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We talk here of "styles" rather than "periods", as it is essentially the stylistic criterion which is used to recognize the productions of different periods. In any case, it must be underlined here that the styles mentioned have been defined on the basis of the creations of the central Sahara and that it is often difficult to identify them in other Saharan regions.


This style, defined by Monod (1932) and taken up by Lhote, was given this name on account of representations of the giant buffalo "Bubalus antiquus" (Pelorovis antiquus), which probably disappeared in the second millennium BC in some of its Saharan refuges.

Almost all scholars agree that this style only concerns engravings, and particularly those with a broad line, polished and fairly deep, with a total, or at least dark, patina.

The animal representations are basically naturalistic, with careful anatomical details and perspective.


Bubalus antiquus. I-n-Habeter - Messak Settafet - Libya

On the contrary, scholars disagree about the kind of animals represented. While Mori asserts that the fauna represented in the productions of this style is exclusively wild, Lhote and Aumassip admit some domestic bovid representations in the "Bubaline" style. Muzzolini, following Graziosi, considers Mori's assertion arbitrary, for he has found, on the same sites, many domestic animals (cattle) represented in the same style, with the same technique and patina as those of the wild animals.

Therianthromorph. Wadi Taleshut Messak Settafet - Libya

Elephants, giraffe and cattle on the same rock face. Note the collar - a clear sign of domestication - on the bovid on the left. Wadi Tillizaghen - Messak Settafet -Libya

The humans associated with this fauna are normally small and lacking details. But, on the contrary, the engravings of bubaline therianthromorphs (beings half-animal, half-human) are often very big, with a mass of details.

Geographical distribution: Saharan Atlas, Ahaggar (Hoggar), Tassili-n-Ajjer, western Fezzan, Djado, western Tibesti.


Elephant of bubaline style followed by a small schematic human. In Galguien - Messak Settafet - Libya


Large human touching a Bubalus antiquus. Oued Djerat - Tassili-n-Ajjer - Algeria

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Last update of this website 26/03/19