Algeria: Neolithic rock painting depicting human figures

Algeria: Neolithic rock painting depicting human figures and a magnificent mouflon head, located in Tan Zoumaitak, Tassili N-Ajjer, by Garry Thomson, 1974. 

ICCROM Archives continue to showcase their older photographic prints (1952-1985), which are organized alphabetically by country. From Afghanistan’s heritage (Resource of the Month in October), we move to Algeria, specifically to Tassili. Tassili n'Ajjer is a national park in the Sahara Desert, which has one of the most important groupings of prehistoric rock art in the world. It is a World Heritage Site since 1982.

ICCROM Archives hold a considerable series of photographs from Tassili, taken during several missions from the 1960s to the 1980s by J. Pickering and G. Thomson. This particular photograph was taken in December 1974, during a mission carried out in the Tassili plateau by Paolo Mora and Garry Thomson, to advise local authorities on rock painting conservation. 

From this mission, we hold the final report, correspondence, photographs and heritage samples. Even if all these materials were physically dissociated, we have been able to relate them and to provide contextual information for their proper description. 

The mission report describes the on-site visits, state of conservation of the paintings, efflorescence analysis, conservation/restoration needs and recommendations. It is interesting to highlight the space that the report dedicates to the creation of photographic archives. In fact, it describes a standardized photographic system to be adopted to document the rock paintings (photographic camera, tripod, position, film, filters, lighting, shooting, development and printing of photographs, and reporting). As human memory and sight are not sufficient, photography is considered a fundamental tool to compare the present and past state of conservation of the rock paintings, especially if restoration treatments are occurred or are about to occur.