Ennedi Plateau

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For the current region of Chad, see Ennedi Region.
Ennedi Massif: Natural and Cultural Landscape
UNESCO World Heritage Site
24 Kamele ziehen zur Wasserstelle im Ennedi-Gebirge im Tschad.jpg
Camels at a waterhole in a canyon in Ennedi
LocationEnnedi Region, Chad
CriteriaCultural and Natural: (iii), (vii), (ix)
Inscription2016 (40th Session)
Area2,441,200 ha (6,032,000 acres)
Buffer zone777,800 ha (1,922,000 acres)
Coordinates17°2′30″N 21°51′46″E / 17.04167°N 21.86278°E / 17.04167; 21.86278Coordinates: 17°2′30″N 21°51′46″E / 17.04167°N 21.86278°E / 17.04167; 21.86278
Ennedi Plateau is located in Chad
Ennedi Plateau
Location of Ennedi Plateau in Chad

The Ennedi Plateau is located in the northeast of Chad, in the regions of Ennedi-Ouest and Ennedi-Est. It is considered a part of the Ennedi Massif, a group of mountains, found in Chad. It is a sandstone bulwark in the middle of the Sahara, and it was formed by erosion from wind and temperature.[1] It covers an area of approximately 60,000 km2 (23,000 sq mi), and its highest point is approximately 1,450 m (4,760 ft) above sea level.[2] The Ennedi Massif is composed of sandstone overlaying a precambrian granite base.[3] The landscape has geological structures, including towers, pillars, bridges and arches, which serve as big tourist attractions. People who occupied this area included hunters and gatherers, as well as pastoralists who occupied this area around 3000 BC, found in the archaeological record and sites' rock art.[4] Organic material, including bone, are lacking from the site, making dating difficult. In fact, only one cattle jaw was found from around 630 BC.[5] The area is known for its large collection of rock art depicting mainly cattle, as they served as the main source of financial, environmental, and cultural impact. This art dates back to nearly 7,000 years ago.[6]


Evidence of a change in climate occurred between 6000 BP, with a savanna region with ~250 mm annual rainfall, to ~150 mm annual rainfall 4300 BP.[4] It later reached annual rainfall of 50 mm around 2700 BP, similar to the amounts of annual rainfall observed today. There are also monsoons, generating around 50-150 mm of rain per year, creating a diverse mixture of vegetation within the area. During the winter months, however, precipitation allows for greater moisture in the thin soil, with lower run-off.

History of protection[edit]

The site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in February 2016, but there was much debate over what should be included.[7] The Chadian government eventually reduced the size of the protected area due to oil exploration. There is believed to have been a partnership contract between the State Party and oil companies for oil exploration and the private lease of land.[8] Concerns have since been raised regarding the reduced amount of protected area by UNESCO.

African Parks assumed management of this area in partnership with the Chadian government in early 2018.[9] African Parks intends to improve the park's infrastructure and explore the potential for tourism in order to amass support for this landscape and to contribute to the needs of the local people. The European Union contributed €4,7 million to African Parks, and the Dutch Postcode Lottery gave around €3 million over the span of three years to this organization.[10] Furthermore, about 50,000 km2 (19,000 sq mi), a large portion of the Ennedi Plateau, was designated as the Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve by the Chadian government in January 2019.[6]


Camels in the Guelta d'Archei, a landmark in the plateau

Due to a large reservoir in the area, the plateau has a rich collection of fauna. In fact, there are at least 199 listed species of migratory birds that pass through the Ennedi.[11] Other examples of fauna include the West African crocodile, also known as the desert crocodile, that once existed throughout the Sahara at a time of more abundant rainfall (see Neolithic Subpluvial). A striking characteristic of this population of crocodiles is dwarfism, which developed due to their isolation, making them unusual (other such remnant populations are or were found in Mauritania and Algeria). They survive in only a few pools in river canyons in the area, for example the Guelta d'Archei, and are threatened with extinction.[12] The last lions (West African subspecies) in the Sahara also survived here, until they became extinct; the last lion was seen in the 1940s.[13] Also, any surviving scimitar oryx antelopes that might still live in the wild and the vulnerable Sudan cheetahs are likely to be found in the remote regions of the Ennedi Plateau. Through the use of camera traps, an isolated population of North African ostrich was discovered to still be living in the protected area.[6] It has been suggested that the cryptid Ennedi tiger (a supposed surviving sabertooth cat) may live there.[citation needed] Gazelles and antelopes are also known to be present in the area.[5] Unfortunately, poaching and hunting have decreased the number of species in the area.


