Item Details

Environment and Rock Art in the Jebel Ousselat, Atlas Mountains, Tunisia

Issue: Vol 33 No. 1 (2020)

Journal: Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology

Subject Areas: Ancient History Archaeology

DOI: 10.1558/jma.42344


The Jebel Ousselat, on the eastern edge of the Atlas Mountains in Tunisia, is a semi-arid, degraded upland
landscape; in many ways, it is a marginal environment. Here we present evidence from the early to middle
Holocene (ca. 6200–4200 bc), a period of significant climate change in the wider region, moving from
the African Humid Period towards an arid environment and the development to the south of the Saharan
desert. Employing rock art and lithic evidence from across the landscape, we consider how these strands of
archaeological evidence intersect and facilitate the description of human–environment interactions that
were wholly different from those we see today. The interpretation of the full range of sites is underpinned
by a landscape/environmental framework that considers site location and relationships with topography
and hydrology. We also develop a socio-ecological approach that avoids environmental determinism but
willingly accepts the role that the environment plays in contributing to the structure of human activity
in a complex landscape. The art and archaeology of the Jebel Ousselat reflect complex interactions during
a period of environmental, economic and cultural change. We feel that the art is not a mere reflection of
food procurement but instead points to the production of complex socio-ecological relationships during a
period of transition.

Author: JaĆ¢far Ben Nasr, Kevin Walsh

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