Tenerian is the name given by archaeologists to a prehistoric culture originating in at least the 5th millennium BC and lasting until the mid-3rd millennium BC in the Sahara Desert. This spans the wet period of Saharan history known as the Neolithic Subpluvial as well into the onset of the current arid regime.
Reygasse first used the term Tenerian in 1934 with subsequent scholars producing a clearer definition. The Missions Berliet to the Air Mountains in northern Niger produced the clearest definition prior to J. Desmond Clarke's expedition in early 1970, the results of which were published in November 2008.
Gobero was discovered in 2000 during an expedition (led by Paul Sereno) searching for dinosaur remains. Two distinct cultures were discovered at the site: the Tenerian culture and the Kiffian culture. The Kiffians were a prehistoric people who preceded the Tenerians and vanished approximately 8000 years ago, when the desert became very dry. The desert stayed dry until about 4600 BC when the rains returned, and the earliest evidence of the Tenerians appears. Some 200 skeletons have been discovered at Gobero.
The desert region was lush at the time and the Tenerians were cattle-herders, fishermen, and hunters. The graves show that the Tenerians were a spiritual people, as they were buried with artifacts such as jewelry made of hippo tusks and clay pots. The most interesting find is a triple burial, dated to 5300 years ago, of an adult female and two children, estimated through their teeth as being five and eight years old, hugging each other. Pollen residue indicates they were buried on a bed of flowers. The three are assumed to have died within 24 hours of each other, but as their skeletons hold no apparent trauma (they didn't die violently) and they have been buried so elaborately - unlikely if they had died of a plague - the cause of their deaths is a mystery. Analysis of Tenerian skeletons reveals that the Tenerians were not related to the modern inhabitants of the region, having more similarities to the ancient Black African people, who once inhabited North africa .
Approximately 4500 years ago the region became dry again, and the Tenerians vanished, possibly following the animals elsewhere.
- Gwin, Peter. "Lost Tribes of the Green Sahara." National Geographic, September 2008, 126-143
- Sereno, Paul, and others. "Lakeside Cemeteries in the Sahara: 5,000 Years of Holocene Population and Environmental Change", PLoS ONE, August 14, 2008