National Geographic : 1987 Aug
RSE-POWERED chariot carries two hunters (bottom), one holding the reins, the other a weapon in his left hand. A woman in a gathered skirt stands near the vehicle's eroded wheel as a loping dog keeps pace. Such horse scenes may sig nal the presence, about 1200 B.C., of descendants of a mys terious group from the Medi terranean called the People of the Sea. Wearing armor and wielding bronze weapons, these mercenaries had staged an ill-fated invasion of Egypt. Retiring to the desert, the Sea People were assimilated by the indigenous Garamantes, later described by the Greek histo rian Herodotus as "very pow erful people" who rode four horse chariots as they pursued black cave dwellers whose lan guage sounded "like the screech ing of bats." Drawn in the linear, child like style of the Camel period, two figures perch on their mounts (right). One rider sits on an exaggerated saddle equipped with a basour,a framework covered with linen for protection from the sun. Crowned by horns and flexing bulging biceps, a "god" figure from the Round Head period stands more than ten feet tall (right)behind the fig ure of an antelope, painted later. Close by the figure's side, a woman raises her arms in supplication. The god's phallus may reflect a fertility cult. The paddle-shaped tail is commonly worn by animist tribesmen in Africa. Working with the United Nations Educational, Scientif ic and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), preservationists attempted to protect the paint ings from further erosion by applying a varnish-like seal ant, which left a dark area at the center of the figure. The practice was abandoned, how ever, when it was feared that moisture trapped beneath would hasten deterioration.