Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus (UNESCO/NHK)

Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus (UNESCO/NHK)

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On the borders of Tassili N'Ajjer in Algeria, also a World Heritage site, this rocky massif has thousands of cave paintings in very different styles, dating from 12,000 B.C. to A.D. 100. They reflect marked changes in the fauna and flora, and also the different ways of life of the populations that succeeded one another in this region of the Sahara.

Source: UNESCO TV / © NHK Nippon Hoso Kyokai

Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus (UNESCO/NHK) - History

In 1985, the Tadrart Acacus mountains were included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites precisely in reference to its rock art, as an example of “a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared” (Criterion III: http://

Since the beginnings of the research activities, rock art has represented one of the main research topics of the mission. Thousands of engravings and paintings, made in the last ten millennia and decorating rock walls and shelters in the Acacus and Messak massifs, have been recorded, reproduced and studied in their stylistics and chronological aspects, in a site-oriented approach, even if with a growing attention to conservation issues.

Recently, the Mission radically changed its aims and organisation in favor of a landscape approach, in order to isolate and define the relationships between physical environment, archaeological contexts and rock art features, to better investigate the environmental, socio-cultural and ideological dynamics of the past cultures. From 2001 onward annual campaigns of systematic surveys have led to the discovery and contextualisation of hundreds of sites. Special emphasis was laid on the state of preservation and accessibility, and several efforts were directed at proposing active heritage conservation measures.

di Lernia, S. 2012. Thoughts on the rock art of the Tadrart Acacus Mts., SW Libya. Adoranten 2012: 19-37.

di Lernia, S., and M. Gallinaro. 2010. The date and context of Neolithic rock art in the Sahara: engravings and ceremonial monuments from Messak Settafet (south-west Libya). Antiquity 84 (326): 954-975.

—. 2011. Working in a UNESCO WH site. Problems and practices on the rock art of the Tadrart Acacus (SW Libya, central Sahara). Journal of African Archaeology 9: 159-175.

di Lernia, S., M. Gallinaro, and A. Zerboni. 2010. Unesco Word Heritage Site vandalized. Report on damages to Acacus rock art paintings (SW Libya). Sahara 21: 59-76.

Gallinaro, M. 2014. "Tadrart Acacus Rock Art Sites", in Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology. Edited by C. Smith, pp. 7201-7208. New York: Springer.

Gallinaro, M. 2013. Saharan Rock Art: Local Dynamics and Wider Perspectives. Arts 2013, 2(4): 350-382 doi:10.3390/arts2040350.

Insight into Global Issues:

    By studying the drawings and engravings on the rocks at Tadrart Acacus, we can gain an insight into what past climates were like, what fauna was present, and what complexity societies where at during these time periods. As mentioned previously, art from the Wild Fauna Period depicted large animals such as crocodiles and hippos (Trust for African Rock Art, 2016). This seems strange since today this area is known as the Sahara Desert, with no large water sources that crocodiles and hippos are known to thrive in. This proves that this area used to be greener and wetter around 10,000 to 6000 B.C. When drawings of cattle appear, it can be inferred that the people in this area are more settled than their previous hunter gatherer counterparts ( Trust for African Rock Art, 2016). Several thousand years pass by, and the pictures start showing horses and camels animals that can withstand heat and dry climates (Trust for African Rock Art, 2016). The art on the rocks show the climate getting drier and drier as time goes on. Studying past climate change can help predict future climate change in this region.

  • Archaeologists should increase their efforts to inform the public about the importance of World Heritage sites. These sites are not only important to cultural heritage, but also to research that can be applied to the world today. Making the public aware of this could help decrease the vandalism at this site in particular, and also help increase the amount of human resources. If these sites are just as important to the people as they are to archaeologists, they could both work together in order to protect these sites.
  • In some cases, inventions from the past can be used today. Terra Preta for example, is a man-made soil created by Amazonians thousands of years ago. The soil is very fertile due to the large amounts of carbon in it, and it makes plants grow faster. This soil can still be found in the Amazon today, and in some places is even sold by the locals who live there. (The Secret of El Dorado, 2011). Australian scientists have created a modern day version of Terra Preta called Agrichar. It has the same properties, and can help grow food in places with poor soil quality, which could help with world hunger. The soil could also help slow Global Warming since the plants take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere via photosynthesis, and then store the carbon back in its roots (The Secret of El Dorado, 2011). The point is, studying the past can give us ideas about how to solve present problems.


