In 1997, the .Joint Italian-Libyan Archaeological Mission in the Akakus and Messak (Libyan Sahara)., presently directed by Savino di Lernia, started a program of historical archaeology aimed at recovering remains of the Garamantian period, ca 800 BC to 350 AD. One of the selected sites is Fewet, a small but well nucleated oasis some 10 km SW of Ghat. After a first sounding in 2001, part of the settlement was excavated in 2002-2003, and the adjacent necropolis was surveyed in 2003. The excavated settlement is a rounded compound, with a perimeter wall of stones and mud bricks and a series of small dwelling units, with partition walls in mud bricks, around a central empty space and a communal well. One half of the compound is well preserved, with smashed pottery and remains of carbonized seeds and basketry on the sandy floors. The site is radiocarbon dated to the 2nd-1st centuries BC. The necropolis, including ca 1000 tumuli (but the survey is not yet complete) extends over the entire course of Garamantian history, about one millennium or more, and the typological development - from conical to drum-shaped tumuli - is confirmed by the associated pottery from Final Pastoral to Post-Garamantian times. The site of Fewet provides a good example of a small rural settlement at the SW border of the Garamantian kingdom, and the entire research project (geology and palaeo-environmental studies, archaeological excavation and survey) helps to figure out the life and the material culture in a small Saharan oasis of the proto-historical period.
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major results of the projects include: the compilation of a database of circa 10,000 sites, including hundreds of unpublished sites from previous surveys; the discovery of circa 2500 new archaeological sites; and the drawing of a set of GIS-based maps.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.