Rock Art in Djelfa

The city of Djelfa, capital of the Djelfa region in Algeria, was established by the French military in 1852 as a post for their troops. Located in the Ouled Nail Mountains, the town is situated 1 138 meters above sea level. But it is not the town or its history that has made the region a popular destination for tourists – it is the rock art, which dates back to between 7000 and 5000 BC, that can be found, and the region has a wealth of Neolithic rock art to share. It seems that the rock art was first discovered during the 1850s, but was only recognized officially from the year 1914.

The engravings and rock art at Zaccar were stumbled upon in 1907, and in 1914 the art at Flamand was discovered. During the 1960s, the Council of Initiatives of the Djelfa region decided to document and record each engraving and painting that could be found. It was through the work of Father de Villaret that many sites were uncovered. He would take visitors to the various sites to marvel at the ancient artwork.

More than 1 160 art works and engravings have been found in this region, of which Ain Naga and Oued el Hesbaia are the most popular sites. There are approximately thirty-five stations in the region where visitors are able to view the rock art, and they are each marked for identification. These include sites such as Ishak, Oued Margueb, Oued Remelia, Koreiker, Oued Tamid, Saouiet, Atef el Ghorab, Morhoma, El Gour and Djebel Doum.

Some sites have small groupings of engravings, while others offer massive murals. By studying the various engravings and development of rock art work, scientists have been able to date the various drawings. During what is referred to as the Hunters Stage, animal engravings become very popular, featuring lions, elephants, humans, rhinoceros and buffalo. There are seventeen etchings of buffalo in the Djelfa region, of which the biggest is at Oued el Hesbaia, with a two meter buffalo. Horses are also depicted. Over the ages, the engravings became more detailed, such as the engraving of a male with a unique hair style and a shirt that can be seen at Theniet el Mzab. The Timid Lovers engraving can be viewed at Ain Naga, showing the detail of how their hair fell, the quiver and shield carried by the man and a hairclip that keeps the woman’s hair tidy. Djelfa is a treasure trove of ancient rock art and drawings and an attraction that visitors should ensure they see while traveling through this diverse country.