New Rock Art in Algeria – An Exciting Discovery

There is no greater source of insight into the lives of prehistoric people than rock art. There is little wonder then, that a massive furor always accompanies the discovery of legitimate new rock art. This is exactly what has happened with the discovery of Neolithic rock etchings in Algeria.

This is not the first and certainly not the only rock art in Algeria. The country has long been viewed as being a virtual treasure trove of prehistoric rock art. Unfortunately, unstable political conditions in some parts of the country have inhibited the careful study of such art for years.

The latest discoveries were made by a local tour guide named Hadj Brahim near the town of Bechar, which is roughly 800 kilometers southwest of the country’s capital city, Algiers. Brahim discovered approximately 40 new rock art images depicting cattle herds and other aspects of life in a fertile land. It is thought that the desertification of the Sahara only occurred about 4000 years ago so it was immediately evident that these new paintings are older than that. Subsequent dating of the artwork has estimated that it is approximately 8000 years old. Almost all prehistoric Saharan rock art depicts a garden-like environment where activities such as hunting, cattle farming and dancing must have been commonplace. Colors such as greens, yellows and reds are frequently observed in such artwork, unlike later work which tends to be mostly in browns, brown-reds and blacks.

To this day, the best known Algerian rock art is probably that found in the Tassili N’Ajjer mountains. This absolutely massive rock art sight features some 15 000 different images and is a UNESCO world heritage site. UNESCO has even gone so far as to call it the “world’s finest prehistoric open-air art museum.” While this ancient evidence of prehistoric life has been carefully protected and studied for centuries, very few have been able to enjoy it because of the unstable political climate in Algeria. Hopefully sights, such as the one in the Tassili N’Ajjer Mountains and the new one near Bechar, will soon become commonplace features on every visitor’s travel itinerary. Only time will tell.