Wan Amil (Uan Amil)

an information welcome board to wan amil

Wan Amil Rock Art Site


the entrance to the cave

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 surrounding areas.


social activities
Wan Amil

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!


a fighting scene with people holding bows and arrows

Wan Amil

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 "drawing" 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.


social scene

Wan Amil

Equally natural, 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 "sympathetic 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.


a giraffe followed by a figure painted white

Wan Amil

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.


a group of people, two seems to be doing their hair

Wan Amil

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.