This volume presents the results of the archaeological investigations in the oasis of Fewet (SW Libyan Sahara), carried out by the Archaeological Mission in the Sahara of the Sapienza University of Rome. Evidences of an ancient rural village were identified under the houses of the modern town of Tan Afella and a large necropolis, dated to the Garamantian times, spread at the fringes of the modern settlement. Until 1997 very little was known on the Garamantian period in the Wadi Tanezzuft area and on the transition from the pastoral to the early-historical phase. This period witnessed the gradual sedentarisation of human groups in the oases, and the development of caravan routes with the flourishing of an intra- and trans-Saharan trade. These processes, also influenced by significant alterations in climate, which led to the agricultural exploitation of the limited areas where water resources were available – the oases – were archaeologically unknown as far as settlements were concerned. The archaeological surveys and excavations carried out in the area of Fewet were particularly promising and are here analysed in a multidisciplinary perspective, which takes into consideration environmental and anthropological studies in the attempt to reconstruct the culture and the life of people inhabiting the Southern Fezzan region in early-historical times.
«The historical archaeology of the Sahara remains an underdeveloped field of research, especially for the pre-Islamic period. The most significant exception to this rule has for long concerned the people known as the Garamantes, who inhabited the central Saharan region coincident with Libya’s south-west province, Fezzan. (…) This volume is a marvelous addition to the small corpus of published research on the Pre-Islamic oasis societies of the Sahara and provides a complementary perspective on the world of the Garamantes to the Anglo-Libyan work I have directed from their heartlands in the Wadi el-Ajal, c. 400 km to north-east of Ghat». Prof. David J. Mattingly, University of Leicester, UK.
Lucia Mori (PhD Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples) is Assistant Professor in History of the ancient Near East at the Department of Antiquities, of Sapienza Università di Roma. She is a member of the Italian-Libyan Archaeological Mission in the Sahara (previously Archaeological Mission in Acacus and Messak) since 1997. Her research in the Libyan Sahara has been focused on the reconstruction of the early-historical phases in the region.
Contributions by Francesca Alhaique, Alice Ballerini, Luisa Barbato, Andrea Bernasconi, Giovanna Bosi, Silvia Bruni, Fabrizio Buldrini, Emanuele Cancellieri, Roberto Castelli , Francesca Castorina, Mauro Cremaschi, Fabio di Vincenzo, Maria Carmela Gatto, Gianluca Groppelli, Vittoria Guglielmi, Cristina Lemorini, Mario Liverani, Giorgio Manzi, Anna Maria Mercuri, Caterina Ottomano, Antonello Pelosi, Cristiano Putzolu, Marco Ramazzotti, Francesca Ricci, Mary Anne Tafuri, Marco Verità, Pietro Vignola, Daniela Zampetti, Andrea Zerboni
Comments by David J. Mattingly, Mario Liverani
Foreword by Savino di Lernia
From «Libyan Studies»
By Dr Martin J. Sterry, University of Leicester, UK
Excavations from the historic period of the Sahara are few and far between. This volume is an essential addition to the corpus and will become important reading for anyone interested in first millennium BC settlement in the Sahara (and, indeed, the surrounding regions). Furthermore, the low cost of the volume and multitude of clear illustrations, including several reconstruction drawings, make it accessible to a broad audience and will hopefully encourage its dissemination in Libya and other Saharan countries. The volume details the results of the third major archaeological project conducted by the Italian–Libyan Archaeological Mission in the Sahara, which has worked in south-west Libya since 1997. It provides a full report of the excavations and survey conducted in 2002–2006 in the minor oasis of Fewet, part of the Wadi Tanzzuft system but essentially a secondary centre to the larger oasis of Ghat. The fieldwork can be divided into two main related parts: an investigation of a unique walled compound c. 850 m2 within the Tan Afella part of Fewet and excavations and survey of the cairn cemetery located several hundred
metres to the south-east on a rocky scarp. Additionally, there were some further elements of survey and test-trenching around the oasis which help to better contextualise the settlement compound. The project follows on from the publications of funerary structures in the Wadi Tanzzuft (di Lernia and Manzi 2002) and the fortified settlement of Aghram Nadarif (Liverani 2005).
The volume is essentially comprised of five parts: Chapters 1–3, which provide background and contextual information on the Wadi Tanzzuft and the oasis of Fewet; Chapters 4–5, which detail the excavation and fieldwork conducted on settlements in the oasis; Chapters 6–14, which cover a range of specialist studies on both the settlement and funerary material, including ceramics, beads, micromorphology, archaeobotany, and faunal assemblages; Chapters 15–18 describe the excavation and survey of the nearby necropolis, including osteological and isotopic studies of the human remains; finally, Chapters 19 and 20 conclude the volume and detail the restoration of the compound and provide an overall synthesis of the archaeology of Fewet in its Saharan context.
Around 60 per cent of the Tan Afella settlement was excavated (the remaining portion having been levelled by modern construction), revealing a sub-circular walled compound with 13 surviving houses adjoining the interior of the fortification wall. The dating suggests the settlement was in use from c. 200 BC–AD 100 before being partially demolished, burnt, and subsequently used as an enclosure for livestock. A key interpretation is that the compound was one of several that existed in the oasis, therefore it cannot be considered to represent a community in its totality.
