Photo of a rectangular one-story building with central courtyard in desert oasis environment with palm trees.

A traditional house in the oasis of Ghat, Libyan Sahara. (Photo: Lucia Mori)

17th Annual Leon Levy Lecture

In Search of the “Evanescent” Garamantes: The Central Sahara in the 1st Millennium BCE

Lucia Mori

Sapienza Università di Roma

This lecture will take place in person at ISAW.

Registration is required at THIS LINK.

The Leon Levy Lecture is supported by the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation and the Leon Levy Foundation.

The history of the Sahara, which is nowadays the largest hot desert in the world, is still to be written for the most part. Until some decades ago, there had been only little acknowledgement of pristine and early African urbanization before the Islamic period, except for the Mediterranean and Nilotic civilizations. The Sahara was mainly considered as a regional, geographic, and cultural barrier, separating North Africa from the sub-Saharan southern regions. The existence of a distinct network of oases in the Central Sahara as the trading points of an interconnected system developing prior to the Islamic era was substantially denied. However, archaeological excavations in the region of Fazzan, Libyan Sahara, from the early 2000s, have profoundly altered this perspective, showing instead the genesis of an early state in relation to the process of oases formation already from the 1st mill. BCE. The “Garamantes” mentioned in the Classical sources and often depicted as desert marauders, have regained a proper place in the African history, as a complex civilization that introduced different subsistence strategies in an arid environment, no longer suitable to mobile pastoral societies, shaping the oases landscape into a man-made environment.

Lucia Mori is Associate professor of History of the ancient Near East at Sapienza University of Rome and member of the PhD school of Philology and History of the Ancient World at Sapienza. She has carried out archaeological research in the Libyan Sahara, in the region of the Tadrart Acacus, (Unesco site from 1985) till 2011. She has also worked in Syria, collaborating with the Tell Leilan project of the Yale University, and is now in charge of the historical and archaeological research on the Hittite and Post-Hittite period at Arslantepe (Malatya, SE Turkey), site enlisted in the Unesco World Heritage List from 2021.

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