Fezzan and the Garamentes
Throughout the period of Punic and Greek colonization of the
coastal plain, the area known as Fezzan was dominated by the Garamentes,
a tribal people who entered the region sometime before 1000 B.C.
In the desert they established a powerful kingdom astride the
trade route between the western Sudan and the Mediterranean coast.
The Garamentes left numerous inscriptions in tifinagh,
the ancient Berber form of writing still used by the Tuareg. Beyond
these and the observations of Herodotus and other classical writers
on their customs and dealings with the coastal settlements, little
was known of this extraordinary and mysterious people until the
advent of modern archaeological methods.
The Garamentes' political power was limited to a chain of oases
about 400 kilometers long in the Wadi Ajal, but from their capital
at Germa they controlled the desert caravan trade from Ghadamis
south to the Niger River, eastward to Egypt, and west to Mauretania
(see Glossary). The Carthaginians employed them as carriers of
goods--gold and ivory purchased in exchange for salt--from the
western Sudan to their depots on the Mediterranean coast. The
Garamentes were also noted as horsebreeders and herders of longhorned
cattle. They succeeded in irrigating portions of their arid lands
for cultivation by using foggares, vast underground networks
of stone-lined water channels. Their wealth and technical skill
are also attested to by the remains of their towns, which were
built of stone, and more than 50,000 of their pyramidal tombs.
Rome sent several punitive expeditions against the Garamentes
before concluding a lasting commercial and military alliance with
them late in the first century A.D.
Data as of 1987