The archaeological site has been designated a national park, a Biosphere Reserve (cypresses) and was induced into the UNESCO World Heritage Site list as Tassili n'Ajjer National Park. [5]

The plateau is of great geological and aesthetic interest. Its panorama of geological formations of rock forests, composed of eroded sandstone, resembles a lunar landscape and hosts a range of rock art styles. [6] [7]

The range is composed largely of sandstone. [8] The sandstone is stained by a thin outer layer of deposited metallic oxides that color the rock formations variously from near-black to dull red. [8] Erosion in the area has resulted in nearly 300 natural rock arches being formed in the south east, along with deep gorges and permanent water pools in the north.

Because of the altitude and the water-holding properties of the sandstone, the vegetation here is somewhat richer than in the surrounding desert. It includes a very scattered woodland of the endangered endemic species of Saharan cypress and Saharan myrtle in the higher eastern half of the range. [8] The Tassili Cypress is one of the oldest trees in the world after the Barbed Pine in the USA. [3]

The ecology of the Tassili n'Ajjer is more fully described in the article West Saharan montane xeric woodlands, the ecoregion to which this area belongs. The literal English translation of Tassili n'Ajjer is 'plateau of rivers'. [9]

Relict populations of the West African crocodile persisted in the Tassili n'Ajjer until the twentieth century. [10] Various other fauna still reside on the plateau, including Barbary sheep, the only surviving type of the larger mammals depicted in the rock paintings of the area. [8]

Background Edit

Algerian rock art had been subject to European study since 1863, with surveys conducted by "A. Pomel (1893-1898), Stéphane Gsell (1901-1927), G. B. M. Flamand (1892-1921), Leo Frobenius and Hugo Obermaier (1925), Henri Breuil (1931-1957), L. Joleaud (1918-1938), and Raymond Vaufrey (1935-1955)." [11]

Tassili was already well known by the early 20th century, but Western eyes were fully introduced due to a series of sketches made by French legionnaires, specifically Lieutenant Brenans during the 1930s. [11] He brought with him French archaeologist, Henri Lhote, who would later return during 1956 - 1957, 1959, 1962, and 1970. [12] His expeditions have been heavily critiqued, with his team being accused of faking images, as well as damaging painting the make them brighter for tracing and photography. This resulted in serious damage that reduced the original colors beyond repair. [13] [14]

Current Archaeological Interpretation Edit

The site of Tassili was primarily occupied during the Neolithic period by transhumant pastoralist groups whose lifestyle benefitted both humans and livestock. The local geography, elevation, and natural resources were optimal conditions for dry-season camping of small groups. The wadis within the mountain range functioned as corridors between the rocky highlands and the sandy lowlands. The highlands have archaeological evidence of occupation dating from 5500 to 1500 BCE, while the lowlands have stone tumuli and hearths dating between 6000 to 4000 BCE. The lowland locations appear to have been used as living sites, specifically during the rainy season. [15] There are numerous rock shelters within the sandstone forests, strewn with Neolithic artifacts including ceramic pots and potsherds, lithic arrowheads, bowls and grinders, beads, and jewelry. [3]

The transition to pastoralism following the African Humid period during the early Holocene is reflected in Tassili n'Ajjer's archaeological material record, rock art, and zooarchaeology. Further, the occupation of Tassili is part of a larger movement and climate shift within the Central Sahara. Paleoclimatic and paleoenvironment studies started in the Central Sahara around 14,000 BP, and then proceeded by an arid period that resulted in narrow ecological niches. [16] However, the climate was not consistent and the Sahara was split between the arid lowlands and the humid highlands. Archaeological excavations confirm that human occupation, in the form of hunter-gather groups, occurred between 10,000 and 7,500 BP following 7,500 BP, humans began to organize into pastoral groups in response to the increasingly unpredictable climate. [17] There was a dry period from 7900 and 7200 BP in Tassili [18] that preceded the appearance of the first pastoral groups, which is consistent with other parts of the Saharan-Sahelian belt. [19] The pre-Pastoral pottery excavated from Tassili dates around 9,000 - 8,500 BP, while the Pastoral pottery is from 7,100 - 6000 BP. [20]

