Mesak Settafet

Mesak Settafet is a massive sandstone escarpment in southwest Libya.[1] It sits at an elevation of up to 300 metres (980 ft).[2] The outcropping is abundant in prehistoric rock art and stone tools, particularly at the Wadi Mathendous site.

Meerkat carvings in the Wadi Mathendous in the Mesak Settafet region.

Rock art

There are many distinctive and large prehistoric carvings at the Mesak Settafet escarpment, especially at Wadi Mathendous. The outcropping's exposed stones are covered in a dark varnish or patina containing minerals not currently present in the sandstone. The microns-thick patina of iron and manganese oxides were likely laid down on the rock when the area was much wetter, up to 5000 years ago. The majority of the rock carvings in the area were probably first scratched then ground, likely with water, to create a purposeful finish.[3]

Rock tools

The Mesak Settafet is littered with stone tools from the Pleistocene and later ages. A recent survey of randomly selected areas in the region estimated the tool density to be as high as 75 per square metre (7.0/sq ft) in places.[2] The researchers for the Libyan Department of Antiquities used this figure to call the escarpment the earliest evidence of an anthropogenic environment.


  1. National Geospatial-intelligence Agency. "Mesak Settafet: Libya". Geographical Names. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  2. Robert A. Foley; Marta Mirazón Lahr (2015). "Lithic Landscapes: Early Human Impact from Stone Tool Production on the Central Saharan Environment". PLOS ONE. 10 (3): e0116482. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0116482. PMC 4356577. PMID 25760999.
  3. "Mesak Settafet and Mellet". Temehu. Retrieved 31 March 2016.
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