After the terrorist attack of January 2013 in the south of Algeria, the Plateau, the main concentration of prehistoric rock art in Tassili n’Ajjer, was completely closed. It was due to the difficulty of border security in the mountainous area located in 40 km  from the Libyan border. The Plateau region was reopened this year to foreigners after 10 years with a two-year trial period for domestic tourists.

The Henir Lhote’s exploration team produced about 1000 life-size rock art replicas of Tassili n’Ajjer. The purpose of this trip was to visit these sites and to record the locations and current status. Many of the places  have been forgotten, places off the tourist routes or have become unaccounted for because the paintings are almost invisible due to fading and/or filming. Fewer and fewer guides know about these places.

Fortunately, we were able to obtain detailed maps of five sites produced by the Lhote’s team. The Sefar map of the first exploration in 1956 seems to have been made by foot measurements and is not so accurate, but the four other maps made by the 1960-62  teams are very accurate and they are exactly same as the satellite photographs. The locations of these rock art were recorded on GPS maps to serve as a guide.

The route includes 624 places of replicas produced by Lhote, of which 384, being 62%, were identified. Many of the concerned rock paintings  were almost invisible and  it was a difficult and a time consuming work to identify. (trip in October 2022)







Sheclter of Amazones, Sefar, October 2022 (9.0m x 4.0m)
アマゾネスの岩陰, セファール 2022年10月  (9.0m x 4.0m)
Shelter of Lion Circus, Sefar, October 2022  (4.9m x  3.2m)
ライオンサーカスの岩陰, セファール 2022年10月 (4.9m x  3.2m)
Exodus, In-Itinen, October 2022  (2.8m x  2.1m)
出エジプト, イン・イティネン 2022年10月 (2.8m x  2.1m)
Grand Caravan, Ouan Derbaouen, October 2022 (4.4m x 1.4m ) Please zoom up maximum to view very fine lines which are very faint. 
キャラバン、ウアンデルバウエン  2022年10月 (4.4m x 1.4m) 非常に細い線で描かれ、退色で消えかけていますので最大までズームしてご覧ください。
Tin Hanakaten,October 2022  (1.6m  x  0.6m)
ティン・ハナカテン, 2022年10月撮影 (1.6m  x  0.6m)

The life-size replicas of Henri Lhote were exhibited first in Paris in November 1957 and Lhote received a worldwide acclaim. At the exhibitions in Japan, about 100 replicas were shown in Tokyo and in Osaka in 1964. Despite the success, however, the methods used to produce the replicas have been criticised. In the case of rock art that are difficult to see, (A) Wetting the wall to reveal the painting. (B) Outlining with charcoal of the figures revealed by the wetting. (D) Tracing on a tracing paper of the charcoal lines. (E) Copy on a tracing paper of the charcoal lines delimiting the figures on the wall. (E)Transferring the tracings from the tracing paper to the background paper. In addition to damaging the rock art itself, a charcoal traced rock art is not measurable due to carbon contamination, even when the organic binders can be dated.

Charcoal lines on the rock art were washed off after tracing, but in some cases they were forgotten to be washed off and left in place. Unfortunately, an example of this was identified in Ouan Agouba. Charcoal left for long periods of time is fixed and remains.

There was another problem with the replicas produced by the Lhote’s team. That is the problem of the two forgeries made by the team members to deceive Lhote. Forced to make the replicas a prolonged and difficult environment, while Lhote was in Paris, the members created two paintings of Egyptian style as Lhote strongly believed Egyptian influence in some Tassili paintings. It could not be claimed to be a forgery because Lhote saw it and believed it to be genuine, and it was treated as a masterpiece for the exhibition as well as for his books. For this reason, some people criticize Lhote, saying that his members are depicting things that do not exist, or they are imaginatively adding what they cannot see.

Even if there were problems with the method of producing the replicas, it is difficult to see any problems with the replicas themselves, with the exception of these two forgeries. Even when wetted with water, the invisible parts are depicted as invisible parts. This time, we found a subject which was misaligned with the real wall. Many of the traced subjects were brought back to Paris to finish compositions. It is not surprising that such mistakes were made and not an essential problem.

Nowadays, it is not allowed to wet the wall. Instead, DSTRETCH, a enhancing software specially designed for rock paintings, is used. It amplifies the colour gamut of the pigments left on the wall. Some of them work well, but in many cases it cannot be better than the wetting technics. The Lhote team’s replicas are still a valuable source of information, showing what is no longer visible to the naked eye or to DSTRETCH.






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