The rock art at Tassili is used in conjunction with other sites, including Dhar Tichitt in Mauritania, [21] to study the development of animal husbandry and trans-Saharan travel in North Africa. Cattle were herded across vast areas as early as 3000 - 2000 BCE, reflecting the origins and spread of Pastoralism in the area. This was followed by horses (before 1000 BCE) and then the camel in the next millennium. [22] The arrival of camels reflects the increased development of trans-Saharan trade, as camels were primarily used as transport in trade caravans.

The rock formation is an archaeological site, noted for its numerous prehistoric parietal works of rock art, first reported in 1910, [4] that date to the early Neolithic era at the end of the last glacial period during which the Sahara was a habitable savanna rather than the current desert. Although sources vary considerably, the earliest pieces of art are presumed to be 12,000 years old. [23] The vast majority date to the ninth and tenth millennia BP or younger, according to OSL dating of associated sediments. [24] The art was dated by gathering small fragments of the painted panels that had dried out and flaked off before being buried. [25] Among the 15,000 engravings so far identified, the subjects depicted are large wild animals including antelopes and crocodiles, cattle herds, and humans who engage in activities such as hunting and dancing. [8] These paintings are some of the earliest Central Saharan paintings, and occur in the largest concentration at Tassili. [16] Although Algeria is relatively close to the Iberian Peninsula, the rock art of Tassili n'Ajjer evolved separately from that of the European tradition. [26] According to UNESCO, "The exceptional density of paintings and engravings. have made Tassili world famous." [27]

Similar to other Saharan sites with rock art, Tassili can be separated into five distinct traditions: Archaic (10,000 to 7,500 BCE), Round Head (7550 to 5050 BCE), Bovidian or Pastoral (4,500 to 4,000 BCE), Horse (from 2,000 BCE and 50 CE), and Camel (1000 BCE and onward).

The Archaic period consists primarily of wild animals that lived in the Sahara during the Early Holocene. These works are attributed to hunter-gather peoples, consisting of only etchings. Images are primarily of larger animals, depicted in a naturalistic manner, with the occasional geometric pattern and human figure. Usually the humans and animals are depicted within the context of a hunting scene.

The Round Head Period is associated with specific stylistic choices depicting humanoid forms, and are well separated from the Archaic tradition even though hunter-gatherers were the artists for both. [28] The art consists mainly of paintings, with some of the oldest and largest exposed rock paintings in Africa one human figure stands over five meters and another at three and a half meters. The unique depiction of floating figures with round, featureless heads and formless bodies appear to be floating on the rock surface, hence the "Round Head" label. The occurrence of these paintings and motifs are concentrated in specific locations on the plateau, implying that these sites were the center for ritual, rites, and ceremonies. [11] Most animals shown are mouflon and antelope, usually in static positions that do not appear to be part of a hunting scene.

The Bovidian/Pastoral period correlates with the arrival of domesticated cattle into the Sahara, and the gradual shift to mobile pastoralism. There is a notable and visual difference between the Pastoral period and the earlier two periods, coinciding with the aridification of the Sahara. There is increased stylistic variation, implying the movement of different cultural groups within the area. Domesticated animals such as cattle, sheep, goat, and dogs are depicted, paralleling the zooarchaeological record of the area. The scenes reference diversified communities of herders, hunters with bows, as well as women and children, and imply a growing stratification of society based on property.

The following Horse traditions corresponds with the complete desertification of the Sahara and requirement of new travel methods. The arrival of horses, horse-drawn chariots, and riders are depicted, often in mid-gallop, and is associated more with hunting than warfare. [11] Inscriptions of Libyan-Berber script, used by ancestral Berber peoples, appear next to the images, however the text is completely indecipherable.

