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The possibilities of an island: Oasian insularities in the Sahara and Genesis of oases


Vincent Battesti

 Original title:
Les possibilités d’une île: Insularités oasiennes au Sahara in Gaëlle Tallet & Thierry Sauzeau (dirs), Mer et désert de l’Antiquité à nos jours, Approches croisées, Rennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, coll. Histoire, 2018, p. 105-144.
ISBN : 978-2-7535-7434-2
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Update Sept. 4th 2018: the last working version of the title was “Les possibilités d’une île: Insularités oasiennes au Sahara et genèse des oasis”, but was reduced while printed. The worst part of it is that the printed version was not the latest and good version, but the uncorrected proofs. I put online (on Hal) a corrected digital version.

This chapter stems from the lecture given in Nov. 2013 to the symposium “Sea and Desert from Antiquity to the Modern Era: Intersecting Perspectives”.

Dans le désert environnant les oasis de Siwa (Égypte), un connaisseur des pistes sahariennes. Nov. 21st, 2010.
© Vincent Battesti


What does imply the “island condition”? A possibility: to be a network node. In this condition, islands and oasis can be compared. Rather than speaking of isolation, which prejudging much of what would give a sharp geographical analysis, should rather be associated with insularity the physical discontinuity and distance.

« Les oasis et les différentes parties du Sahara ne peuvent pas rester isolées les unes des autres. Elles donnent actuellement l’apparence d’îles perdues sur un vaste océan et qui ne seraient visitées par des navires qu’à de très longs intervalles. » (Auguste Chevalier, 1932 : 910) — [The oases and the different parts of the Sahara cannot remain isolated from each other. At present, they look like islands lost in a vast ocean, visited by ships only at very long intervals.]

The possibilities of an island for oases are to be a dynamic hub that explains and enables their existence, shaping their organization and economy, including biodiversity. The raison d’être of oases lies in this historical condition of being a network node.

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Vincent Battesti , "The possibilities of an island: Oasian insularities in the Sahara and Genesis of oases " (online), Anthropoasis |, page published 12 July 2018 (consulted 20 May 2024), available on: