well done but others, surely the most recent, are much cruder. We know from archaeology and classical sources that the inhabitants of north of the Sahara, the forerunners of the modern Berbers, penetrated the desert and even further south not long before the start of the modern era, and that they were fine horsemen. This led to confrontation with pastoralists and farmers who had settled earlier and who were now forced to withdraw southwards (which they also did for climatic reasons since the region was becoming more desert-like). The earlier residents were also taken into slavery, a practice which lasted nearly until the present day. Who made these paintings, the horsemen themselves or perhaps the terrorised farmers who were trying to exorcise that terrible danger? Finally, during the last few centuries local people continued to use the cave walls to record events in their history, with Koranic texts in both arabic and berber, geometric figures to counter evils which might befall the community and, once again, coarsely-executed figures of horses or camels

Leila Cave (Tinchmart, El Ghediyya). Various panels dating from a particular period are in a rock shelter in a narrow overhang of a large sandstone cliff (Tinchmart), They were probably all produced by the same hand, given the resemblance of all the figures, and at the time of the Berber horsemen. The left-hand panel shows nine horsemen around a gazelle, with other wild animals outside the group (crocodile, ostrich, giraffe etc.). One of the horsemen reveals that this is not just a realistic representation of a day's hunting: he is not on the horse's back but instead stands on the animal's head, his arms raised... (scenes of people with their arms raised feature in many other examples of prehistoric Saharan art). To the left of the group there is a human figure with large breasts and hips, which the French explorers Senones and Puigadeau interpreted as a "steatopygic" woman (also very frequent in prehistoric art and perhaps a maternity symbol). She is holding a long object, perhaps a digging stick, and she seems to be raising a hand to her forehead, perhaps lamenting what she sees these alien horsemen doing. There are five horsemen around a gazelle in the right-hand panel, one of them standing next to his horse, with more animals lower down, a giraffe and two possible cows. The horsemen sport something resembling plumes on their heads, in the manner perhaps of the ancient Tuaregs with their turbans


Acharim. An attractive group of animals painted in red is under a sandstone outcrop at one extreme of a ridge near the town of Acharim. The panel is scarcely two metres wide. Some of the animals are clearly wild and they include several gazelles and oryx; lothers might be domestic or wild bovines. Various circular figures appear between the animals similar to those in the Dark Caves and these may be gourds, leather vessels or baskets. Two vertical figures alongside the animals appear to be people with deformed heads. These recall similar figures from North America and South Africa, which are usually interpreted as hunter shamans in a state of trance in order to acquire the "power of the animals".

Tin Oudin.

Tin Ouadin. This rock shelter has a collection of pictures recalling those in the Dark Caves but less fine. The oldest figures are bovines and horsemen, executed very roughly. Geometric figures (squares, circles etc.) appear above these. The whole group seems to have been drawn relatively recently.