The men ate fish in the Sahara

What is more arid than the Sahara desert? Apparently nothing. And yet it was a wet land rich in water and life. And not so long ago: between 10,200 to 4,650 years. Diverse wildlife and human settlements have left traces. The men ate fish in the Sahara.

The men ate fish in the Sahara, before it became the driest desert in the world.

The Takarkori rock shelter is southwest of Libya. The mountains that surround it are windy, hot and extremely arid. But it wasn't like that in the early Holocene. It is the conclusion of a study published in the open access magazine ‘PLOS ONE‘. It is published by researchers Wim Van Neer of the Natural History Museum of Belgium, and Savino di Lernia, of the Sapienza University of Rome.

Fish and more fish

The rock shelters inside the Tadrart Acacus retain important cultural artifacts and rock art. In this study, the authors worked with the Department of Antiquities of Libya in the excavation of parts of the Takarkori rock shelter.

The remains of fish constituted almost 80 percent of the entire find in general. They totaled 17,551 wildlife remains (19 percent of these were mammalian remains, with remains of birds, reptiles, mollusks and amphibians the last 1.3 percent). It was determined that all fish and most other remains were wastes of human food. The men ate fish in the Sahara. They had cut marks and burn marks. The two genera of Takarkori fish were identified as catfish and tilapia.

Tilapia was one of the most consumed species.
Changing the diet

According to the relative dates of these remains, the amount of fish decreased over time. It went from 90 percent of all remains from 10,200-8,000 years ago to 40 percent of all remains from 5,900-4,650 years ago. It happened as the number of mammals increased. That suggests the inhabitants of Takarkori gradually focused more on hunting and livestock.

The authors also found that the proportion of tilapia decreased more over time. The catfish has accessory respiratory organs that allow them to breathe air and survive in shallow and high temperature waters. It is additional evidence that this now desert environment became less favorable to fish as aridity increased.

"This study reveals the ancient hydrographic network of the Sahara and its interconnection with the Nile. It provides crucial information on the dramatic climatic changes that led to the formation of the world's largest hot desert," the authors add. The Takarkori rock shelter has once again proved to be a true treasure for African archeology and more. It is a fundamental place to reconstruct the complex dynamics among the old groups

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