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


  • Jaâfar Ben Nasr University of Kairouan
  • Kevin Walsh Aix-Marseille University, France and University of York




environmental change, prehistory (Capsian, Neolithic), rock art, Tunisia, uplands


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 Biographies

Jaâfar Ben Nasr, University of Kairouan

Jaâfar Ben Nasr is a Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Kairouan (Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Arts and Humanities). His scientific interests are mainly rock art, prehistoric archaeology and ethnoarchaeology. He has carried out extensive fieldwork in central and southern Tunisia. He has also organised and published several symposia in archaeology. His publications focus on rock art and prehistoric archaeology in Tunisia.

Kevin Walsh, Aix-Marseille University, France and University of York

Kevin Walsh is Reader in Landscape Archaeology at the University of York. His research interests broadly deal with mid-late Holocene human–environment interactions in Mediterranean mountains. He has carried out extensive field work in the southern Alps, Provence and the Peloponnese. Some of this work has included rock art research in ‘marginal’ environments. He has published widely on all these themes, including a single-authored volume, The Archaeology of Mediterranean Landscapes: Human–Environment Interaction from the Neolithic to the Roman Period (2014, Cambridge University Press).





How to Cite

Ben Nasr, J., & Walsh, K. (2020). Environment and Rock Art in the Jebel Ousselat, Atlas Mountains, Tunisia. Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology, 33(1), 3–28. https://doi.org/10.1558/jma.42344