Date:

The Pyramid Tombs of Libya

Several pyramidal necropolises exist in Libya from the reign of the Garamantes, a kingdom that emerged as a major regional power in the Sahara during the mid-2nd century AD.

Archaeological evidence at Wadi Ajal suggests that the Garamantes first settled in the Fezzan region of southern Libya around 1100 BC. The growth and expansion of the civilisation relied upon a sophisticated and extensive qanat irrigation system known as “foggaras”. This system facilitated a thriving agricultural sector that sustained a sizeable populace in desert regions defunct of large bodies of water.

- Advertisement -

The first reference to the Garamantes dates from the 5th century BC by the Greek historian and geographer, Herodutus. Herodutus describes the Garamantes as “a very great nation” that was living in an oasis in the middle of the Sahara Desert, thirty days journey south of the Lotophagi. Herodutus also described how the Garamantes hunted “the Troglodyte Ethiopians in four horsed chariots”. These “cave-dwelling Ethiopians” are most likely the Tebu of the Tibesti Mountains.

At its peak, the Garamantes kingdom spanned roughly 180,000 km2, centred on the capital of Garama in the Wadi el Agial region, also called Wadi el Haya. The wadi is a long valley enclosed by the Erg (the Sand Sea) of Ubari, and on the southern side by the Messak Saffatet, an arid plateau.

Wadi el Agial was the nucleus of the kingdom where a majority of Garamantes settlements and monuments are located, including Garama and the former capital of Zinkhecra, the Royal Necropolis, Kharaig, Ubari, Hatiya, Ksa Bint Baya, and Bab el Macnusa.

Image Credit : Eric Lafforgue (Alamy) – Under Copyright

The Garamantes’ funerary rituals and burial monuments point to a belief in an afterlife that can be compared to that of the Ancient Egyptians. They constructed pyramidal necropolises such as Kharaig on the slopes of the Messak, a burial complex consisting of 80 square and rectangular mud brick pyramids reaching heights of 10 to 15 feet.

- Advertisement -

A similar necropolis of pyramidal tombs is found at El Hatiya, containing 25 truncated monuments in a pyramidal form. It is theorised that the tombs may have been orientated to star constellations based on an archaeoastronomical study.

At the Royal Necropolis south of Germana are over 100 grouped tombs of mastabas and circular tumuli which have stelae and funerary “offering-tables” for the cult of the dead. The majority of the stelae were decorated with red ochre or pigment, and in some cases also with subsequent and repeated layers of daub or plaster.

During the Roman period, the Garamantes conducted raids across Rome’s African frontier, the Limes Tripolitanus, against Roman coastal settlements and ports. In AD 203, Emperor Septimius Severus, launched a major campaign deep into the Sahara and captured Garama but abandoned the city shortly after.

It is possible that the decline of the Garamantian kingdom resulted from a combination of unfavourable climate conditions and excessive use of limited water resources. With the collapse of Byzantine rule in North Africa, an Arab force raided across the Sahara in AD 666, presumably bringing about the end of the Garamantes kingdom.

Header Image Credit : Eric Lafforgue (Alamy) – Under Copyright

- Advertisement -
spot_img
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
spot_img
spot_img

Mobile Application

spot_img

Related Articles

Excavation uncovers traces of the first bishop’s palace at Merseburg Cathedral Hill

Archaeologists from the State Office for Monument Preservation and Archaeology (LDA) Saxony-Anhalt have uncovered traces of the first bishop’s palace at the southern end of the Merseburg Cathedral Hill in Merseburg, Germany.

BU archaeologists uncover Iron Age victim of human sacrifice

Archaeologists from Bournemouth University have uncovered an Iron Age victim of human sacrifice in Dorset, England.

Archaeologists find ancient papyri with correspondence made by Roman centurions

Archaeologists from the University of Wrocław have uncovered ancient papyri that contains the correspondence of Roman centurions who were stationed in Egypt.

Study indicates that Firth promontory could be an ancient crannog

A study by students from the University of the Highlands and Islands has revealed that a promontory in the Loch of Wasdale in Firth, Orkney, could be the remains of an ancient crannog.

Archaeologists identify the original sarcophagus of Ramesses II

Archaeologists from Sorbonne University have identified the original sarcophagus of Ramesses II, otherwise known as Ramesses the Great.

Archaeologists find missing head of Deva from the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom

Archaeologists from Cambodia’s national heritage authority (APSARA) have discovered the long-lost missing head of a Deva statue from the Victory Gate of Angkor Thom.

Archaeologists search crash site of WWII B-17 for lost pilot

Archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology are excavating the crash site of a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress in an English woodland.

Roman Era tomb found guarded by carved bull heads

Archaeologists excavating at the ancient Tharsa necropolis have uncovered a Roman Era tomb guarded by two carved bull heads.