Archaeologists reveal mysteries of lost 3000yearold civilisation

The research of Professor David Mattingly of the School of Archaeology and Ancient History conducted in southern Libya will reshape the history of early Africa - after uncovering the mysteries of a lost civilisation of Saharan people called the Garamantes, whose settlements can be as old as 3,000 years.

The £1.8 million project, funded by the European Research Council (ERC), began in 2011 and has uncovered a wealth of knowledge about pre-Islamic and early Islamic Africa, including demonstrating the formation of early states, tracing population migrations and finding some of the earliest evidence of Saharan trade.

Using aerial photography and satellite imagery Professor Mattingly and his team have pieced together the area’s archaeological heritage and discovered hundreds of fortified oasis settlements and advanced water and irrigation systems that sustained advanced oasis agriculture.

These discoveries, based on research from the Trans-Sahara Project, reveal that the sun-beaten and arid lands of the Sahara to have been a much more populous place than first thought.

Professor Mattingly said: "This changes the whole basis of our understanding of human occupation with and contacts across the Sahara. The desert was a much more intensely settled and inter-connected region than we have previously realised.”

Professor Mattingly has been invited to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on February 13, to give a talk, titled 'Tracing History in the Saharan Desert Landscapes', on his findings as part of the session on “Imaging the Past: Using New Information Technologies To Nurture Historical Analysis” proposed by the ERC. The event – the AAAS 2015 Annual Meeting – will take place in San Jose, California.