Camel Period (Sahara)

This period began in the eastern Sahara around 2,000 years ago when camels first appeared in Africa from the Middle East (camels had already arrived in Egypt by 2,500 BP and perhaps even earlier). The art spread westward right across the Sahara and has lasted until the present day. Although images of horses and cattle still occur in both paintings and engravings the dominant motif is the camel.

Earlier paintings were often beautifully executed, depicting white camels appearing to fly across the sand, bedecked with red trappings and ridden by spear-brandishing warriors, but by and large the artistic standard deteriorates steadily over time and later engravings are often crude, portraying little more than camels, sometimes mounted. Swords appear early in the period followed by firearms. The earlier paintings may be forms of communication while later images may denote places where caravans halted on their trans-Saharan journeys.

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