The last period is defined by the appearance of camels, which replaced donkeys and cattle as the main mode of transportation across the Sahara. [29] The arrival of camels coincides with the development of long distance trade routes used by caravans to transport salt, goods, and enslaved people across the Sahara. Men, both mounted and unmounted, with shields, spears, and swords are present. Animals including cows and goats are included, but wild animals were crudely rendered.

Although these periods are successive the timeframes are flexible and are consistently being reconstructed by archaeologists as technology and interpretation develop. The art had been dated by archaeologists who gathered fallen fragments and debris from the rock face. [30]

A notable piece common in academic writing is the "Running Horned Woman," also known as the "Horned Goddess," from the round head period. [31] The image depicts a female figure with horns in midstride dots adorn her torso and limbs, and she is dressed in fringed armbands, a skirt, leg bands, and anklets. According to Arisika Razak, Tassili's Horned Goddess is an early example of the "African Sacred Feminine." [31] Her femininity, fertility, and connection to nature are emphasized while the Neolithic artist superimposes the figure onto smaller, older figures. The use of bull horns is a common theme in later round head paintings, which reflects the steady integration of domesticated cattle into Saharan daily life. Cattle imagery, specifically that of bulls, [32] became a central theme in not only at Tassili, but at other nearby sites in Libya. [33]

In 1989, the psychedelics researcher Giorgio Samorini proposed the theory that the fungoid-like paintings in the caves of Tassili are proof of the relationship between humans and psychedelics in the ancient populations of the Sahara, when it was still a verdant land: [34]

One of the most important scenes is to be found in the Tin-Tazarift rock art site, at Tassili, in which we find a series of masked figures in line and hieratically dressed or dressed as dancers surrounded by long and lively festoons of geometrical designs of different kinds. Each dancer holds a mushroom-like object in the right hand and, even more surprising, two parallel lines come out of this object to reach the central part of the head of the dancer, the area of the roots of the two horns. This double line could signify an indirect association or non-material fluid passing from the object held in the right hand and the mind. This interpretation would coincide with the mushroom interpretation if we bear in mind the universal mental value induced by hallucinogenic mushrooms and vegetals, which is often of a mystical and spiritual nature (Dobkin de Rios, 1984:194). It would seem that these lines – in themselves an ideogram which represents something non-material in ancient art – represent the effect that the mushroom has on the human mind. In a shelter in Tin – Abouteka, in Tassili, there is a motif appearing at least twice which associates mushrooms and fish a unique association of symbols among ethno-mycological cultures. Two mushrooms are depicted opposite each other, in a perpendicular position with regard to the fish motif and near the tail. Not far from here, above, we find other fish which are similar to the aforementioned, but without the side-mushrooms.

This theory was reused by Terence McKenna in his 1992 book Food of the Gods, hypothesizing that the Neolithic culture that inhabited the site used psilocybin mushrooms as part of its religious ritual life, citing rock paintings showing persons holding mushroom-like objects in their hands, as well as mushrooms growing from their bodies. [35] For Henri Lohte, who discovered the Tassili caves in the late 1950s, these were obviously secret sanctuaries. [34]

The painting that best supports the mushroom hypothesis is the Tassili mushroom figure Matalem-Amazar where the body of the represented shaman is covered with mushrooms. According to Earl Lee in his book From the Bodies of the Gods: Psychoactive Plants and the Cults of the Dead (2012), this imagery refers to an ancient episode where a "mushroom shaman" was buried while fully-clothed and when unearthed some time later, tiny mushrooms would be growing on the clothes. Earl Lee considered the mushroom paintings at Tassili fairly realistic. [36]

According to Brian Akers, writer for the Mushroom journal, the fungoid rock art in Tassili does not resemble the representations of the Psilocybe hispanica in the Selva Pascuala caves (2015), and he doesn't consider it realistic. [37]

