Jour fixe: "Using baboons to map ancient biocultural pathways across the Sahara"

Tuesday, 9. July 2024
13:30 - 15:00

Y 326 / hybrid


Gisela Kopp (ZENiT Fellow /Biology)


Recent discoveries on the Egyptian-Libyan border have thrown a spotlight on Ennedi, a remote plateau in north-east Chad. Sometimes referred to as the Eden in the Sahara, Ennedi is not only prominent for its unique landscape, extraordinary archaeological sites, and iconic desert-dwelling fauna, but is also home to a relict population of baboons, isolated for millenia on this rock island in a sea of sand from their conspecifics further south. The discovered rock art and hieroglyphic inscriptions have energized debate on the location of Yam, a mysterious name of an unknown region in ancient Egyptian culture and the vital role of the Wadi Howar/Yellow Nile corridor during the desertification of the Sahara. Our aims are twofold: to determine (1) the immigration history of baboons living in Ennedi today and (2) the geographic provenance of baboons imported to Egypt 6,000 years ago, which fueled a fascinating worship of baboons in ancient Egyptian culture. We will answer these questions by combining approaches from disparate disciplines: non-invasive wildlife genetics from molecular biology and stable isotope analyses from geochemistry will allow us to track the geographical origins of baboon individuals and situate these findings with historical and archaeological evidence from egyptology. Our overarching objective is to uncover the ancient pathways that connected people and animals living in the eastern Sahara during the Holocene.