Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus

Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus, Libya

Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus

Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus. Image Source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/287/gallery/

Background:

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Location of the Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus. Image Source: http://endangeredsites.leadr.msu.edu.

  • This site can be found in the Sahara desert in the South-West part of Libya. The rock art includes thousands of paintings and engravings that date as far back as 12,000 B.C. (UNESCO, 1985). The art tells stories about the changes in wildlife and civilization throughout different time periods
  • The oldest art belongs to the Wild Fauna Period (10,000-6000 B.C.) and has large illustrations of animals such as giraffes, elephants, hippos, and rhinos. This period had a much wetter and greener environment than today (Trust for African Rock Art, 2016). The Round Head Period (8000-6000 B.C.) overlaps the previous period and begins to show strange looking human figures that seem to be floating. Some suggest this depiction shows a connection to Shamanism (Trust for African Rock Art, 2016). In this period people were still living as hunter-gatherers, but the Pastoral Period (5500-2000 B.C.) began to show a more settled and organized way of life. Domesticated cattle appear in this period and human figures are depicted using spears and conducting ceremonies ( Trust for African Rock Art, 2016). After this period the climate started to get drier which made long distance travel a higher safety concern, and this lead to the Horse Period (1000 B.C.- A.D. 1). It shows the beginning of horses and horses pulling chariots. Humans are also more elaborate with clothing and weapons (Trust for African Rock Art, 2016). The most recent period of rock art is called the Camel Period         ( 200 B.C. to present) since these animals are very useful in a dry desert climate (Trust for African Rock Art, 2016).
  • This site was appointed as a World Heritage site because according to UNESCO(1985) it falls under criteria iii which means that it ” bears a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared.”
  • Currently this site is being endangered by vandalism, lack of human resources, and conflict (UNESCO, 2016).

Video: UNESCO Rock- Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus

Endangering Factors:

 

               Vandalism, Lack of Human Resources, and Conflict

   

  • In April 2009 black and silver spray paint graffiti damaged 10 sites in Tadrart Acacus, and even more vandalism by spray paint and from the carving of initials into the stone occurred in 2014 (Alsherif, 2014). According to records from the World Heritage Committee (UNESCO, 2011), soon after the vandalism, the Committee was informed about the damage done to the sites. They requested a joint monitoring mission to be conducted at all ten sites where the vandalism occurred. The sites were then assessed for their damages, and they suggested that qualified experts should come and start the restoration processes that was projected to take 5 years. They also had suggestions on how to proactively protect the site before something like this happens again.  For example, they recommended that two guards be stationed at each post at the site, with access to the proper technology needed for the job. They also wanted to have a conference with the Department of Antiquities, UNESCO, and the World Bank to create a plan to control and monitor tourism in the area.
  • In 2016, the World Heritage Committee met again to discuss the progress of the restoration efforts of the Rock-Art sites that were vandalized. The Libyan heritage professionals had evaluated the site before the meeting, and established that none of the suggestions made at the 2011 meeting were put into effect. They also expressed more concern about the effectiveness of the guards at the site. Their shelters were vandalized, and they had no support from the surrounding community. A new threat to the site was also expressed. Due to the conflict in the region, the Acacus area has become a crossing point for migrants, and this increase in human presence is a threat to the site (UNESCO, 2016).
  • Five World Heritage sites in Libya including those at Cyrene, Leptis Magna, Sabratha, Ghadames and Tadrart Acacus were placed on the endangered sites list in 2016 due to all the conflict in the Middle East (CNN, 2016). Several of these sites are in the midst of the conflict, with armed groups at or nearby the sites. The migration of people from this conflict has also increased the human presence at these World Heritage sites, and this has also contributed to the damage of the sites (UNESCO, 2016).

Effects of Environmental factors and Natural Disasters

 

  • The Rock-Art sites of Tadrart Acacus have been exposed to temperature variations and wind erosions for thousands of years because it is outdoors and not protected from the elements (Lernia, 2015).  The site of Cyrene is also facing these conditions since it is also located in Libya. Cyrene was first inhabited by Greeks, and then the Romans (African World Heritage Sites, 2011). An earthquake in 365 A.D. destroyed not only buildings, temples, and homes, but also its prestige as a “great capital” ( UNESCO, 1982).

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    Temple of Zeus at Cyrene. Image Source: http://www.ancient.eu/image/315/.

  • The remains of the city of Pompeii are also being impacted by current environmental factors. Pompeii was first destroyed on August 24, A.D. 7 by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius (Wallas-Hadrill,2011). Pumice and ash covered the city, which is why there are still identifiable remains from the city today. Sadly, the remains are facing a second wave of destruction due to heavy rainfall, excessive plant growth, and storms (UNESCO, 2011).

 

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.

