New satellite images have revealed more than a hundred ancient fortified settlements still standing in the Sahara.
The settlements, located in what today is southern Libya, were built by the Garamantes, a people who ruled much of the area for nearly a thousand years until their empire fragmented around 700 AD.
Source: Garamantic Ruins above- Credit: Katy Tzaralunga
Archaeologists could have easily mistaken the well-planned, straight-line construction for Roman frontier forts of similar design, Mattingly observed.
“But, actually, this is beyond the frontiers of the Roman Empire—these sites are markers of a powerful native African kingdom,” he said.
Previous knowledge of the Garamantes is based mainly on excavations at their capital, Jarma, some 125 miles (200 kilometers) to the northwest, as well as on ancient Roman and Greek texts.
“They’ve got metallurgy, very high-quality textiles, a writing system … those sorts of markers that would say this is an organized, state-level society,” he said.
The Garamantes mined reservoirs of prehistoric water using underground canals to cultivate Mediterranean crops—such as wheat, barley, figs, and grapes—and sub-Saharan African sorghum, pearl millet, and cotton.
Images of Garamantes people above
Mattingly and colleagues have calculated that 77,000 man-years of labor went into constructing the underground water channels—a figure that doesn’t include digging the wells or maintenance. A man-year is a unit of the work done by a person in a year.
Garamantes underground paintings above
2,000 years ago, was an urban civilisation with a written language, pyramid tombs, irrigation, agriculture, and armies of chariots and cavalry: the Garamantes.
Tombs of Garamantes above
Garamantes History > www.worldhistoria.com/the-garamantes
The Kings’ Cemetery of the Garamantes in the Sahara Desert, seen from the air above
Then, we have all been making the acquaintance of the Garamantes, the fierce tribesmen who lived in the SaharaDesert, deep inside Libya (CWA 9 & 53). Here, David Mattingly has shown that, far from being migrant bandits, they were in fact hugely successful at exploiting the underground water resources, and established towns of considerable sophistication in what appears at first sight to be a most hostile environment.