There are currently over 525 species of flora that have been listed in the Ennedi.[11] Researcher Gillet used a classification system to describe 7 main life forms for the 526 species of flora found: 41.3% therophytes, 3.0% geophytes, 5.1% helophytes, 1.1% hydrophytes, 7.0% hemicryptophytes, 18.4% chamaephytes, 15.1% phanerophytes.[14] Unusual species, including Rauwolfia caffra, a type of tree typically found in tropical and equatorial Africa, is found in the Ennedi.[3] Much of the vegetation is protected by the presence of deep canyons and gueltas.


While there is a lack of absolute dates concerning the Ennedi rock art, the images can be dated to around 5000 BC onwards.[1] Also, there are around six sites and around 40 pictures have been found.[1] Examples of petroglyphs or rock paintings have been found in the area, for example those at the "lost site" of Niola Doa. Thousands of paintings and carvings of people and animals exist throughout the area and are estimated to be about 8,000 years old.[15] Much of the art has been recognized with its great expression through color, with more than 86% of the art painted and 14% engraved.[16] The art was found on the floors, on the ceilings, and on the walls of shelters created by wind erosion, and they are often found in elevated positions.

Rock art[edit]

The artwork portrays both animals and humans as they are in real life, with little to no hunter-gatherer representation. Unfortunately, many of the paintings have deteriorated due to weathering.


Rock paintings in Manda Guéli Cave in the Ennedi Mountains.

Early pictures were monochrome, representing people as working with their livestock, and many were shown with hunting gear while walking and running. This portrayal emphasized the type of lifestyle people had during the early Iron Age. As time progressed, images were much more colorful. There were also much more combative weapons shown, which may have been due to intensified fighting due to distinguished hierarchies.[17] Furthermore, a changing climate, due to decreased water and pasture may have been indicated with these types of weapons.


Domesticated animals made up nearly 55% of the artwork depicted at Ennedi Plateau.[5] However, the rock art had the greatest emphasis on domesticated cattle.[18] The first rock picture ever discovered included the "Apollon Garamante," which showed two masked persons on the side of cattle.[19] Cattle were perceived as having unique horns, especially among longhorn cattle which occupied a large population.[20] For instance, some cattle were given lyre-shaped horns.[19] Cattle were known to have a large financial, cultural, and environmental impact on the people of the Ennedi highlands. They were also given distinct coats in order to individualize these animals, and rock art at some sites, including the Chiguéou II site, includes cattle figures in extravagant geometric designs.[21] Cattle were found all among the highlands, while other animals, such as horses, were not.

During the Iron Age, people survived on a more nomadic lifestyle, choosing to display camels and specifically horses in their pictures. These animals were not individualized with different coats as the cows were, and while paintings of cattle perceive the animals as static, horses are portrayed as galloping animals, creating an artistic quality to the art.[22] Horses are believed to not be exhibited in the artwork as much as other animals, such as cattle, due to a lesser influence on the pastoralists. Camels were also portrayed, having more movement than the other animals.

Wild animals were also portrayed in the artwork for their religious and mythical meanings. Giraffes were the most common wild animals demonstrated, and they were most often expressed during hunter-gatherer times.


Depictions of people are not necessarily rare in Ennedi rock art, and among the human figures found, only 4% were engraved.[5] Furthermore, there were numerous handprints from both men and women found among the rock art. Males are often exhibited as standing in front of cattle holding a lance and a shield, mainly seen as protecting their animals.[5] Females are not portrayed as often as males are. However, they are often displayed as extravagantly decorated, such as those at Niola Dola.[23] They were covered in wavy lines and interesting geometric patterns, and these designs have been compared to Round Head-style figures found in Algeria.[1]

At sites like Nabara 2, located on the base of the north-face of the Saodomanga, oval engravings depict fauna like camels, cattle, and giraffes.[24] Warriors are seen hiding behind round shields, and women are donned in long dresses. Females are not accompanied by weapons, while the men typically are.