Bibliography:

African World Heritage Sites

2011 Archaeological Site of Cyrene- Libya. Electronic document, http://www.africanworldheritagesites.org/cultural-places/frontiers-of-the-roman-empire/cyrene.html, accessed November 29, 2016.

Alsherif, Ahamed

2014 The History of Rock Art Research in the Tadrart Acacus (Southwest Libya). Electronic Document, http://www.rockartscandinavia.com/images/articles/a14ahmed.pdf, accessed November 28, 2016.

BBC

2011 The Secret of El Dorado – Terra Preta. Electronic document, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Os-ujelkgw, accessed November 15, 2016.

Endangered Sites

Applied Archaeology and World Heritage in Danger. Electronic image, http://endangeredsites.leadr.msu.edu, accessed December 1, 2016.

Giralt, Sebastia

Temple of Zeus at Cyrene. Electronic image, http://www.ancient.eu/image/315/, accessed December 2, 2016.

Lernia, Savino

2015 Cultural Heritage: Save Libyan Archaeology. Electronic document, http://www.nature.com/news/cultural-heritage-save-libyan-archaeology-1.16781, accessed November 29, 2016.

Page, Thomas

2016 The Battle to Save Libya’s World Heritage Sites. Electronic document, http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/02/architecture/unesco-libya-sites-danger/, accessed November 28, 2016.

The Star Online

2014 14,000 Year Old Cave Art in Libya Destroyed by Vandals. Electronic image, http://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/features/2014/06/05/sigh-14000-year-old-cave-art-in-libya-destroyed-by-vandals/, accessed December 1, 2016.

Trust for African Rock Art

Camel Period (Sahara), Electronic document, http://africanrockart.org/rock-art-in-africa/periods-and-styles/camel-period-sahara-present-to-c-2000-bp/,  accessed November 27, 2016.

Trust for African Rock Art

Early Hunter or Bubalus Period (Sahara), Electronic document, http://africanrockart.org/rock-art-in-africa/periods-and-styles/early-hunter-or-bubalus-period-sahara/, accessed November 27, 2016.

Trust for African Rock Art

Hippopotamus. Electronic image, http://africanrockart.org/wp-content/gallery/libya-rock-art-gallery/LIBMES0070041.jpg, accessed December 2, 2016.

Trust for African Rock Art

Horse Period including Libyan Warrior Art (Sahara and Horn of Africa), Electronic document, http://africanrockart.org/rock-art-in-africa/periods-and-styles/horse-period-including-libyan-warrior-art-sahara/, accessed November 27, 2016.

Trust for African Rock Art

Round Head Period (Sahara), Electronic document, http://africanrockart.org/rock-art-in-africa/periods-and-styles/round-head-period-sahara/, accessed November 27, 2016.

Trust for African Rock Art

Pastoral Period (Sahara and Horn of Africa), Electronic document, http://africanrockart.org/rock-art-in-africa/periods-and-styles/pastoral-period-sahara-and-horn-of-africa/, accessed November 27, 2016.

UNESCO

2011 Archaeological Areas of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata. Electronic document, http://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/354, accessed November 28, 2016.

UNESCO

1982 Archaeological Site of Cyrene. Electronic document http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/190, accessed November 28, 2016.

UNESCO

2016 Libya’s Five World Heritage Sites put on List of World Heritage in Danger. Electronic document, http://whc.unesco.org/en/news/1523/, accessed November 28, 2016.

UNESCO

2013 Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus. Electronic document, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_OxZpaOShg, accessed November 28, 2016.

UNESCO

2016 Rock-Arts Sites of Tadrart Acacus. Electronic document, http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/287/, accessed November 30, 2016.

UNESCO

2011 State of Conservation. Electronic document, http://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/343, accessed November 28, 2016.

UNESCO

2016 State of Conservation. Electronic document, http://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/3400, accessed November 28, 2016.

UNESCO

The Criteria for Selection. Electronic document, http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/, accessed November 28, 2016.

Wallace-Hadrill, Andrew

2011 Pompeii: Portents of Disaster. Electronic document, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/romans/pompeii_portents_01.shtml, accessed November 30, 2016.

2 thoughts on Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus

  1. This is a good start! I enjoy the photo that you’ve included to illustrate the site. You can also consider including a map to show where the site is located. Check out the example archaeological site page to see how we would like you to do the citations (we will go over this in class on December 1st as well).

  2. Removing the spay paint with out destroying the ancient material underneath would pose a lot of challenges. I think this would be an opportunity for someone with a chemistry background to get involved in archaeology. I would be interested to learn if they were able to synthesize a cleaner that could remove the vandalism that was not abrasive. I would definitely be interested in learning more about what their plant to remove the paint involved and what chemistry could do to help.

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