Tenerian culture

The Tenerian culture is a prehistoric industry that existed between the 5th millennium BC and mid-3rd millennium BC in the Sahara Desert. This spans the Neolithic Subpluvial and later desiccation, during the middle Holocene.

French archaeologist M.Reygasse first used the term Tenerian in 1934 with subsequent scholars producing a clearer definition. The Missions Berliet to the Aïr Mountains (Aïr Massif) in northern Niger produced the clearest definition prior to J. Desmond Clark's expedition to Adrar Bous in early 1970, the results of which were published in November 2008.

Human remains belonging to the Tenerian culture were first found at Adrar Bous in the Aïr Mountains. Other Tenerian specimens were also discovered at Gobero, located in Niger in the Ténéré desert. This region was lush at the time, and Tenerians were specialized cattle herders who also occasionally fished and hunted.

Discoveries at GoberoEdit

Gobero was discovered in 2000 during an archaeological expedition led by Paul Sereno, which sought dinosaur remains. Two distinct prehistoric cultures were discovered at the site: the early Holocene Kiffian culture, and the middle Holocene Tenerian culture. The Kiffians were a prehistoric people who preceded the Tenerians and vanished approximately 8000 years ago, when the desert became very dry. The desiccation lasted until around 4600 BC, the period to when the earliest artifacts associated with the Tenerians have been dated. Some 200 skeletons have been discovered at Gobero, Niger.

The Tenerians were considerably shorter in height and less robust than the earlier peoples associated with Kiffian culture. Craniometric analysis also indicates that they were osteologically distinct. The Kiffian skulls are akin to those of the Late Pleistocene Iberomaurusians, early Holocene Capsians, and mid-Holocene Mechta groups, whereas the Tenerian crania are more like those of Mediterranean groups.[1][2]

From their bones bioarchaeologist Chris Stojanowski concluded the Tenerians had huge leg muscles, suggesting that they were extremely strong. Stojanowski explained that with such huge muscle attachments, they must have eaten a lot of protein and participated in a “strenuous lifestyle,” which is both congruent with a fishing-based culture.[3]

Graves show that the Tenerians observed spiritual traditions, as they were buried with artifacts such as jewelry made of hippo tusks and clay pots. The most interesting find is a triple burial of an adult female and two children, dated to 5300 years ago. The fossil has been estimated through their teeth as being five and eight years old, hugging each other. Pollen residue indicates they were buried on a bed of flowers. The three are assumed to have died within 24 hours of each other, but as their skeletons hold no apparent trauma (they did not die violently) and they have been buried so elaborately - unlikely if they had died of a plague - the cause of their deaths is a mystery.


Tenerians may have been Nilo-Saharan speakers who descended from the Kiffians, or been proto-Afroasiatic speakers.[4]


Approximately 4500 years ago, the region became dry again. The Tenerian culture vanished, with its makers possibly seeking new pasturage elsewhere.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Sereno PC, Garcea EAA, Jousse H, Stojanowski CM, Saliège J-F, Maga A; et al. (2008). "Lakeside Cemeteries in the Sahara: 5000 Years of Holocene Population and Environmental Change" (PDF). PLoS ONE. 3 (8): e2995. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002995. PMC 2515196. PMID 18701936. Retrieved 8 May 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Wilford, John Noble (14 August 2008). "In the Sahara, Stone Age graves from greener days". New York Times. Retrieved 10 June 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ ANP363. "Rise of Civilization". anthropology.msu.edu. Retrieved 9 May 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Garcea, Elena A. A. (2013). Gobero: The No-return Frontier : Archaeology and Landscape at the Saharo-Sahelian Borderland. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Africa Magna Verlag. pp. 9, 274.

Further readingEdit