Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM
SATELLITE IMAGERY DISCOVERY OF HUNDREDS OF ANCIENT HORN-SHAPED STONE CONSTRUCTIONS AND THEIR PROBABLE SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE TO NEOLITHIC CATTLE PASTORALISTS OF THE MALI REPUBLIC, NIGER REPUBLIC, AND SOUTHERN ALGERIA
Pursuant to satellite imagery investigations of rock outcrop patterns in West Africa, we recorded the coordinates of 673 hitherto undescribed ancient stone constructions over more than 300,000 km2 in the eastern Kidal Province of Mali, Talak Desert of NW Niger, and Tassili du Hoggar Desert of southern
Algeria. These remarkable structures generally occur in clusters and, in aerial view, they closely resemble outlines of the crescent moon and/or the varied horn shapes of ankole cattle (Bos taurus). The largest exceed 220m in length and 140m between the tips of the “horns” and were built atop remote desert buttes and inselbergs, distant from traveled routes and elevated well above nearby groupings of similar but smaller structures that would attract little attention from the ground. Most are oriented with the long axes approximately N-S and are open (concave) to the east. Lack of obvious utilitarian purpose yet redundancy of design in so many constructions over such a huge area indicates a symbolic, perhaps ritual or mortuary purpose. We suggest that the well-known central Saharan cattle burials at: (1) Tadrart Acacus (Libya); (2) Adrar Bous (Niger); (3) Talak, Taferjit, and Tamaya Mellet (Niger); and (4) Tessalit (Mali) lie peripheral (northeast, east, south, and west, respectively) to the centers of prehistoric pastoralist activity. Instead, this activity was centered in the upper drainage basin of Wadi Azaouak and its tributaries, where the greatest concentration of crescentic stone constructions occurs. Excavations at the new sites will clarify: dating the origin and movements of Saharan pastoralism; the nature of pastoralist society, social hierarchy, ritual and the “cattle complex;” and debate over whether widespread Saharan cattle pastoralism resulted from slow range expansion during wetter climes or more rapid, forced migration during episodes of drying.