Monday, September 26, 2011


David J. Mattingly (ed.), The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 3, Excavations of C. M. Daniels. Society for Libyan Studies monograph 8. Tripoli/London: Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahariya, Department of Antiquities; Society for Libyan Studies, 2010. Pp. xxv, 573. ISBN 9781900971102. €60.00.

Reviewed by Eleftheria Pappa, VU Amsterdam University (

Version at BMCR home site

This is the third and penultimate volume of The Archaeology of Fazzān multidisciplinary project series, which publishes the results of the fieldwork directed by David Mattingly in the Libyan desert region of the Fazzān (1997-2001), along with those of the earlier excavations and surveys by Charles Daniels (1958-1977). Following the first two volumes of the series, one of which consists of a synthesis of the evidence from this Saharan region1 and an additional volume of a site gazeteer and survey finds,2 the present endeavour includes Daniels' results of all excavations and surveys in the region, with the exception of the Classic Garamantian settlement of Old Jarma—the focus of Volume 4. Fieldwork in the area is continued by the "Desert Migrations Project", directed by David Mattingly. 3 The aim of the volume is to bring to the fore the outcome of multiple interventions of varying degrees of scientific expertise carried out in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s by Daniels, but also by Libyan and French teams of archaeologists, whose work remained unpublished or scarcely known. The monumental task of systematically collecting, cross-referencing and reconstructing information from archival documents, including field reports and correspondence, old museum catalogues and photographic material succeeds in making available to the public a wealth of information that would have otherwise remained irretrievable. This is further enhanced by the Fazzān Project's recent fieldwork, which clarifies, systematizes and expands on these older data, especially crucial in the fields of chronology and ceramic and tomb typology. The occasional omissions in the archaeological contexts and finds presented in the volume are the inherent problems of such a task of reconstruction and do not deprive it of its value.

Following the introduction, ten other chapters are divided into four thematic parts, dealing with the early Garamantian escarpment sites, Classic Garamantian oasis settlements, excavations at Garamantian cemeteries and other excavation finds. A list of acronyms and one of transliterated Arabic place names are supplemented by a full bibliography and an index. A summary in Arabic can be found at the end.

The introductory chapter sets out the background of Charles Daniels' career in Africa, detailing his expeditions between 1955 and 1977 and giving an account of his shortcomings in publishing them. Apart from an early popular monograph and a few interim reports appearing mostly in the Annual Report of the Society for Libyan Studies, much of Daniels' work remained unknown. His activity was preceded by and overlapped with that of the Controller of Antiquities for the Fazzān, Mohammed Suleiman Ayoub, whose multi-scale and "prolific" operations lacked a firm scientific basis, despite Daniels' attempts to instruct him.

Part I deals with the early Garamantian escarpment settlements of Zinkekrā, Tinda, al-Khara'iq and Ikhlif, located along the southern, escarpment edge of Wādī al-Ajāl. Chapter 1 presents Zinkekrā, the type-site of an Early (1000- 500 BC) and Proto-Urban (500-1 BC) Garamantian settlement. A fortified headland site, with a later cemetery, 4 km to the west of modern Jarma, it was well-published by Daniels. Previous fieldwork was carried out by Ayoub, presaged by Caputo's Italian team in the 1930s. Enclosure and defensive walls are attested on the top of the spur and on the hillsides. Timber, stone and mudbrick structures, as well as mudbrick and stone rectangular houses emerged in overlapping succession. Ceramic fabrics are distinctively local but the forms have parallels elsewhere in the Fazzān, while small-scale beadmaking is documented. Agriculture and pastoralism were practiced from the early first millennium BC. It is assumed that water supply must have been obtained either from wells dug into the foothill or from springs on the headland, though apart from some gypsum crystal deposits on the northern slope, there is no evidence for either. Ceramic typology was revised according to The Archaeology of Fazzān 2. The radiocarbon dates supplied, although useful in confirming the 1st millennium BC date of the site, are too broad for refining its occupation sequences (p. 78). A nucleated cemetery (1st-2nd c. BC) postdates the use of the site as a settlement. Evidence for rock art (from the Neolithic to the Garamantian period) is summarily treated here in anticipation of a specialized study. The site also yielded a 4th c. AD rock- cut Greek inscription of a Latin name. In Chapter 2, limited work at Tinda suggests a simpler settlement, though Hellenistic/Punic imports were substantial. Cemeteries were likely situated in the northwest/northeast. The smaller Early Garamantian site at al-Khara'iq is also discussed, along with that of Ikhlif, a dispersed settlement of embankments and stone structures.

