Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings

November 20, 2023

Engraved Giraffes and Cow, around 8000 years old (Neolithic Period), at Wadi Mathendous prehistoric archaeological site – Messak, Settafet, Libya.

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings The Fighting Cats; The Two Cats.

Wadi Matkhandoush is truly a wonderful, natural museum of prehistoric engravings from Fezzan, housing a large number of engravings found across the valleys and rocks of the mountain. In reality, the valley of Matkhandoush is a unique open-air art gallery, preserving imagery of prehistoric animals that once roamed the fertile savannah, and as such it is one of the oldest museums in the world. The name is written in various forms including: Metkhandoush, Metkhandouch, Matkhandouch (as in the above sign), Metendouch, and several more.

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings

Matkhendoush (Messak Settafet): Large Pastoral Period:

An engraving showing how trapping stones were used to catch large animals like giraffe. According to Professor Mori, who illustrated modern Tuareg examples of the trap, the animal places its foot on the big circle, the hoop, onto which were threaded a number of palm leaves [probably palm thorns] with their pointed ends pointing towards the centre, and as a result the animal’s foot gets caught. The stone thus ends up attached to the animal’s leg, eventually wearing it out to a slow halt, tragically to be caught by the chasing hunter(s). The whole trap is buried and therefore is invisible to the victim!

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings

Matkhendoush (Messak Settafet): Large Pastoral Period:   Professor Mori also suggests that the engravings may hide deeper symbolism and hidden mythology.

The photo below shows a modern hoop of similar design from Nalut, Nafousa Mountain.

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings Trapping Devices From Nalut.

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings

This engraving appears to have been super-imposed with letters of the Berber alphabet Tifinagh. (See Ghadames Museum for a table of the Berber alphabet.)

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings

An engraving from the Pastoral period, with the horns unusually pointing down. Professor Fabrizio Mori relates that Herodotus called this animal: “Bos opisthonomos“, and argues that these horns are a zoological oddity, also mentioned by Herodotus as a characteristic of the “backward”oxen ( opisthonomos : from Greek opisthen = backwards + nemein = graze).

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings

Eyeing the grass.

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings

Picasso-like head.

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings

An Elephant.

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings

An engraving of a group of giraffes with skin details.

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings

A Prehistoric Rhinoceros Engraving.

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings

A Crocodile or a Monitor Lizard?

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings

Two Ostriches

Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings Wadi Matkhandoush Natural Museum: Prehistoric Rock Engravings