Tag Archives: desert

Book: Ethnoarchaeology of the Kel Tadrart Tuareg in Libya

Stefano Biagetti, Ethnoarchaeology of the Kel Tadrart Tuareg: Pastoralism and Resilience in Central Sahara (Springer Publishing, 2014).

This book focuses on the issues of resilience and variability of desert pastoralists, explicitly challenging a set of traditional topics of the discourse around pastoralism in arid lands of the Old World. Based on a field research carried out on the Kel Tadrart Tuareg in Libya, various facets of a surprisingly successful adaptation to an extremely arid environment are investigated. By means of an ethnoarchaeological approach, explored are the Kel Tadrart interactions with natural resources, the settlement patterns, the campsite structures, and the formation of the pastoral archaeological landscape, focusing on variability and its causes. The resilience of the Kel Tadrart is the key to understand the reasons of their choice to stay and live in the almost rainless Acacus Mountains, in spite of strong pressure to sedentarize in the neighboring oases. Through the collection of the interviews, participant observation, mapping of inhabited and abandoned campsites, remote sensing, and archival sources, various and different Kel Tadrart strategies, perceptions, and material cultures are examined. This book fills an important gap in the ethnoarchaeological research in central Sahara and in the study of desert pastoralism.​ Desert lands are likely to increase over the next decades but, our knowledge of human adaptations to these areas of the world is still patchy and generally biased by the idea that extremely arid lands are not suited for human occupation.​

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.

Article: The Libyan Connection in Northern Chad

A recent article addresses some of the Saharan, and specifically Chadian connections of southern Libya, taking a longer historical look at the area’s history in order to explore conflicts such as Libya’s war in Chad in the 1980s and recent ones post-revolution.

Scheele, Judith. (2016). The Libyan Connection: Settlement, war, and other Entanglements in Northern Chad. The Journal of African History 57(1), 115-134.

Historically, connections between southern Libya and northern Chad have always been close, if only due to the fundamental need for connectivity that characterises most Saharan economies. Drawing on so far mostly inaccessible archival records and oral history, this article outlines the implications of this proximity, arguing that it led to intimate entanglements within families and an ongoing confusion of property rights. This in turn resulted in increased rather than diminished hostility during the years of war that opposed the two countries, as people attempted to define uncertain boundaries, and were – and still are – competing for access to similar resources, moral, symbolic, social, and economic.

Organization and Social Structure in Libyan Oases

ghadames-chart-eldblom1968

Organization of cultivated land in Ghadames (pull-out chart from Eldblom, Structure foncière, 1968).

In the late 60s, the Swedish scholar Lars Eldblom published an extremely detailed study of the socio-economic life in the three Libyan oases of Ghadames, Ghat, and Mourzouk. Since life in Libya has changed dramatically since then, his work undoubtedly documents pheno-mena of oasis life that hardly or no longer exist. It is also full of detailed maps and figures, based on painstaking research. Because of its high level of detail it certainly deserves to be better known. The book is:

Eldblom, Lars. 1968. Structure foncière. Organisation et structure sociale. Une étude comparative sur la vie socio-économique dans les trois oasis libyennes de Ghat, Mourzouk et particulièrement Ghadamès. Lund.

He also published an English summary of the book, under the following title (available freely online):

Eldblom, Lars. 1971. Land tenure – social organization and structure: a comparative sample study of the socio-economic life in the three Libyan oases of Ghat, Mourzouk and Ghadamès. Uppsala University: Nordic Africa Institute.

And finally, I have also found an earlier study of his focusing especially on irrigation in the oases of Brak, Ghadames, and Mourzouk:

Eldblom, Lars. 1961. Quelques points du vue comparatifs sur les problèmes d’irrigation dans les trois oasis Libyennes de Brâk, Ghadames et particulièrement Mourzouk. Lund (Lund Studies in Geography 22).

Bordercrossing Touareg between Niger, Algeria, and Libya

Ines Kohl. 2009. Beautiful Modern Nomads: Bordercrossing Tuareg between Niger, Algeria and Libya. Berlin.

“The Ishumar, a group of “new modern nomads” are borderliners who move between Niger, Algeria, and Libya, and in doing so not only cross territorial borders, but also social and societal boundaries and barriers. It is characteristic of the Ishumar that their way of life is one beyond traditional systems. They break away from traditional norms and values, select special elements, change them, and place them into a new context. Their ideas, concepts and ideals of beauty and aesthetics, values and morals, can be regarded as an indicator of sociocultural changes in the Sahara.”

You can see a number of pictures from the book and read an extract over at the site of Ines Kohl.

Urbanization and urbanity in the Libyan Fezzan

During this month we will focus on the Fezzan, Libya’s southern region. This region is covered by so little Western journalism that a Twitter account was started simply to produce reliable information from and on it: the Fezzan Libya Media Group. It would be beneficial to focus on the Fezzan from an academic perspective, too. Like other parts of Libya, the Fezzan has interesting people, cultures, and histories. So to start off with, another open-access publication:

Villes du Sahara: Urbanisation et urbanité dans le Fezzan libyen [Cities of the Sahara: Urbanization and urbanity in the Libyan Fezzan]. ed. Olivier Pliez. CNRS Éditions (2003).

The book is divided into three sections, which discuss “the cities of the Fezzan between the State and crossroads”, “local dynamics framed by the State”, and “towards a Saharan urbanity”. An essay by the same author, also on urbanization in the Fezzan (also in French) titled “An urbanity without a city?” , is also available online.

Bridges Across the Sahara | جسور عبر الصحراء

Ahmida, Ali (ed.) 2009. Bridges Across the Sahara: Social, Economic and Cultural Impact of the Trans-Sahara Trade During the 19th and 20th Centuries. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

“The objective of this edited book is to rethink the history of colonial and nationalist categories and analyses of modern Africa through an integration and examination of the African Saharan trade as bridges that link the North, Central, and West regions of Africa. Firstly, it offers a critique of the colonial, postcolonial and nationalist historiographies, and also of current western scholarship on northern and Saharan Africa especially Middle East Studies and African Studies Associations. Secondly, it provides an alternative narrative of the forgotten histories of the Sahara trade as linkages between the North and the South of the Sahara. The Sahara desert was seldom a barrier separating the northern, middle and western parts of the continent….”

Contributions:

“Introduction. Neither a Divide nor an Empty Space: The Sahara as a Bridge” by Ali Abdullatif Ahmida

“Trans Saharan Trade in Arabic Sources until the 16th Century: A Study of Means of Transactions” by Ahmed Elyas

“The Organization of Caravan Trade in Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Western Africa” by Ghislaine Lydon

“The Sociocultural and Economic Exchange between the Augila Oasis and the Cyrenaican Bedouin in Libya’s Eastern Sahara: A Centuries-long Symbiotic Relationship” by John P. Mason

“Redeemed Lives in the Trans-Saharan Migrations of the Nineteenth Century” by Terence Walz

“Strategic Aspects of the Shrinking Trans-Saharan Trade in Eastern Libya: Revisiting the Italian Occupation of al-Jaghbub, 1925-26” by Fred H. Lawson

“Weapons and “smugglers” throughout Western Sahara: From the Anti-colonial Resistance to the First World War” by Francesco Correale

“Camels as Trading Goods: The Transition from a Beast of Burden to a Commodity in the Trans-Saharan Trade between Chad and Libya” by Meike Meerpohl

“Ibrahim Al-Koni’s Atlas of the Sahara” by Elliot Colla