Wan Amil Rock Art Site
Entrance to Wan Amil Shelter
The cave (or shelter) of Wan Amil is a site of
an exceptionally preserved group of colour
paintings, from the Middle Pastoral Period. It was
originally discovered in 1957
by the team of the Italian-Libyan Joint Archaeological Mission in the
Acacus and Messak. Unfortunately
the condition of the treasure has worsened in recent years. The paintings
illustrate the pastoral and neolithic life in Tadrart Acacus and the
One of the most popular paintings is
"The Two Chiefs"
(above, left), sitting facing each other, talking
and exchanging items, which look like bow
arrow; which may
indicate, as has been suggested, an end of war between
two tribes as symbolised by the chiefs exchanging
their weapons; or an alliance between two tribes
to fight a war together.
The next painting (below) clearly shows
a war scene, in which the tribe is led by a
mohican-like chief, intent to attack!
Ochre was one of the pigments used by early humans in rock art
and body painting; and sites showing evidence
of prehistoric ochre mining were discovered
in the Sahara. Naturally, our ancestors could
have started painting with one colour, because
what was important to them at that early
stage was the idea of
itself - the newly discovered art, the precursor
of writing; using any soft
stone or a burnt stick, from the fire left over
from the previous night, to scratch lines on
the surface of the rock.
as they saw blood from hunted and butchered animals
stain the stones and run dry across the rocks
or the floor of the shelter, they could have also
used blood as a colour to paint with. That is
they were inspired by the game to enact the drama,
which later on appears to have evolved into what
experts know as
magic", in which early humans painted ritually to secure
successful hunting and as such most of the early
prehistoric paintings were ritualistic and shamanistic
in nature; and therefore the use of 'blood', rather than red pigment, ensures
the sacredness of the rite.
The addition of white was thus
the introduction of light and purity of thought
which must have occurred as humans' intellect
progressed to produce more abstract forms and subjects to describe
and document their social activities, culture
and evolution, as clearly stated in these paintings.
The subject has moved from animals and hunting
to documenting everyday life.
Another scene showing women in an act of
"hair dressing", a practice which
must have been common to all Africans in the
past as preserved in the number
of hair styles currently present in the continent.
Platted hair and hair locks are common from various
parts of Africa. Other scenes
include dancing; women surrounding a woman
covered in a white, net-like dress, as if it
was a prehistoric wedding ceremony; a woman
holding a baby; dancing scenes; C-shaped huts;
and other social activities which provide
excellent material for enthusiasts, students
and experts alike.