The Sahara Desert covers a majority of land in North Africa, in some places reaching all the way to the sea. It is mostly a rocky desert environment with pockets of sand oceans and scattered oases. Analysis of paleoenvironments shows that the early Holocene (c. 6,000 BCE) Sahara region was more humid than it is today, with an average annual rainfall of 300-600 mm. This region and time period is characterized by diminishing wet seasons and an increase of desertification and dry phases. Foraging groups existed around the oases since ancient times and began to experiment with herding goats, sheep, and cattle. This is the region where pastoralism in Africa likely originated independently at different sites by different groups of people.

- A modern day pastoralist leads his cattle image source:

A modern day pastoralist leads his cattle
image source:

Uan Afuda and Thora Caves


Barker, Graeme. The Uan Afuda cave in the Tadrat Acacus mountains. 2009. Photograph. Private collection.

Part of the Ghat District of western Libya, the Tadrart Acacus Mountains hold key sites of early forager and transitional pastoral environments. Evidence of flint tools, simple pottery and plant/animal remains suggest that caves such as Uan Afuda and Thora were “base camps” for foragers in early Holocene.

*Looking at the stratified layers towards the back of the cave, researchers found dung and coprolites (essentially fossilized feces). From this, they questioned animal management by those living in this area. What is the relationship between wild animal management and the start of food production? The carbon dating of the dung dates back about 6300-6500 years BCE. Based on morphology and comparison to modern species, the most likely “dung-makers” were Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia).  Based on dung distribution in the cave areas, it is also very likely that these animals were kept penned in a localized area.





Barker, G. (2009). The agricultural revolution in prehistory: Why did foragers become farmers?. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp. 275

*di Lernia, Savino. (2001) Dismantling Dung: Delayed Use of Food Resources among Early Holocene Foragers of the Libyan Sahara. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 20, pp 408-441.