Rock art is one of humankind' most fascinating and widespread cultural manifestations: it provides a unique and significant visual archive of the social and symbolic worlds of past human societies. Yet, the integration of rock art studies within the archaeological and anthropological domain faces crucial challenges. The complexity of documentation and publication, as well as the difficulty of dating, have hampered its immense potential as an archaeological source. The absence of a theoretically sound interpretive perspective linking local peculiarities to general overviews has reduced its capacity of transmitting human thoughts and emotions. This is particularly true for the region of the present Sahara desert, where outstanding paintings and engravings suffer natural and anthropogenic threats.
ASArt-DATA aims to provide a flexible tool an in-depth analysis of the corpus of the Saharan rock art, produced by the pastoral communities ca. 6300-850 BCE. The archive focus primarily on the complete archive of Tadrart Acacus and Messak, in south-west Libya and other sets of data from private archives. For the first time, this rock art will be thoroughly investigated with an innovative multidisciplinary approach combining Archaeology, Anthropology, Visual Studies, and Digital Humanities. A cornerstone of ASArt-DATA is the publication of the open-access web Atlas of Saharan rock art, properly customized for scientific research, CRM, dissemination and communication. A sound and ground-breaking method of investigating the artworks with a bottom-up approach will be applied through rigorous theoretical analysis of the iconography, while representational codes will be reconnected with their geographical, environmental, and archaeological contexts. The analysis mainly focuses on human representation.
The activities of ASArt-DATA seek to strengthen the link between archaeological and anthropological studies and between the academic world and the general public, thanks to the employment of the underexplored potential of rock art.