Further reading

  • Di Lernia, Savino e Zampetti, Daniela (eds.) (2008) La Memoria dell'Arte. Le pitture rupestri dell'Acacus tra passato e futuro, Florence, All'Insegna del Giglio
  • Minozzi S., Manzi G., Ricci F., di Lernia S., and Borgognini Tarli S.M. (2003) "Nonalimentary tooth use in prehistory: an Example from Early Holocene in Central Sahara (Uan Muhuggiag, Tadrart Acacus, Libya)" American Journal of Physical Anthropology 120: pp.𧇡–232
  • Mattingly, D. (2000) "Twelve thousand years of human adaptation in Fezzan (Libyan Sahara)" in G. Barker, Graeme and Gilbertson, D.D. (eds) The Archaeology of Drylands: Living at the Margin London, Routledge, pp.𧆠–79
  • Cremaschi, Mauro and Di Lernia, Savino (1999) "Holocene Climatic Changes and Cultural Dynamics in the Libyan Sahara" African Archaeological Review 16(4): pp.𧇓–238
  • Cremaschi, Mauro Di Lernia, Savino and Garcea, Elena A. A. (1998) "Some Insights on the Aterian in the Libyan Sahara: Chronology, Environment, and Archaeology" African Archaeological Review 15(4): pp.𧈅–286
  • Cremaschi, Mauro and Di Lernia, Savino (eds., 1998) Wadi Teshuinat: Palaeoenvironment and Prehistory in South-western Fezzan (Libyan Sahara) Florence, All'Insegna del Giglio
  • Wasylikowa, K. (1992) "Holocene flora of the Tadrart Acacus area, SW Libya, based on plant macrofossils from Uan Muhuggiag and Ti-n-Torha Two Caves archaeological sites" Origini 16: pp.𧅽–159
  • Mori, F., (1960) Arte Preistorica del Sahara Libico Rome, De Luca
  • Mori, F., (1965) Tadrart Acacus, Turin, Einaudi
  • Mercuri AM (2008) Plant exploitation and ethnopalynological evidence from the Wadi Teshuinat area (Tadrart Acacus, Libyan Sahara). Journal of Archaeological Science 35: 1619-1642
  • Mercuri AM (2008) Human influence, plant landscape evolution and climate inferences from the archaeobotanical records of the Wadi Teshuinat area (Libyan Sahara). Journal of Arid Environments 72: 1950-1967.

Tadrart Acacus

Tadrart Acacus is a desert site located to the west of Ghat city, Libya. The word Tadrart means ‘mountain’, the area features a number of mountains with prehistoric Rock Arts.

The mountain ranges in the Tadrart Acacus features a number of paintings, engravings and galleries dating back between 12,000 BC and 100 AD. The site is believed the first site visited by Libyan settlers. The Rock Arts here are also considered as the fine arts all over the world.

The Tadrart Acacus has stunning sceneries with a number of gorges, arches, mountains and rocks. The major places here are Tin Khlega and Afzejare arches. The land here has immense vegetation and the callotropis plant is seen mainly here.

The area is mainly famous for the Rock Arts belonging, because of this the area was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site. These paintings stand as a fine example of Tadrart Acacus natural and cultural changes. These paintings feature the animal carvings such as camels, giraffes, ostriches, horses and elephants. In addition these paintings also display the life style of the men in those days such as dancing and making music.

Vandalism and destruction of Rock-art of Tadrart Acacus

The rock art sites of Tadrart Acacus have survived for 14,000 years in the desert of southern Libya, but they are now under serious threat. Since 2009, vandalism has been a continuous problem: graffiti has been spray-painted across the surface of many of the paintings, and people have carved their initials into the rocks. But despite UNESCO’s and other organizations’ calls for the government to intervene with restoration and security measures, efforts to protect this precious ancient site have been gravely hampered by armed conflict and political chaos.

Libya experienced a political revolution in 2011 with the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, and since then the country has been in a state of civil war.

Savino di Lernia, an archaeologist at Sapienza University of Rome who has worked extensively in the Tadrart Acacus mountains, explains how dangerous the area—formerly a tourist destination—has become:

Today, the site is inaccessible: no commercial flight connects Tripoli and Ghat, a nearby town (a weekly military aircraft brings food, essential goods and first-aid equipment). The tarred road between Ghat and Ubari is broken up, and clashes between the Tebu and Tuareg tribes increasingly affect the area….Being a Saharan archaeologist today is a difficult job. Researchers fear being kidnapped or even killed.