Part II presents the excavations at the Classic Garamantian (1-400 AD) oasis settlements of Sāniat Jibrīl and Sāniat Sulaymān Krayda in Chapters 3 and 4 respectively. At the former, excavations by Daniels and a survey by Mattingly revealed a nucleated oasis settlement, occupied from the 1st to the 4th c. AD according to the stratigraphic finds, or from 1st BC to the 5th c. AD according to the survey results. Architecture consisted in multi-room, mudbrick houses with internal, U-shaped structures of a domestic function. Metallurgical activities and large-scale bead-production are documented. Imported Roman pottery, both amphorae and fine wares, show a steady inflow from the Mediterranean coast. Small-scale excavation at Sāniat Sulaymān Krayda revealed a contemporary settlement of mudbrick structures.

Part III deals with the cemeteries and the osteological remains. Chapter 5 publishes the inhumation cemetery of Sāniat Bin Huwaydī, a low mound 2 km from modern Jarma. This is the first full report on any Garamantian cemetery. Superimposed layers of mudbrick tombs, with offering tables and stelae, are examined using the typology devised within the The Archaeology of Fazzān series, so it is advisable to read the chapter with Volume 2 open. Interventions by Ayoub, Daniels and an unidentified French team are reconstructed here. Large, rectangular tombs with rectangular chambers in Phase I (late 1st- early 2nd c. AD) are followed by tombs made of rectangular platforms and oval shafts in Phase II (- late 3rd c. AD), with considerable overlap. Tripolitanian and Roman amphorae, fine wares and lamps are prominent among the many unrobbed tombs of Phase I; by Phase III, imports allow the identification of specific pottery workshops in Pisa. Chapter 6 catalogues the results of small-scale interventions at the nucleated Late Garamantian cemetery of Tāqallit, comprising monumental, stepped square or sub-rectangular tombs and shaft graves. A group of pyramidal tombs at Al-Haţīya are mentioned and the few burials from the early cemetery (2nd-1st c. BC) at Zinkekrā are catalogued. Information is available only for a single burial for the late cemeteries (1st-4th c. AD). The Late Garamantian (4th-6th c. AD) so-called Royal Cemetery, south of modern Jarma and the rectilinear Tuwash and al-Fugār mausolea are also discussed. The latter appear to have been cenotaphs. Three burials from the settlement at Al-Kharai'iq and yet another from Ikhlif are also catalogued.

Chapter 7 presents the results of the osteological analysis of skeletal material from fifty-six individuals of different periods kept at the Jarma Museum. Due to the deterioration of the storage material, it was not always possible to distinguish the bones of different individuals. The highest mortality rate is observed in the 18-35 age group. Low infant mortality is almost certainly due to alternative forms of burial for foetuses, e.g., under house floors. There was a high frequency of osteoarthritis and osteophytosis attesting to the physically demanding life conditions of the Garamantes. Two cases of serious skull traumas that healed hint at Garamantian medical practices. Yet any conclusions on biological affinities, demography of the population are tempered not only by the low sample size, but primarily by its chronological discordance.