Another major site, Niola Doa, which means "The place of the girls," in the local language, is no longer considered under UNESCO protection, yet is known as one of the most important rock sites in the Sahara. Many figures appear to be naked, with smaller figures adorning skirts, and some were seen as having a genetic condition known as steatopygia, which is caused by an accumulation of fat in the thighs and the buttocks.[1]

Research and outreach[edit]

The Trust for African Rock Art, which works with the Factum Foundation, has documented Ennedi through photographs. Its mission is to show the issues involved in protecting rock art.[25] Due to both erosion and vandalism, the Ennedi has faced deterioration. This art has been recorded in 3D to raise awareness of the beauty of the site.

Important Sites[edit]

As mentioned previously, Niola Doa, is not technically considered under the protection of UNESCO. However, it is still well-known for its extravagant rock art. It is found in the North East of Fada, which is the only town in the Ennedi Region.[25] Rock art ranged from 8000 BP to 2000 BP.

The Archei Region is found in the Southeast of Fada, and it contains an ancient waterhole; therefore, it is considered the center for Nomadic life in the Ennedi. It has painted art over 8000 years old. Manda Guili, found in the Archei Region, with some of the most well-preserved artwork due to its high position, preventing weathering.

Ehi Tighi, a rock formation known for a 3m long Archaic cow painting, was believed to be used as a refuge from slave hunters.[25] There are depictions of both white and red creatures on the walls of the formation, including both men and women, as well as cows with distinct coat decorations.[23]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Niola Doa". africanrockart.britishmuseum.org. Retrieved 2019-11-01.
  2. ^ Scheffel, Richard L.; Wernet, Susan J., eds. (1980). Natural Wonders of the World. United States of America: Reader's Digest Association, Inc. p. 137. ISBN 0-89577-087-3.
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  4. ^ a b Lenssen-Erz, Tilman (2012-09-15). "Pastoralist appropriation of landscape by means of rock art in Ennedi Highlands, Chad". Afrique : Archéologie & Arts (8): 27–43. doi:10.4000/aaa.414. ISSN 1634-3123.
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  6. ^ a b c https://www.africanparks.org/sites/default/files/uploads/resources/2019-07/AFRICAN%20PARKS%20-%202018%20Annual%20Report%20-%20Digital%20-%20English%20-%20Final%20V3.pdf
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  10. ^ "World Heritage Site in Chad to be Protected Under New Agreement". www.africanparks.org. Retrieved 2019-11-12.
  11. ^ a b "Ennedi Fauna and Flora". www.africanparks.org. Retrieved 2019-11-21.
  12. ^ de Smet, Klaas (January 1998). "Status of the Nile crocodile in the Sahara desert". Hydrobiologia. SpringerLink. 391 (1–3): 81–86. doi:10.1023/A:1003592123079.
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  14. ^ Brundu, Giuseppe; Camarda, Ignazio (2013-05-13). "The Flora of Chad: a checklist and brief analysis". PhytoKeys. 23 (0): 1–18. doi:10.3897/phytokeys.23.4752. ISSN 1314-2003.
  15. ^ https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-39332438
  16. ^ Lenssen-Erz, Tilman (2012-09-15). "Pastoralist appropriation of landscape by means of rock art in Ennedi Highlands, Chad". Afrique : Archeologie et Arts (8): 27–43. doi:10.4000/aaa.414. ISSN 1634-3123.
  17. ^ Bubenzer, Olaf. Bolten, Andreas. Darius, Frank. (2007). Atlas of cultural and environmental change in arid Africa. Heinrich-Barth-Institut. ISBN 9783927688322. OCLC 1120437878.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
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  20. ^ Methuen-Campbell, James (2001). Barth, Karl-Heinrich. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press.
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  25. ^ a b c Foundation, Factum. "Factum Foundation :: Rock Art Survey and Documentation in the Ennedi Mountains of Northern Chad". www.factumfoundation.org. Retrieved 2019-11-19.

External links[edit]