The Giraffes of Dabous

Safeimagekit-resized-img (1)

A stony outcrop in northern Niger, about halfway between the towns of Agadez and Arlit, and a few miles west of the tar road connecting these two places, bears an exceptionally detailed petroglyph of two life-sized giraffes. This area, known as Dabous, is home to a large number of prehistoric carvings depicting cattle and wild animals, evoking a time when Africa was much wetter than it is today, with lush vegetation, trees, and lakes, allowing these animals to survive. The two giraffes are the most well-known because of their size, realism, and techniques used to depict them.

The carvings were created between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago, near the end of the African humid period, which lasted approximately 14,000 years. The Sahara was a vast savannah during this time period, and various tribes of people lived there as hunter-gatherers, fishermen, and farmers. As evidenced by over 800 rock arts in this region, wild animals such as bovids, giraffes, ostriches, antelopes, lions, rhinos, and camels must have been plentiful. It’s easy to imagine people sitting on the rocky outcrops of the Air Mountains in the past, watching these animals graze and carving them in stone.

Despite thousands of years of harsh climate, including desertification of a vast region, the carvings have survived. Nevertheless, they are still vulnerable to human abuse. The petroglyphs had already been damaged to some extent by trampling, and had been degraded by grafitti and theft of fragments. In 1999, a mold of the engraving was created in order to preserve it. One of the aluminum casts can be found at  Airport of Agadez., Artifacts Museum.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: