The Fazzan Project - Archaeological survey and excavation in the Sahara

About the Project                  panorama 3 b&w

The Libyan Sahara is one of the richest desert areas for the study of human adaptation to changing environmental and climatic conditions. Fazzan is Libya’s vast south-west desert province, its boundaries variously defined over time to cover an era of 550,000–640,000 km2. This area has historically offered the greatest possibilities for settled communities and well-watered long-range routes. The Garamantes play a major part in the story of Fazzan and seem to have flourished there in the period c.500 BC to AD 500, and one of the aims of this project is to set them in their spatial and chronological contexts.

The Fazzan Project was essentially conceived to combine the results of fieldwork sporadically conducted between 1958 and 1977 by the late Charles Daniels and between 1997 and 2001 by David Mattingly, in conjunction with the Department of Antiquities, Libya, and the Society for Libyan Studies. Four volumes were planned, of which three are now published, with the final publication planned for 2013.

old survey team

The first phase of research married the fieldwork of Charles Daniels and David Mattingly and essentially set out to provide a preliminary synthesis with a rich interdisciplinary element studying the geography, climate, hydrology and environment alongside the archaeological and historical evidence across a broad time frame – essentially the last 12,000 years.

Phase two looked in more detail at key archaeological discoveries and included the compilation of an in-depth archaeological survey report that was linked to the first attempt at a full-scale pottery type series from the Sahara. The resulting publication is thus mainly a site gazetteer, richly illustrated, with separate reports on the programme of radiocarbon dating carried out on lithics, metallurgical and non-metallurgical industrial residues and various categories of small finds. The final pottery type series created a much-needed standard for future research, and covers the late pastoral to the early Medieval, with the emphasis on the period between 900 BC and AD 500.

incense burnerThe third phase of the project is principally dedicated to the publication of Charles Daniels’s pioneering excavations at a wide range of sites, from hillfort-type settlements of the 1st millennium BC such as Zinkekra, to oasis villages of the early centuries AD like Saniat Jibril. These excavations created a unique body of data on these type sites in Fazzan and are of vital importance to our understanding of this region and its wider connectivity.

The final phase of this research project will see the publication of the excavations and survey carried out by David Mattingly at the Garamantian capital of Old Jarma.

The work of the Fazzan project and its ground-breaking publications are key to advancing our knowledge of human settlement and adaptation in the world’s largest desert, the Sahara.

In addition, a major aim of the project is to bring to wider attention the remarkable finds assemblages recovered, and the surprising quantity and quality of sites and settlements in the area, which will be of interest to specialists in Saharan, sub-Saharan and Roman archaeology alike. The Garamantes emerge from this research as an culturally distinct, powerful and influential people and the associated Desert Migrations Project, which began in 2007, picks up from this initial research through full excavation and survey in a wide area around Old Jarma. A new project, Trans-Sahara, funded by the European Research Council, puts all of these projects into a wider Saharan perspective, looking at state formation, migration and trade in the central Sahara between 1000 BC and AD 1500.

 

Main Publications

 

Mattingly, D. J., Daniels, C. M., Dore, J. N., Edwards, D. and Hawthorne, J. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 1, Synthesis. The Society for Libyan Studies/Department of Antiquities, London (published 2003).

Mattingly, D. J., Daniels, C. M., Dore, J. N., Edwards, D. and Hawthorne, J. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 2, Gazetteer, Pottery and Other Finds. The Society for Libyan Studies/Department of Antiquities, London (published 2007).

Mattingly, D. J., Daniels, C. M., Dore, J. N., Edwards, D. and Hawthorne, J. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 3, Excavations of C.M. Daniels. The Society for Libyan Studies/Department of Antiquities, London (published 2010).

Mattingly, D. J., Daniels, C. M., Dore, J. N., Edwards, D. and Hawthorne, J. Forthcoming. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 4, Survey and Excavations at Old Jarma (Ancient Garama) carried out by C. M. Daniels (1962–69) and the Fazzān Project (1997–2001). The Society for Libyan Studies/Department of Antiquities, London (forthcoming).

 

Share this page: