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Das Ennedi Massiv, Expeditionsfahrzeuge vor dem Massiv, Explore Chad

The Ennedi Massif

UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2016

Das Ennedi Massiv, Felslabyrinthe aus der Luft, Explore Chad

Labyrinth of rocks

Formed by wind and ancient seas

Das Ennedi Massiv, Schlucht mit Wasserlauf, Kamelherde und Junge, Explore Chad

Habitat for humans and animals

Das Ennedi Massiv, prähistorische Felszeichungen, Reiter auf Kamelen, Explore Chad

Rock art

Witnesses of the past

Das Ennedi Massiv, Tigui Cocoina Felsbildhoehle, Blick nach aussen, Explore Chad

Research

Investigating the history of man

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The Ennedi Massif

The Sahara's Garden of Eden

As the desert spread thousands of years ago, people retreated to more protected habitats. They found sanctuary in the valleys of the Ennedi, with its life-giving waters. There in northern Chad, in an otherwise uninhabited region, their descendants live in a paradise in the middle of the desert - as isolated today as it was back then.

In 2016 the Ennedi Massif was recognised as a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Less explored than the back of the moon

75% of the Ennedi Massif is yet to be explored. At 40,000 square kilometres, the sandstone plateau is the size of Switzerland. To date, very few scientists have researched this highly inaccessible area of northern Chad.

Stefan KröpelinUniversity of Colgne
The Ennedi Massif is of significant importance to scientific research. The sandstone plateau holds information about the climatic, environmental and cultural developments of the largest desert on our planet over the last 11,000 years.

Deep gorges and rock labyrinths

The Ennedi Massif first came into being in the Paleozoic era, approximately 500-350 million years ago. It was part of one of the primordial oceans which covered the majority of the Sahara. The ocean dried up. What was left behind were sandstone formations which ever since have been carved and re-shaped by water, wind and sand.

Today the sandstone plateau consists of a rock labyrinth, bizarre rock formations and gorges and valleys up to 200 metres deep, through which narrow rivers and streams still run.

Oasis of life

The Sahara was once green and full of life. About 10,000 years ago, heavy monsoon rains had transformed it into a fertile savanna. It reached all the way to the Nile. Wild animals lived here and people on their way through the savanna settled here and there. Reptiles and fish inhabited the lakes and swamps.

Climate change saw the disappearance of the rains from the Sahara - and with it the life. Only by the rivers in the rocky valleys of the Ennedi mountains was life even possible. People, animals and plants found retreat here, with its life-giving water - sheltered for thousands of years from the outside world.

Stefan KröpelinUniversity of Cologne
The Ennedi is like the Sahara's Garden of Eden - it looks the same here now as it did 10,000 years ago when the Sahara was green.

Unique world of flora and fauna

While life on the sandstone plateau was becoming increasingly scarce and slowly dying out, many species of plants and animals lived on in the Ennedi Massif. Like, for example, a small population of about 7 crocodiles. They are the last descendants of the crocodiles that many thousands of years ago would have wandered along the Nile's Wadi Howar swamps and into Chad.

The Ennedi is like a paradise in the desert for researchers and visitors alike.

Stefan KröpelinUniversity of Cologne
The Ennedi is like a Noah's Ark, in that it's preserved the animal world of the past.

Deep gorges, rock labyrinths
and millions of trees

Rock art – a window into the past

In the course of the Ennedi's formation, wind, sand and water partially hollowed out some of the rocks, forming very large over-hangs. In prehistoric times people used these cave-like niches as their living space. They added scenes of their lives on the walls.

The scenes depict stories of a long ago culture. They show, in their own way, the changing climate and the effects this had on living conditions.

The petroglyphs show people dancing, cows with their herders and hunters with their horses or camels, as well as scores of wild animals - for example, giraffes, rhinoceroses or elephants.

Pieces of the puzzle - a story of climate change

Often the rock artists worked over each other's drawings. On one wall alone you can see the transformations from a blooming Sahara of 10,000 years ago, through to the droughts that began around 3,000 years ago.

Baba MallayeComité technique chargé de l'exécution et de la mise en œuvre de la Convention de l'UNESCO sur le Patrimoine Mondial au Tchad
Look into the past and you will see the future.

Reading the petroglyphs

The depiction of cows and horses are a sign of abundant rain. The vegetation was lush, making keeping such livestock possible.

The depiction of camels, on the other hand, point towards an ever an drying environment. Camels are very well adapted to such conditions and can survive for weeks with no water.

Das Ennedi Massiv, Icon, Rind, Explore Chad

Pastoral Period

from ~8,000-3,000 years ago
The Ennedi Massif, horse icon, Explore Chad

Horse Period

from ~3,000-2,000 years ago (Iron Age)
Das Ennedi Massiv, Icon, Kamel, Explore Chad

Camel Period

since ~2,000 years

UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2016

The Ennedi Massif is unique. In 2016 it was recognised as mix of both a natural and cultural World Heritage Site - the 5th in Africa, and the 33rd in the world.

Here are the facts at a glance:

  • The outstanding natural beauty of the landscape
  • A biodiversity that has survived in isolation until today
  • A wealth of rock arts, especially the layers of drawings on top of each other, making the climate change over the last 10,000 years visible to us now
  • The preservation of this fragile ecosystem is crucial for the inhabitants, both human and animal
  • Conservation of this unique, cultural landscape is significant for all of humanity

Research projects
in Ennedi

Glühbirne

Objectives

Gaining new insights into and deepening our understanding of

  • geology and the geomorphology of the Ennedi Massif
  • history of settlements and the origins of the first advanced civilisations in Africa
  • climate change

Expeditions

Since 2010, scientist Stefan Kröpelin has been travelling to the Ennedi Massif on a regular basis. The objectives of the expeditions are

  • collecting data and samples for research
  • basic research for the World Heritage project
Mikroskop

Research work

A wide range of investigations are conducted during and after each fieldwork phase

  • mapping
  • collecting samples
  • archeological digs
  • analysis of archeological, geological, botanical and zoological samples
  • ethnological research

See and hear the camels in the valley of Archei.

Impressions from the Ennedi Massif

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