Monday, August 18, 2008

Green Sahara Findings

Many news outlets have run the story of Paul Sereno's discovery of a cemetery in the Sahara of Niger that dates back to the time that of the Green Sahara--some 10,000 to 6,000 years ago. The best source of info is the Project Exploration site.

The cemetery, literally in the middle of nowhere [albeit a lawless nowhere that requires armed forces to protect it], was found by Sereno in 2000, when he was tracking dinosaur bones. It includes the graves of two groups, separated by thousands of years, who lived near a lake:

  • The Kiffians, extremely tall folks who lived from 9700 to 8200 years ago. They sustained themselves by hunting and fishing, and left the area or died out when the lake dried out about 8,000 years ago. But over millennia the climate changed, the lake came back, and...

  • the Tenerians lived at the location from 6600 to 4800 years ago. They buried their dead on their sides, almost in a fetal position, on beds of flowers. The Tenerians raised livestock, and were shorter and lighter in build than the Kiffians.

  • The Tholians, a crystalline species...kidding. The other two are real, but don't the names Kiffian and Tenerian sound like aliens from a Star Trek episode?

By 4,500 BP, "the climate began its slow deterioration to present day arid conditions," according to the Project site. It has marvelous photos of the mother-and-children embrace in a Tenerian grave (I'm assuming; that relationship hasn't been proven by dna yet). These photos came from there, but go to the site to see them in their full glory.

The National Geographic site also has a photo essay online of the Gobero cemetery, as well as its feature article on the discovery.

No comments: