In recent years, Garamantian archaeology has received renewed attention from historians and archaeologists, particularly in the south-western corner of Libya in the central Sahara. This paper focuses on the potential of intensive field surveys and digital technologies as applied to a particular segment of the Garamantian state: the ‘castles’ of Wadi Awiss and their associated contexts ― necropoleis and site remains. The combination of a field survey, selected settlement soundings and territorial funerary data provided additional information on the chronological and functional organization of the Garamantian system.
The surface pottery from a well-preserved Holocene archaeological site in south-western Libya is analysed. The collection suggests a long and protracted human occupation of the shelter, from Late Acacus (Mesolithic) hunter-gatherers to Late Pastoral (Neolithic) herders. Aim of the work is to decode the dynamic history of the site via the study of its surface elements, both artefacts and ecofacts, and the way they interacted over the millennia. To do this, traditional ceramic analysis is combined with recently developed methods of description imported from sedimentology, stressing the potentialities of surface archaeological material. In this framework, spatial analysis of scattered potsherds, in connection with their quantitative and qualitative features and chronological attribution, appears of main relevance in the analysis of site formation processes and postdepositional events that altered the archaeological deposit, transforming its present surface.
The Messak plateau contains remarkable evidence of human occupation during prehistoric and historic times, such as rock art engravings, megalithic monuments, and scatters of stone tools. Since 1980 these remains have been heavily affected by oil extraction-related operations, and it has only been over the last decade that these operations were adequately supported by archaeological mitigation strategies. The ‘Messak Project’ was originally conceived as a three-year programme (2010–2012) focusing on a range of co-ordinated actions to increase the knowledge of the area, to assess any damage and potential risks, and to preserve and manage the cultural heritage. Uprisings in Libya led to the sudden interruption of the project in late February 2011. Nevertheless, major results of the projects include: the compilation of a database of circa 10,000 sites, including hundreds of unpublished sites from previous surveys; the discovery of circa 2500 new archaeological sites; and the drawing of a set of GIS-based maps. In this paper we firstly introduce the materials and methods of the ‘Messak Project’, and secondly, we present an updated overview of the archaeological landscape of the Messak in the light of the project’s recent achievements.