ON a caravan, with one of the great desert's last European explorers. Climbing into a saddle, he taps the camel's back and the caravan sets off.

Thierry Tillet is off to explore the vast Saharan desert again, leading a nine-camel convoy with three other riders. At 68, the Frenchman is one of the last European explorers to dedicate much of his life  - 47 years -  to crisscrossing the region.

This expedition starts and ends at two desert jewels in central Mauritania. From Tichitt, the convoy is headed 300 kilometres east to Qualtata, travelling in single file over a sandy, rocky landscape. For the first time, Tillet is taking journalists along ''so that this knowledge reaches the general public.''

Tillet wears an old, holey T-shirt and worn sandals. With his tousled, white hair and stubbled chin, it's easy to forget he's an authority in his field. For many years, he was a member of the anthropology laboratory at France's National Centre for Scientific Research [CNRS], and a professor of prehistoric archeology at Grenoble University and in Chad, Niger and Mali.

Throughout he would go back and forth to the Sahara. Tillet has documented Neolithic civilisations, overseen the inventory of Malian archaeological sites and discovered a dinosaur skeleton in the Tenere desert in Niger.

In All its diversity
Exploring the history of the world's largest expanse of arid land is a greatly diverse venture. It can range from the forgotten religious centres of  Sufi brotherhoods in northern Mali to the sandstone plateaus in northeastern Chad and prehistoric Sahara settlements in Niger.

But trading his camel for the comfort of an  air-conditioned vehicle as isn't an option for Tillet. ''A camel and that allows me to observe and spot a number of things on the ground,'' he tells AFP. ''In a car I wouldn't be able to do that as it moves too quickly.''

Each trip brings something new, be it publications in scientific works, ''a few stones brought back for research'' or photos of objects from the Neolithic era, the last period of the Stone Age. Currently it's an 11th-century caravan depot lost in the Mauritanian dunes, the  Ma'den Ijafen, that begs to be found.

The revealing winds
Tillet does not consider himself an adventurer or daredevil. ''Exploration carries with it a fantasy. I'm not trying to discover the unknown, but to discover what exists!'' he says. ''That is true scientific exploration.''

In this part of the Sahara, prehistoric artifacts are everywhere, constantly revealed by an omnipresent wind but indistinguishable to the untrained eye. ''in a continental climate. it's often necessary to dig. Here it's all on the surface.''

Without a warning, Tillet pulls the reins to stop, having spotted something interesting. if he doesn't know what it is, he takes notes and - in his only recourse to 21st century technology - satellite coordinates using a GPS.

Once home in Southwestern France, he will transfer them onto a map. The hundreds of  GPS points  suggest the route of his next expedition.

The honor and serving of the latest explorations and writings, continues to part 2. The World Students Society thanks author News Desk, The Express Tribune.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!