Saharan oasis culture and its evolution
Shun Ishiyama (Research Institute for Humanity and Nature)
Paper short abstract:
Two elements constituted Saharan oasis culture. One is irrigated date palm, the main food for the people of oasis and trans-Saharan trade. The other is Saharan trade covering the Sahara. Nowadays, conditions of oasis life have changed. We discuss this big change.
Paper long abstract:
Human life of the Sahara oases had been supported by two factors. The first is networks of oases realised with trans-Saharan trade of long distance by camel caravans. Being integrated in this network, the oases could enjoy economic prosperities and became centres of socio-cultural interactions between sub-Sahara and Mediterranean peoples and cultures. The second factor is irrigated agriculture at oases with particular under- ground water supply system called Foggara. The date palm is indispensable crop for oasis agriculture. The species are widely distributed from Sahara to Iran. The date palm is (1) a plant with a strong adaptation capacity to hyper dry condition in the tropical area. (2) It supplies also shade and humidity to other crops cultivated under the date palms. (3) Abundance of varieties is big because of dioeciom. The date palm culture associated with other crops ones has been maintained with skilful indigenous knowledge and technology like Foggara irrigation. Foggara system can be found largely all over Afro-Asian inner dry land with different names (qanāt, karez tec.). Although this is a skilful system exploiting scarce water for irrigation, the water resource disappears some times. It is why Saharan peoples began to introduce deep well modern irrigation system working with electric motor engine. This affects deeply oasis life: development of large cereal field and predicament of water resources for traditional Foggara, which goes to the destruction of Palm field.
Afro-Eurasian inner dry land civilization