The Women’s Dance II: Northern Africa

by Max Dashu

Three dancing women, Algerian Sahara

The Sahara has many very ancient rock murals of women dancing or walking in ritual procession. This one is from the Tassili-n-Ajjer region of southern Algeria, dating from about 6000-4000 bce. (That’s no  error; these are really old.) The women are “painted up” in yellow ochre, in patterns seen in many other murals, including the Horned Goddess of Aouanrhet, and like her they wear ritual ties around their arms and lower legs.

Raising Power, southern Algeria

A group of women clap, sing, and dance, with an older woman seated at right as if presiding. This mural from the Tassili-n-Ajjer region of southern Algeria is many thousands of years bce, so old that it has acquired a thick, glossy desert patina from wind driving micro-bits of silica into the rock face over ages.

Menal, Ennedi region, NE Chad
Saharan rock painting of a line of women with a frame drum — that is how I interpret the disc in the hand of the woman at far left — at Menal, Ennedi hills, northeastern Chad. Circa 2000 BCE?

Women in long white skirts dance hand in hand in mural at Baradergolo I, Ennedi, Chad.

Baradergolo I, Chad

Another, broader view of the Baradergolo I mural, in a modern painted reproduction. Women dancers, amidst other family scenes with cattle. This is dated to the Late Bovidian period (before desertification put a stop to cattle herding) circa 3000-2000 bce.

Fada 5, Ennedi

A modern painted reconstruction of an ancient mural at Fada 5 site in the Ennedi region of Chad. Also dated to late Bovidian, circa 4000 to 5000 years ago.

Ochre-painted pot, Tiddis

Women also are painted dancing hand in hand in northern Algeria, here on a pot at Tiddis. This motif was widespread in Saharan ceramic art, which influenced the Phoenicians who settled in Tunisia, and who in turn spread it to Etruria and Spain.

Golden dagger haft, Egypt

The Gebelein dagger shows a common theme in predynastic Kemetic art: women dancing hand in hand, one holding what appears to be a ritual fan.  This scene is also found, with exactly the same elements, on a painted ceramic in the form of an animal, with a ship on the reverse side. These dancers also appear on many other painted vessels of the 4th millennium, often with the same fan.

For more on this, see my photo essay on the Suppressed Histories Archives site.