Unit 1: Ancient Africa - The Cradle of Civilization
(200,000 B.C. - 476 B.C.)

Unit 1: Class 3: The Beginning of Civilization

Green Sahara
Sahara was not a desert during the African humid period. Instead, most of northern Africa was covered by grass, trees, and lakes.

Video: Rock Art in the Green Sahara (7:39 min)

Related Video
The Dabous Giraffes are a neolithic petroglyph (rock art) completed between 9,000 B.C.E. and 7,000 B.C.E. in what is now Niger, Africa. One giraffe has on a leash, suggesting the early domestication of the camel. The sophistication and significance of these carvings provide evidence that the African genius was sparked thousands of years before the founding of Ancient Egypt. ​

The Sahara desert was not always a desert.  "Around 8,000 years ago, the Sahara wasn't desert, but instead was a vibrant ecosystem that supported hunter-gatherers and fisherfolk. The 'Green Sahara' - the colloquial term for the African Humid Period – was the period in which North Africa became much wetter than it is today thanks to a series of monsoons.

As the Earth's orbit slowly changed, the rain started to reduce, and the vegetation started to die back. Around 5,500 years ago, the ecosystem in the Sahara went into a terminal decline towards the desert we have today," according to a study by a team of geographers and archaeologists from UCL and King's College London.

It was once assumed that African pastoralists were in part to blame for the desertification of the Sahara. However, the latest study by UCL and King's College London and dispels this myth. In fact, the study "suggests that early pastoralists in North Africa combined detailed knowledge of the environment with newly domesticated species to deal with the long-term drying trend."