Tassili N'Ajjer

Prehistoric Rock Paintings of the Sahara

Four thousand years ago the people who inhabited the Tassili N'Ajjer, a group of mountains in the eastern Sahara, painted the rocks with scenes of their daily life. Why? Probably they were making magic; we can only guess. But from the hundreds of thousands of pictures they left (nowhere else is prehistoric art to be found in such abundance) we learn that the desert then was no desert at all: it was a place of flourishing community life, of flowers and waterholes and herds of antelope. To our eyes these vivid and colorful humans and animals in motion, farming and hunting and making war, look astonishingly 'modern,' preserved as they have been by the dry climate. Today, however, they are in danger, since many have been defaced by tourists and some have already entirely disappeared.

To film this invaluable record of the paintings, some of the most recent technical developments in the art of film have been used to capture some of the most ancient images we still have. At the very dawning of artistic activity, the images human beings create are bound up with the politics and economics of their existence - the animals they hunt, the forces, natural and supernatural, that sustain their lives, the battles they fight. And their pictures are inscribed on the very fabric of the environment they inhabit - the rocks and cave walls - prefiguring the graffiti or public murals of today, giving expression to social concerns and passions.


'Very beautiful, with a very fine subject' UNESCO


Gold Medal, Venice
Bronze Medal, Bilbao
Quality Award and Prize, French National Film Center


Director: Jean-Dominique Lajoux
Narration: Max-Pol Fouchet
Original music: Maurice Le Roux

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Catalog number #10

16 minutes Color

Age Range: 6 to Adult

Closed Captions and Interactive Transcript

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On 19 Nov 2014, Fred Smith wrote:
stunning history or rock paintings
Great Film 

On 19 Nov 2014, Tony Betts wrote:
wonderful film and the included filmscape makes finding your favourite images a pleasure