Savino di Lernia

Yahya Saleh, a local tour guide, mourns the fact that local hunters now regularly scrawl their names across the art: “People do not know the value of this. There are supposed to be people to protect these areas…because if this issue persists, then they will be gone within two years.”

The ongoing vandalism of the Tadrart Acacus sites is only one of the many overwhelming difficulties Libya faces with regard to cultural heritage protection. As di Lernia notes,

Perhaps the greatest threat to Libya’s diverse heritage is the trafficking of archaeological materials, for profit or to fund radical groups….No one has been able to fully assess the situation in Libya. Going to work among the black smoke of grenades, the men and women of the Libyan Department of Antiquities are doing their best. But museums are closed and the little activity left in the field is limited to the north.

Savino di Lernia

Until the fighting in Libya stops and archaeologists can again effectively cooperate with the government and international organizations to restore and protect sites like the rock art at Tadrart Acacus, Libya’s rich trove of monuments and artifacts will continue to be endangered.

– The History of Rock Art Research in the Tadrart Acacus (Southwest Libya). Electronic Document

Libya Remains on UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Danger

All five of Libya’s World Heritage Sites were put on the UNESCO List of World Heritage Sites in Danger in 2016 and they remain there. The reason is the high level of instability in Libya and damage due to looting and armed conflucts in and around the sites. These include: the Rock Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus, the archaological sites of Leptis Magna, Cyrene and Sabratha and the Old Town of Ghadamès.

The Rock Art of Tadrart Acacus

These sites are found in the Acacus Mountains, a rocky compact mountain range that is part of the Sahara Desert. The rock art found here exhibits a variety of styles dating from 12,000 BCE to 100 C.E. (See photo below by Roberto D’Angelo). The various rock art within the site suffered under Muammar Gaddafi and the endangered status of the site encompassed this era of neglect and included past looting along with vandalism that continues.

The Archaeological Site of Sabratha

Sabratha was a Phoenician trading post eventually rebuilt by the Romans during the 2nd and 3rd C.E. It is notable for its numerous temples, including one dedicated to the goddess Isis, who was considered to be the protector of ships and sailors. The Mausoleum of Bes is another notable sacred site within the ancient city. There is an excellent gallery of phots on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Archeaological Site of Cyrene

Cyrene, founded in the 7th C BCE, was one of the prominent Greek cities of the Hellenic world. Later, it became Romanized until a large earthquake destroyed it in 365 c BCE. O

ver a thousand years of history can be found at this site (Photo above, The Temple of Zeus, by Giovanni Boccardi). The Temple of Zeu is almost as large as the Parthenon in Athens.

The Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna

Leptus Magna, founded by Septimius Severus, the first Emperor from Libya, was an important city in the Roman Republic from about 111 BCE. The emperor used his wealth to erect elegant buildings, including temples (See photo below of the Severan Basilica by Sasha Coachman), throughout the city. Statues of Medusa, a fertility goddess, were found in public squares all over the city.

UNESCO deplores damage to Aleppo National Museum warns five Heritage Sites in Libya are in danger

The head of the United Nations cultural agency today deplored the recent shelling at the National Museum of Aleppo, located on the edge of the war-torn ancient city in northern Syria, calling once again for the destruction of cultural property to stop.

“The Old City of Aleppo has suffered extensive damage over the last four years. The destruction of the museum is a new blow to the heritage and history of all Syrians. I once again call on all parties to stop the violence and keep cultural heritage out of the conflict,” said Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

According to reports confirmed by the Syrian Directorate General for Antiquities and Museums, the National Museum was hit by mortar shells on 11 July, causing extensive damage to the roof and structure of the building.

Aleppo – Syria’s largest city – has been devastated by the ongoing conflict in the country, now in its sixth year and claiming the lives of more than a quarter of a million people. UNESCO, which, as the UN body responsible for identifying significant cultural landmarks, had classified the Ancient City of Aleppo among six World Heritage sites in Syria, launched a three-year action plan

in August 2013 aimed at preventing further losses and repairing damage where and when possible, but all six of those sites are now either destroyed or severely damaged.

