Article: Imagining Aridity in southwest Libya

Stefano Biagetti & Jasper Chalcraft, “Imagining Aridity: Human–Environment Interactions in the Acacus Mountains, South-West Libya”, in Imagining Landscapes Past, Present and Future, ed. Monica Janowski & Tim Ingold (Ashgate, London, 2012), pp. 77-96.

Abstract: This chapter discusses the human condition in extremely arid lands, namely the interaction of people and environment, and the relevance of the study of the present for the comprehension of the past. This entire area falls under the prescriptive understandings of western climatology and geography, as well as established stereotypes regarding the world’s largest desert. Our challenge to move beyond ‘aridity’ is straightforward: if contemporary pastoralists inhabiting what is technically speaking a hyper-arid area neither perceive nor imagine it as such, then it is unlikely that their historic and prehistoric predecessors perceived it any differently. The study area is located in the southwest corner of Libya, bordering Algeria, in the region of the Fezzan. The main physiographic element in the area is the Tadrart Acacus massif, comprising a dissected mountain range mainly composed of sandstone. Most importantly, the longitudinal orientation of the Acacus massif lends its eastern and western sides very different characteristics.

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