A pleasant medium-size city, north-central Algeria, in the Ouled Nail Mountains at an elevation of 3,734 feet (1,138 m). It is situated between the towns of Bou Saâda and Laghouat. Djelfa town is at a point of transition between the dry, steppelike High Plateaus of the north, with their chotts (intermittent salt lakes), and the Sahara (south). The town was founded in 1852 as a French military post on a geometric plan. It serves as an important livestock market centre for the seminomadic Ouled Nail confederation. Djelfa is on the 12,000 mile Africa Trail.
The surrounding region for centuries has been the meeting place of the Ouled Nail, who live in black-and-red striped tents and claim descent from the Prophet Muhammad.
The area is notable for its abundance of Neolithic rock carvings dating from 7000 to 5000 BC. North of Djelfa town there is an imposing physical feature known as Salt Rock (Rocher de Sel) that resulted from the erosion of rock salts and marls by rain, and to the west of the town Megalithic funerary structures are found.
Rock art of the Djelfa region:
The rock art of the Djelfa region (Algeria) consists of prehistoric engravings of Neolithic age which have been recognized since 1914. Following the Saharan Atlas Mountains they follow on from those, to the west, of south Oran (the regions of Figuig, Ain Sefra, El-Bayadh, Aflou and Tiaret), to which they are related. Comparable engravings have also been described further to the east, in the Constantine (Algeria) region.
Some of the engravings of the Djelfa region seem to have been known since the 1850s (El Idrissia). Among the best-known, those of Zaccar were discovered in 1907, and Flamand described in 1914 the station of Daïet es Stel. In the mid-1960s the active Djelfa Council of Initiatives undertook to record engravings and paintings, and Father F. de Villaret, who accompanied the visitors, thus made known works from some twenty new stations, notably those of Oued el Hesbaïa and Aïn Naga. In total more than 1,162 engravings have been discovered in the region.
Henri Lhote referred to these engravings in his major work, Les Gravures rupestres du Sud-oranais, which he published in 1970 in the series of the Mémoires du Centre de recherches anthropologiques préhistoriques et ethnographiques (CRAPE). For him they could not "be separated archaeologically from those of south Oran, because they show with some variations the same style, the same technical formulae, the same patinations and the same fauna"(p. 194). It may therefore be possible to analyse them making use of the hypotheses and the classification which he developed. The engravings of the Djelfa region appeared to him like "foreign works, which are a copying (always of inferior quality) from those of south Oran", (p. 193), a region which for the author was "the principal centre of the rock art of the pre-Saharan regions." Some belong to the earliest stage of the large-scale Hartebeest school, like "The Apollo of Ouled Naïl", others are more recent or indeed (stylistically) more decadent.