Ms. Bokova noted that the National Museum is the most important museum in Aleppo, with thousands of objects reflecting all periods of Syrian history, including an important Islamic section.

Most of the collections had been already evacuated by the Syrian Directorate General for Antiquities and Museums and taken to safe locations, but strong concerns remain for the items that could not be transported, she said.

Reiterating its calls on all parties to refrain from targeting as well as from using cultural property for military purposes, Ms. Bokova emphasized that UNESCO condemns all destruction of heritage since the outbreak of the conflict, no matter who the instigator.

Archaeological Site of Sabratha (Libya). Photo: © UNESCO/Giovanni Boccardi

UNESCO works with the Syrian Directorate General for Antiquities and Museums to safeguard Syria’s cultural heritage, through training of professionals, documentation and awareness-raising initiatives.

The Director-General said UNESCO is intensifying cooperation with non-governmental organizations, experts and institutions around the world and all across Syria, to protect Syrian heritage, building on the best of scientific expertise from all sides, in the spirit of the expert meeting held in Berlin on 2-4 June, in cooperation with Germany.

Located at the crossroads of several trade routes from the 2nd millennium B.C., Aleppo was ruled successively by the Hittites, Assyrians, Arabs, Mongols, Mamelukes and Ottomans. The 13th-century citadel, 12th-century Great Mosque and various 17th-century madrasas, palaces, caravanserais and hammams all form part of the city’s fabric.

The Ancient City of Aleppo – which was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1986 – has been on the List of World Heritage in Danger since 2013. This status was confirmed by the 40th session of the World Heritage Committee, which is taking place in Istanbul from 10 to 20 July.

In other news today, the World Heritage Committee today placed the five World Heritage sites of Libya on the List of World Heritage in Danger, citing damage caused by the conflict affecting the country and the threat of further damage it poses.

The five sites are: the Archaeological Site of Cyrene, the Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna, the Archaeological Site of Sabratha, Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus and the Old Town of Ghadamès. All of the sites were inscribed on the World Heritage List in the 1980s.

The Committee in particular noted the high level of instability affecting the country and the fact that armed groups are present on these sites or in their immediate surroundings.

The Committee made the decision during its examination of the state of conservation of sites already inscribed on the World Heritage List.

The List of World Heritage in Danger is designed to inform the international community of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which properties were inscribed on the World Heritage List and rally the support of the international community for their protection.

World Heritage List UNESCO Libya

A colony of the Greeks of Thera, Cyrene was one of the principal cities in the Hellenic world. It was Romanized and remained a great capital until the earthquake of 365. A thousand years of history is written into its ruins, which have been famous since the 18th century.

183 Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna – 1982

Leptis Magna was enlarged and embellished by Septimius Severus, who was born there and later became emperor. It was one of the most beautiful cities of the Roman Empire, with its imposing public monuments, harbour, market-place, storehouses, shops and residential districts.

184 Archaeological Site of Sabratha – 1982

A Phoenician trading-post that served as an outlet for the products of the African hinterland, Sabratha was part of the short-lived Numidian Kingdom of Massinissa before being Romanized and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D.

287 Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus – 1985

On the borders of Tassili N’Ajjer in Algeria, also a World Heritage site, this rocky massif has thousands of cave paintings in very different styles, dating from 12,000 B.C. to A.D. 100. They reflect marked changes in the fauna and flora, and also the different ways of life of the populations that succeeded one another in this region of the Sahara.

362 Old Town of Ghadamès – 1986

Ghadamès, known as ‘the pearl of the desert’, stands in an oasis. It is one of the oldest pre-Saharan cities and an outstanding example of a traditional settlement. Its domestic architecture is characterized by a vertical division of functions: the ground floor used to store supplies then another floor for the family, overhanging covered alleys that create what is almost an underground network of passageways and, at the top, open-air terraces reserved for the women.

Watch the video: Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus UNESCONHK (June 2022).