Holocene archaeology

The study of late prehistoric cultural trajectories has been a traditional research topic since the 1950s. The great pastoral societies of Neolithic age, along with the earliest Holocene hunters and gatherers have always played a major role in our investigations. The most important transitions, such as the advent of food production and the emergence of complexity are well represented in our study area. Open air sites, caves and rock shelters testifies to elaborate strategies of food securities, characterized by sophisticated systems of management of natural resources. Similarly, elaborate rituals and various burial customs demonstrate the development of social complexity, often implying material evidence of hierarchies. 


Today we have a gook knowledge of the evolution of the societies inhabiting this area of the Libyan Sahara over the past 10,000 years. Although this picture is undergoing a process of constant refinement, cultural developments seem to be characterized by a combination of phenomena (social, economic, ritual), heavily conditioned – but never wholly determined – by climate changes. These processes were mostly irregular and non-linear, and developed throughout the entire Holocene, from around 10,000 years ago, up to the latest forms of slightly stratified societies, which formed the basis for the Garamantian civilization about 3000 years ago. 

Synthesis of the main features ofHolocene cultures in the study area

Learn more

Biagetti, S. and S. di Lernia. 2013. Holocene Deposits of Saharan Rock Shelters: The Case of Takarkori and Other Sites from the Tadrart Acacus Mountains (Southwest Libya). African Archaeological Review 30 (3): 305-338.

Cremaschi, M., and A. Zerboni. 2011. "Human communities in a drying landscape. Holocene climate change and cultural response in the central Sahara.," in Landscape and Societies. Edited by I. P. Martini and W. Chesworth, pp. 67-89. Dordrecht Heidelberg London New York: Springer Science.

di Lernia, S. 2013. "The emergence and spread of herding in Northern Africa: a critical reappraisal," in Oxford Handbook of African Archaeology. Edited by P. J. Mitchell and P. J. Lane, pp. 527–540. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

di Lernia, S., I. Massamba N'siala, and A. M. Mercuri. 2012. Saharan prehistoric basketry. Archaeological and archaeobotanical analysis of the early-middle Holocene assemblage from Takarkori (Acacus Mts., SW Libya). Journal of Archaeological Science 39:1837-1853.

di Lernia, S., and M. A. Tafuri. 2013. Persistent deathplaces and mobile landmarks. The Holocene mortuary and isotopic record from Wadi Takarkori (SW Libya). Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 32: 1-15.

di Lernia, S., Tafuri, M.A., Gallinaro, M., Alhaique, F., Balasse, M., Cavorsi, L., Fullagar, P.D., Mercuri, A.M., Monaco, A., Perego, A. and Zerboni, A. 2013. Inside the "African Cattle Complex". Animal burials in the Holocene Central Sahara. PLoS ONE 8(2): e56879. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056879.

Dunne, J., R. Evershed, M. Salque, L. Cramp, K. Ryan, S. Biagetti, and S. di Lernia. 2012. First dayring in 'green' Saharan African in the 5th millennium BC. Nature 486: 390-394.