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Description: Neolithic Stone Arrow Head from the Sahara Desert
Period: 4000 - 2000 BC
Size: 38mm x 15mm x 3 mm


Berbers are one of the oldest known inhabitants of the Sahara Desert. They are the people that occupied (and still occupy) more than two thirds of the Sahara's total surface. The Garamantes Berbers built a prosperous empire in the heart of the desert. The Tuareg nomads continue, to present day, to inhabit and move across wide Sahara surfaces in Algeria, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, and Libya. Some of the oldest Berber Tifinagh inscriptions are found in Southern Algeria, Northern Mali and Niger.

By 6000 BC predynastic Egyptians in the southwestern corner of Egypt were herding cattle and constructing large buildings. Subsistence in organized and permanent settlements in predynastic Egypt by the middle of the 6th millennium BC centered predominantly on cereal and animal agriculture: cattle, goats, pigs and sheep. Metal objects replaced prior ones of stone. Tanning of animal skins, pottery and weaving are commonplace in this era also. There are indications of seasonal or only temporary occupation of the Al Fayyum in the 6th millennium BC, with food activities centering on fishing, hunting and food-gathering. Stone arrowheads, knives and scrapers are common. Burial items include pottery, jewelry, farming and hunting equipment, and assorted foods including dried meat and fruit. Burial in desert environments appears to enhance Egyptian preservation rites, and dead are buried facing due west. By 3400 BC, the Sahara was as dry as it is today, and it became a largely impenetrable barrier to humans, with only scattered settlements around the oases, but little trade or commerce through the desert. The one major exception was the Nile Valley. The Nile, however, was impassable at several cataracts, making trade and contact by boat difficult.

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