The spatial analysis of the ancient funerary landscape of the Sahara Fazzan - a case study of the Wadi ash-Shati, Libya

Kgosietsile, Tshekiso
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This study is an initial attempt to investigate the spatial arrangement of graves which are believed that they can shed new light on the mortuary behaviours of ancient societies. The aim of this study is to utilise Geographic Information System (GIS) and remote sensing to document and explore the funerary landscape of the Wadi ash-Shati, Libya using a comprehensive set of environmental variables that might have influenced the spatial distribution of Garamantian funerary monuments. In view of that argument, this study is motivated by these two objectives; documenting all the Garamantian funerary monuments and settlements visible in high resolution satellite imagery and investigating their spatial patterns in their topographic setting. Spatial patterns were achieved by plotting digitised graves data from remotely sensed imagery (accessed through Google Earth) and hand held Global Positioning System (GPS) data in a GIS environment in order to extract patterns and structure in the dataset. In order to better understand these patterns and structures, the following GIS approaches; slope, elevation, visibility, clustering, directional distribution analyses were utilised. The results of the GIS analyses showed that there was correlation between graves location, qsurs or settlements, wells and with the environmental variables (slope, elevation, and distance to water resources). On the basis of the results of this research, it can be concluded that environmental variables were major factor in the placement of graves, qsurs and wells. The placement of these site locations can be related to as an expression of the socio-political, economic, cultural and ideological characteristics of the Garamantian society that created the burials and organised the Wadi ash-Shati landscape. The present study concluded that the Garamantian civilisation had established changes in the landscape that promoted the development of elaborate funerary monuments which peaked significantly during the time when aridity became immense in the study region. However additional research is necessary to provide more conclusive results and interpretations of this study, as such results from the analyses carried out should not be viewed as absolute, but as a stepping ladder for future investigation in the Wadi ash-Shati region. Keywords: GIS, Remote sensing, Funerary Landscape, Wadi ash-Shati, Libya, Spatial Analysis, Garamantian, Google Earth, Global Positioning System (GPS), Environmental Variables
Report submitted to the Faculty of Science, University of the Witwatersrand, in Partial fulfilment of the Requirements for Masters in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing in the Faculty of Science. School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand. March 2016.
Kgosietsile, Tshekiso (2017) The spatial analysis of the ancient funerary landscape of the Sahara Fazzan - a case study of the Wadi ash-Shati, Libya, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, <>