The project WüstenWissen (‚desert knowledge‘) is an interdisciplinary study of the transformations of the Sahara desert.

Ancient Petroglyphs of Giraffe, Ostrich, and longhorned cow being driven by a human, carved into rocks in what is now desert Gilf Kebir, Egypt.
Ilan Molcho, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Deserts, the sparsely vegetated regions of our earth, are often perceived as lifeless in their barrenness. But it overlooks the dynamics these regions are subject to, climatologically, biologically, culturally and in many other respects.

The largest arid desert on earth today, the Sahara, has experienced extreme climatic changes several times, impacting the biosphere, hydrosphere, pedosphere and anthroposphere. Particularly noteworthy is the so-called "Green Sahara Period" from about 14,600 to 5,000 years ago, during which the Sahara was covered and populated by fertile savannah landscapes, impressively documented in rock paintings from this time. These ecosystem changes also directly influenced regional cultures' dynamics and enabled the establishment of trans-Saharan trade routes. Significant changes are also expected due to climate change - likely, that the Sahara will temporarily become greener again.

In Western-dominated science, the Sahara is still very insufficiently researched in many areas. Initiatives such as the exhibition "Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa" (Block Museum, Northwestern University, 2019) are the first essential steps towards doing more justice to the desert as a space of knowledge and exchange, also from a historical perspective and including African voices.

The members of the project group "DesertKnowledge" approach the research object Sahara in an interdisciplinary way. In close dialogue and interaction with local researchers and actors, they will reflect and revise the Western-centred view of their research.


participating Members


    • Workshop „Rock Art“

      The members of the project WüstenWissen (desert knowledge) are organising a workshop on rock art.


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      Event access: Internal

      Frankfurt am Main