A small handaxe from the Desert near Murzuq. Murzuq is an oasis in South-Western Libya on the northern edge of the Murzuq Sand Sea (Idhan Murzuq). Murzuq was once an important assembly place for caravans to Lake Niger and Lake Chad, a centre of the Arab slave and arms trade, and the traditional capital of the Fezzan province during the 16th-19th century.
The Murzuq basin extends about 400 km from west to east and 450 from north to south, near the border with Niger and Algeria.The Desert in the Murzuq basin is known by various names including Idehan Murzuq, Idhan Murzuq Sand Dunes or Edeyen Murzuq. This sand sea is a massive, “monolithic” desert east of the Acacus mountain range and south of Wadi Metkhendoush. The Idehan Murzuq offers some of the world’s greatest sand dunes and covers an area almost the size of Switzerland. Dune after dune rise 100 or 200 metres above the flat-bottomed valleys of white sand.
One has to be sceptical about a “pebble culture”, reported from Wadi Berguj, but there are certainly large clusters of an Acheulean industry, made on local raw-material. Handaxes are found in large numbers over areas of thousands of square kilometers; on the Hammada of Murzuq, on the bottom of its wadis, and between the dunes of the sand seas. An early paleolithics site with environmental and stratigraphic information has unfortunately not been detected up to now. Arterian artifacts are known from Wadi Habeter and the Wadi Tilizzaghen.
During the early Holocene the region contained a series of linked lakes, rivers, and inland deltas comprising a large interlinked waterway, channelling water and animals into and across the Sahara, thus facilitating human and animal dispersals. This is testified by abundant “Neolithic” sites, tools and Rock art, which consists of wonderful engravings. The absence of paintings in the region of Murzuq is due to the geology of this plateau which is composed of Mesozoic « Nubian » sandstones that do not allow the formation of natural caves which are the only places where paintings can escape the destructive processes of weathering.