Part IV deals with other excavation finds and the conclusions. Chapter 8 is a detailed discussion on the non-ceramic finds, including the glass assemblages from Ayoub's and Daniels' excavations, dating from the Hellenistic period to the Late Roman. Two meticulous catalogues of glass and faience from Sāniat Bin Huwaydī and from other sites reunite material kept at Jarma Museum and at Newcastle University. Catalogues deal separately with the glass and faience objects from Sāniat Bin Huwaydī and from other sites, beads and bead grinders, stone artefacts, impressed pottery and with textiles from Zinkekrā. The latter show the development of a local tradition of Z-spin, predating that of the Islamic period by centuries. Beads from Old Jarma are also catalogued here as part of a group (p. 461-470), although there is an absence of any discussion of this site in the volume.

Chapter 9 is the summary of an earlier palaeobotanical study of the plant remains from Zinkekrā, which identified a remarkable 9,966 species, including three cereal crops, fruits, date palms and other wild plants. It suggests that processing of domesticated crops took place at the top of the settlement, while food consumption on the northern slopes. A brief report and catalogue on the archaeozoological evidence from 1966 are reproduced here, including material from Old Jarma, Zinkekrā, Sāniat Jibrīl. Again, it is not clear why material from Old Jarma was included - perhaps so as not to mutilate the initial report.

Chapter 10 offers the final conclusions, approaching the subject chronologically from the Early Garamantian Period (1000-500 BC) to the Late (400-700 AD), where the evidence is summarised and some additional interpretations based on the wider historical context are offered. For example, an increase in the imports at Sāniat Jibrīl and Sāniat Bin Huwaydī in the late 1st c. AD is related to the Garamantian intervention in territorial conflicts of the Tripolitanian cities (p. 527-529). Nevertheless, given the qualitative and quantitative richness of the data contained in this volume and the labour invested in their analysis, this final chapter is surprising in its brevity and rather narrow scope. Perhaps the authors anticipate the publication of the final Volume 4 in which to draw on the entire corpus of evidence for a deeper and more detailed analysis and interpretation.

Few observation of a minor weight can be made: for some of the less familiar terms a definition is not always given (i.e. "hamada") or its meaning is clarified a few times after the word has been used (e.g. "doca", which appears twice without a definition, before one being supplied on p. 98). Two minor problems occur with the information contained in a table and a figure.4

The volume is a meticulous, multidisciplinary piece of work, superbly illustrated and commendable for its clarity and easiness of use. It is an indispensible addition to the limited, but rapidly expanding publication record in Saharan archaeology, with great value not only for those working on the region, but also for others interested in the trade connections on the frontiers of the Roman world. It will also be essential to the identification of provenance for those finds stored at the Jarma Museum.


1.   Mattingly, D.J. (ed.) 2003. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 1. Synthesis. London: The Society for Libyan Studies, Department of Antiquities.
2.   Mattingly, D.J. (ed.) 2007. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 2. Site Gazeteer, Pottery and Other Survey Finds. Society for Libyan Studies Monograph 7. London: The Society for Libyan Studies and Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahariya Department of Antiquities.
3.   e.g. Mattingly, D.J., Lahr, M., Armitage, S., Barton, H., Dore, J., Drake, N., Foley, R., Merlo, S., Salem, M., Stock, J. and White, K. 2007. Desert Migrations: people, environment and culture in the Libyan Sahara. Libyan Studies 38:115-56. Mattingly, D.J., Dore, J. and Lahr, M. (with contributions by others). 2008. DMP II: 2008 fieldwork on burials and identity in the Wādī al-Ajāl. Libyan Studies 39: 223-62. [[4] In Table 0.2 (p. 14), the "Late Pastoral Phase (3000-1000 BC/AD)" is followed by the "Pastoral phase (undifferentiated) (5500-1000 BC/AD)", despite the order being one of chronological ascendancy for the remaining table entries. The description of Figure 3.216 (p. 138) does not seem to correspond to the photograph in relation with the plan in Figure 3.21 (p.136).

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