Fossils of the Anti-Atlas
Wealth of the Anti-Atlas
For those who like to combine holidays and educational discoveries, the Moroccan South will delight collectors of fossils or minerals…
It is in the Anti-Atlas, an old folded mountain range dating back about 300 million years, that most of these sites are found, which attract many international scientists, so many discoveries are made there.
Water being rare there, it is the most arid Moroccan massif, already foreshadowing the drought of the near Sahara. Its chaotic landscapes offer a wide range of panoramas, formed mainly of basalt, granitic rocks, often in pink tones varying according to the luminosity of the sun, trachyte, volcanic rock containing “alkaline feldspar”.
Several rock painting sites are to be discovered. In Aït Ouazik, east of the Draa valley, drawings showing gazelles, elephants; a few kilometres from Tinzounine, in the same valley, one can admire representations of hunter riders dating back to a thousand years BC.
It is necessary to add to these minerals the meteorites, relatively numerous which crashed in the Moroccan South, often of lunar origin and more rarely Martian.
The latter are of great interest to researchers wanting to know more about the possibilities of life on the Red Planet; these are therefore the most coveted, some trading up to 300€ per gram, a real manna for these meteorite hunters.
Traces of a distant life
Many fossils of large dinosaurs have been discovered in several regions. North of Ouarzazate, in Toundout, the Tazoudasaurus Naïmi, measuring 9 meters and certainly 180 million years old.
But also in the region of Rissani, in the Tafilalet, large carnivorous dinosaurs were discovered there in the 90s, the “Carcharodontausaurus sahiricus”, the lizard with sharp teeth, able to measure in the 14 meters, still of the same size, the “deltadromeus agilis”, the agile runner of the delta, both living more than 90 million years ago.
Such finds as the study of fossils are important to understand the history of our planet.
In the hamada of Kem Kem, between the Draa and Tafilalet valleys, researchers found numerous vertebrate fossils, fish, molluscs, plants and crocodile teeth. They already attest to the presence of the ocean in the Sahara in those remote times.
It is in the region of Alnif, small palm grove of the Anti-Atlas at the foot of the Jbel Bougafer, as famous for its potatoes as for its fossils, that the most important fossil sites of the famous trilobite of the Moroccan South are found.
This marine fossil having lived during the primary era does not attract only the numerous unconditional collectors. Scientists study it assiduously, because the trilobite is a stratigraphic fossil allowing to better know the chronological divisions from Cambrian to Devonian (primary era), but especially to date with precision the geological formations, because they lived, on or in the substrate of the seabed. Further evidence of the marine presence in this part of the world.
As for cephalopods, marine molluscs, they are very present in Tafilalet around Erfoud. Confined in a black marble rock, they abound in the Moroccan South, whereas they are rare in the rest of the world. Erfoud’s craftsmen have made it their specialty. The first step is to polish the stone to make the fossil inside appear.
Once polished as it should be, they work it to create decorative as well as utilitarian objects. Cups, bowls, plates, glasses… are thus part of a small craft industry and increasingly lucrative trade in the region.
In some sites, one can also find ammonites, fossil molluscs of the cephalopod class, sea urchins, remains of bivalve shells or gastropods.
As for the amateurs of minerals, after having crossed this essentially mineral Sagho djebel, they will not be in rest, the Moroccan South by holding many varieties: malachite, quartz, gypsum, cerusite, calcite and others, the list is long…