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The ancient Sahara has often been treated as a periphery or barrier, but this agenda-setting book – the final volume of the Trans-Saharan Archaeology Series – demonstrates that it was teeming with technological innovations, knowledge transfer, and trade from long before the Islamic period. In each chapter, expert authors present important syntheses, and new evidence for technologies from oasis farming and irrigation, animal husbandry and textile weaving, to pottery, glass and metal making by groups inhabiting the Sahara and contiguous zones. Scientific analysis is brought together with anthropology and archaeology. The resultant picture of transformations in technologies between the third millennium BC and the second millennium AD is rich and detailed, including analysis of the relationship between the different materials and techniques discussed, and demonstrating the significance of the Sahara both in its own right and in telling the stories of neighbouring regions.
The Maghrib has a rich tradition of archaeological studies. However, this research has been biased from the chronological and cultural points of view. This is due to different reasons, relating to both the nature of the archaeological record and the ideological and political circumstances that developed successively under colonial rule and, from the mid-twentieth century, in the modern independent states of the area.
In general, comparatively little attention has been paid to the indigenous cultures of the pre-Roman period, in particular as regards dwelling sites, which generally underlie thick stratigraphic deposits of later periods. The situation is somewhat different with regard to funerary archaeology, as North Africa, especially its eastern portion, is characterised by the existence of a surprising number and diversity of pre-Roman sepulchral monuments.
The previous chapter introduced the Garamantes, an ancient Saharan people, whose story can be traced archaeologically through the first millennium BC and first millennium AD (see also Figs 1.1and 1.2 for location maps). This chapter presents evidence on the funerary practices of the Garamantian heartlands in the Wadi al-Ajal in the Libyan Fazzan (Central Sahara). The Wadi al-Ajal is a long and thin oasis depression running for c.150 km from al-Abyad (to the south-west of Fazzan’s modern capital at Sabha) to Ubari. Our work has been particularly focused on the area around Jarma (ancient Garama, the Garamantian capital about 40 km east of Ubari). The burials in these Garamantian heartlands differ in certain significant ways from those recorded by the Italian mission at Aghram Nadharif and Fewet, and an interesting aspect of the discussion we shall develop below seeks to explain this difference.
Despite more than 150 years of archaeological research in the Maghrib and the Sahara, it is still difficult to establish a universally accepted chronological framework for Moroccan protohistory. While it is generally agreed that its beginning corresponds with the appearance of metal objects around the start of the third millennium BC, its end is much more imprecise, vague and uncertain. The Mediterranean littoral and its hinterland first entered written history around the eighth century BC, at the date of the earliest evidence for a Phoenician presence. However, the other continental regions of Morocco were not part of this schema. These areas were at the margins of ancient knowledge. During the centuries of the ‘Phoenician presence’, only the urban centres changed their character; the countryside, on the other hand, retained a protohistoric lifestyle.