Early African Clothing from Tassili n’Ajjer

Africa’s climate extremes mean that early clothing from some areas, such as Central Africa, will never be known except through cultural legends and stories. But some ancient forms of clothing in Africa are known through rock art in the Tassili n’Aj jer region, deep in the Sahara Desert in present-day Algeria. The Tassili rock art consists of more than 15,000 drawings and engravings dating back more than 9,000 years. The drawings show that in the ancient climate, which was as hot as much of Africa is today, people wore limited clothing. Some of the detailed Tassili paintings show dancing women with loincloths and intricate woven headdresses. The paintings are so old that their complete spiritual meaning is unknown today, but some famous examples include a running horned woman who is wearing body paint, decorative armbands, and leg ornaments, and a dramatic horned headdress. The horns reflect the arrival of cattle between 4500 and 4000 BCE. Other horned figures depict shamans with goat or antelope horns.

More than 15,000 drawings and engravings make up the Tassali rock art.


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