The Acacus Mountains are a range of mountains in the extreme south west corner of Libya in the Sahara, an area that is often known as the Fezzan. These mountains continue geologically into south eastern Algeria where they are known as the Tadrart. In the 1980s Algeria’s Tassili n’ Ajjer, which is just over the border from here, was listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List as was Libya’s Acacus. More recently, the Acacus in Libya and the Tadrart in Algeria were listed and combined as a trans-frontier World Heritage Site thus linking the two geological parts of the whole into one site. The Acacus are, like the Tassili, the eroded remains of an old sandstone plateau. These remains take the form of canyons, rock towers and giant arches, as well as, flat topped mountains among which are large numbers of rock arts sites. The oldest rock engravings here are from the large Wild fauna period (Early Hunter period) and could date back around 12,000 years. The earliest paintings are, as in the Tassili n’ Ajjer in Algeria, from as much as 8,000 or 9000 years ago. There are however many different styles and periods of art in this region, including the Pastoral period or style which lasted for thousands of years.
Only 100 kilometres or so to the east of the Acacus is another plateau area, the Messak Sattafet (and Messak Mellet) which is the eroded remains of a huge ancient crater, the Murzuq crater which is visible from space. This geological phenomenon plays host to one of the richest concentrations or rock art in Africa, yet it is not part of the Acacus or Tadrart-Acacus World Heritage Site which is situated well to the west. There are no paintings in the Messak, only engravings and many of the engravings are believed to be very old, perhaps as much as 10, 000 years or more. The area is known for its larger than life size engravings of animals such as elephant, rhino and bubalus, the prehistoric buffalo with huge horns which became extinct round 5,000 years ago. The Messak is also known for its engravings of dog-headed men often depicted copulating with giraffes and elephants.
The Rock Engravings of Messak Settafet & Mellet
4 or more overlain bas relief animal engravings, Messak Plateau, Libya
2 cattle engravings on a boulder, Messak Plateau, Libya
Stylised engraving of an elephant that seems to be pooping as it walks left. On the far left another (smaller) elephant walking in the opposite direction is visible, Messak Plateau, Libya
Overlain animal engravings, Messak Plateau, Libya
Engraving of a long eared animal, possibly a hare, Messak Plateau, Libya
Detailed chameleon engraving, Messak Plateau, Libya
Geometric engraving on a rock, Messak Plateau, Libya
Multiple animal engravings including possible mountain goats and aurochs, Messak Plateau, Libya
Detail of engraving of a long-horned animal, Messak Plateau, Libya
3 overlain engravings, most visible is the horned animal, Messak Plateau, Libya
Engraving of a mountain goat or wild sheep, Messak Plateau, Libya
Beautiful engraving of a cow, Messak Plateau, Libya
Messak. Recently erected tourism sign marking the Wadi Mathendous rock art site.
Messak. A view of the main Wadi Mathendous rock art site.
Messak. Ugly concrete & iron fence marking perimeter of main Wadi Mathendous rock art site.
Messak. Ugly storage containers next to tourist car park at the Wadi Mathendous site.
Messak. Close up of ‘Fighting cats’ engravings.
Messak. Details of engraved predator with two large eyes, spotted body and claws standing, facing left, arms outstretched with small animal (cow?) by its face. Probably early hunter period.
rock art, Messak Plateau, Libya,
Messak. Engravings of 3 polished and pecked giraffes and cow facing right.
Messak. Engraved panel of giraffes facing right.
Messak. Polished engravings of 2 antelopes, facing each other.
Messak. Engraving of elephant facing left, confronted by a mythical, human-like figure, and a small animal at the bottom, facing right.
Messak. Side view of large crocodile with deep polished lines, facing right. Small crocodile (without tail) below tail of large crocodile. Note large crack through rock its tail cow-like animal below crocodile facing right.
Messak. Head-on view of large crocodile engraving with deep polished lines, facing right. Small crocodile (without tail) below its tail cow-like animal below crocodile facing right.