Heinrich Barth and Archaeology
Heinrich Barth
View of the rock engraving described in detail by Heinrich Barth

Heinrich Barth's deep interest in archaeology was already in evidence during his Mediterranean travels: He was therefore fascinated by the traces of ancient civilizations he came across in the Sahara, which he attempted to interpret in the light of his knowledge of classical times, notably the rock engravings he described and copied in 1850 in the northern Sahara. At a time when the study of prehistoric and early history was still in its infancy, he was one of the first to recognize that the rock engravings were extremely ancient, a significant historical source and testimony to the early inhabitants of the Sahara and their culture. He also regarded the engravings as evidence of the dramatic changes which had taken place in the climate of the Sahara over the past millennia.

"Kaum hatten wir hier unser Zelt aufgeschlagen, als wir fanden, dass das Thal einige bemerkenswerte Skulpturen [Gravierungen] enthielt, wlche unserer besondern Aufmerksamkeit werht waren." (Barth 1857: I: 210)