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Rock Art Niger Africa Petroglyph Engravings Aïr Mountains Bradshaw Foundation
Rock Art Niger Africa Petroglyph Engravings Aïr Mountains Bradshaw Foundation
Rock Art Niger Africa Petroglyph Engravings Aïr Mountains Bradshaw Foundation
The Rock Art of Niger, Africa
Rock Art in the Aïr Mountains
Dr Jean Clottes

Rock art carvings Anakom Eastern Aïr Niger Africa
Rock carvings at Anakom, Eastern Aïr, Niger
© Jean Clottes
The vast and arid Sahara stretches across Africa, from the Atlantic ocean to the Nile Valley, and from the northern shores of Africa to the semi-arid tropical savanna of the Sahel in the south. But due to a 20,000 year climatic cycle the landscape of this arid expanse of sand and rock has shifted over time, from desert to savanna grassland. Archaeology has revealed early human occupation, notably from about 12,000 years ago. And it was roughly at this time that the first engravings of animals began to appear. It seems that rock art may have been one of the first markers of human presence.

The Aïr Mountains, or Aïr Massif, is a triangular massif located in northern Niger within the Sahara. On the edge of this massif stretches the Ténéré Desert - 'Ténéré' literally translated is ‘where there is nothing’ - and throughout this remote region of sand and rock there are many clear examples of life, in the form of rock art.

Giraffe rock art carvings Anakom Niger Africa
Giraffe carvings at Anakom
© Jean Clottes
One particular piece of evidence of this age-old occupation can be found on a large rock outcrop, where two life-size giraffe have been carved, now known as the Dabous giraffe petroglyphs - the largest prehistoric animal carvings known. These carvings have now been studied in detail by the Bradshaw Foundation and the Trust for African Rock Art, under the auspices of the French rock art researcher Jean Clottes.

The giraffe carvings, however, are but the jewel in the crown; this remarkable area of contrasts contains thousands of rock art sites. Jean Clottes describes it as a 'boundary zone'. For prehistoric cultures, boundary zones - places where two worlds come into contact - often had a special significance. Rock art, when it is found in an exceptional place such as this, can assume another kind of significance altogether.

This is the case in the Arakou region of Niger, where the vast golden dunes of the Sahara flow into the dark sun-baked rocks of the Aïr Mountains. The rocks are adorned with a multitude of carefully designed and skilfully executed petroglyphs. The engravings, thought to be between two and three thousand years old, assume their significance and meaning from their privileged and chosen location here at the convergence of two worlds.

Tuareg gathering Niger Africa
Tuareg gathering
© Jean Clottes
 
Tuareg riders Niger Africa
Tuareg riders
© Jean Clottes
 
Traditional Tuareg Tam Tam dance Niger Africa
Traditional Tuareg Tam Tam dance
© Jean Clottes
 
Tuareg Tam Tam Niger Africa
Tuareg Tam Tam
© Jean Clottes
 
Tuareg Tam Tam Niger Africa
Tuareg Tam Tam
© Jean Clottes
 
Tuareg guide at a rock art site Niger Africa
Tuareg guide at a rock art site
© Jean Clottes
Dabous giraffe carvings Niger Africa
Dabous giraffe carvings
© Jean Clottes
 
Insect tracks Niger Africa
Insect tracks
© Jean Clottes
 
Decorated figure at Anakom Niger Africa
Decorated figure at Anakom
© Jean Clottes
 
Standing figure at Anakom Niger Africa
Standing figure at Anakom
© Jean Clottes
 
Giraffe carvings at Anakom Niger Africa
Giraffe carvings at Anakom
© Jean Clottes
 
Vegetation in the Tizirzeit dunes Niger Africa
Vegetation in the Tizirzeit dunes
© Jean Clottes
Figures riding cattle at Anakom Niger Africa
Figures riding cattle at Anakom
© Jean Clottes
 
Lions and giraffes at Anakom Niger Africa
Lions and giraffes at Anakom
© Jean Clottes
 
Giraffes and ostriches at Anakom Niger Africa
Giraffes and ostriches at Anakom
© Jean Clottes
 
Carvings at Tanakom Niger Africa
Carvings at Tanakom
© Jean Clottes
 
Ostriche carvings at Arakou Niger Africa
Ostriche carvings at Arakou
© Jean Clottes
 
Figures and symbols at Arakou Niger Africa
Figures and symbols at Arakou
© Jean Clottes

→ The World's Largest Rock Art Petroglyph - Dabous Giraffe Carvings in Niger Africa
→ Discover more about the Rock Art of Africa
→ Scientific Research of Rock Art at the Dabous site in Niger
→ The Rock Art of Niger
→ Bradshaw Foundation
→ Rock Art Network

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