Environment and Rock Art in the Jebel Ousselat, Atlas Mountains, Tunisia
Keywords:environmental change, prehistory (Capsian, Neolithic), rock art, Tunisia, uplands
AbstractThe 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.
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