The compound is contemporary with the earliest phases at Jarma and Aghram Nadarif, as well as the later phases of Zinkekra and Tinda, and provides crucial evidence for the period in which permanent settlements in Saharan oases seem to have moved from hilltops into oasis basins. The necropolis comprises 1,329 funerary structures, of which 24 were excavated. The cemetery was in use from the Late Pastoral to Late Garamantian period, so rather than being contemporaneous to the settlement, it overlaps it in time. The survey material is presented in detail with a tomb-by-tomb description of tomb types and funerary architecture; however, the decision to omit locational information limits the extent to which future analyses will be able to build on this rich dataset. The excavations are presented in exemplary detail and are an important contribution to Saharan funerary data. In particular, the details of tomb architecture, osteological data,
and the inclusion of a small number of strontium isotope samples will be valuable for future research. The volume may present some difficulty for readers who are not already familiar with the Garamantes and the work of the Italian Mission. The periods used are only defined in Chapter 20. The decision to place the specialist reports between the chapters detailing the excavation
of settlements and the cemeteries may also give the impression to the casual reader that all the material came from the compound, when artefacts such as beads were actually primarily recovered from burials. This means that the reader must flick backward and forward within the volume if they wish to understand the context of the material detailed in the specialist reports. Further distractions originate from the absence of an index and the choice to include a separate bibliography for each chapter rather than a single, full bibliography at the end of the volume. Mori and her collaborators argue that Fewet developed in parallel to but independently of the Wadi al-Ajal and they situate it in its Saharan context by drawing on diverse data, including that from the Tichitt tradition of Mauritania. They suggest that the site represents the first truly sedentary occupation of the Wadi Tanzzuft from 400 BC. They argue that an essentially pastoral population gradually adopted this radically new way of living in response to the increasing aridification of the oasis and the growth of social and economic networks across the Sahara. However, in the context of these networks, Fewet emerges as something of a backwater with relatively few indicators of trade and new technologies that are found elsewhere in the Sahara (although this may in part relate to its relatively early date). The volume neatly complements the excavations of settlements at nearby Aghram Nadarif (Liverani 2005), and Zinkekra, Saniat Jibril, and Jarma from the Wadi al-Ajal (Mattingly 2010; 2013). Similarly, the funerary excavations parallel the work of the Desert Migrations Project, whose summary reports of excavations and surveys in the Wadi al-Ajal have been published in this journal (2007–11). While this volume does not directly reference these results, the synthesis of the Italian and British projects in Fazzan must be a key research aim for the immediate future. For now, Fewet will become the type site for its period, but it remains to be seen if its walled compound was a common form of Saharan architecture or an idiosyncratic
form of local origins in the Wadi Tanzzuft. The scope of the excavations detailed in this volume allows for in-depth description of oasis lifeways and architecture from an otherwise poorly documented period. This is thus a vital contribution to our knowledge of the Sahara.
- di Lernia, S., and Manzi, G. (eds) 2002. Sand, Stones, and Bones: The Archaeology of Death in the Wadi Tanezzuft Valley (5000–2000 BP). AZA Monographs 3. Edizioni All’Insegna del Giglio, Florence.
- Liverani, M. (ed.) 2005. Aghram Nadharif. The Barkat Oasis (Sha’abiya of Ghat, Libyan Sahara) in Garamantian Times. AZA Monographs 5. Edizioni All’Insegna del Giglio, Florence.
Mattingly, D.J. (ed.) 2010. The Archaeology of Fazzān, Volume 3, Excavations of C.M. Daniels. Department of Antiquities, Tripoli; Society for Libyan Studies, London.
- Mattingly, D.J. (ed.) 2013. The Archaeology of Fazzān. Volume 4, Survey and Excavations at Old Jarma (Ancient Garama) carried out by C.M. Daniels (1962–69) and the Fazzān Project (1997–2001). Department of Antiquities, Tripoli; Society for Libyan Studies, London.
- List of Figures, VIII
- List of Tables, XV
- Foreword, S. di Lernia, XVII
- Commentaries, D. J. Mattingly and M. Liverani, XIX
- Acknowledgements, XXIII
- Fewet in context, L. Mori
- Fewet: an oasis at the margin of Wadi Tanezzuft, M. Cremaschi, A. Zerboni
- Between the mountains and the oases: rock art landscapes and Fewet, D. Zampetti
- Excavations and soundings at Tan Afella, L. Mori, M. C. Gatto, C. Ottomano
- The survey in the Tan Ataram area, L. Mori
- Ceramics from Fewet, M. C. Gatto
- Macro-lithic tools from Fewet, L. Mori with contribution by C. Lemorini
- Vesicular basalt artefacts, L. Mori, S. Bruni, A. Zerboni, A. Ballerini, G. Groppelli, V. Guglielmi
- Micromorphological study of living floors and mud features from the compound, A. Zerboni, A. Bernasconi, M. Cremaschi
- The small finds: beads, worked bone artefacts and figurines, D. Zampetti
- Garamantian green stone beads from Fewet, A. Zerboni, P. Vignola
- Vitreous beads: a scientific investigation by SEM microscopy and X–ray microanalysis, M. Verità
- Seeds, fruits and charcoal from the Fewet compound, A. M. Mercuri, G. Bosi, F. Buldrini
- The faunal remains, F. Alhaique
- The survey of the Fewet necropolis, M. Liverani, L. Barbato, E. Cancellieri, R. Castelli, C. Putzolu
Appendix 15.I: Fewet necropolis: the database, M. Liverani, L. Barbato
- The excavation of the Fewet necropolis, L. Mori, F. Ricci with contributions by M. C. Gatto, E. Cancellieri, C. Lemorini
- The human skeletal sample from Fewet, F. Ricci, M. A. Tafuri, F. Di Vincenzo, G. Manzi
- The preliminary isotope investigation, M. A. Tafuri, A. Pelosi, F. Ricci, G. Manzi, F. Castorina
- The restoration of the Fewet compound, M. Ramazzotti
- Life and death at Fewet, L. Mori, M. C. Gatto, F. Ricci, A. Zerboni
- Arabic summary, L. Mori, translated by M. Turjiman, 389