Timbuktu on the world map

Timbuktu on the world map



As stated on the UNESCO webpage, Timbuktu is an African city located near the gateway of the Sahara Desert. It was founded in the 5th century, but in the 15th and 16th century it became recognized for its cultural importance as it was the center for diffusion of Islamic culture. It was also a marketplace for manuscripts, gold, salt, cattle, and grain. Within this site are three main mosques Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia. Timbuktu also contains multiple mausoleums and holy places that are witnesses of the past. In 1990 this site was inscribed to the List of World Property in Danger do to financial, developmental, and environmental factors. It was originally removed from the list in 2005, but after a terrorist attack it was replaced on the list in 2012.

Mosque of Djinguereber Source:http://travelercorner.com/mosque-in-timbuktu/


It currently meets the criteria of a heritage site for: ii, iv, and v (UNESCO 2016).

  • Criteria ii:  The mosques and holy places of Timbuktu have played an essential role in the spread of Islam in Africa at an early period.
  • Criteria iv:  The three great mosques of Timbuktu bear witness to the golden age of the intellectual and spiritual capital at the end of the Askia dynasty.
  • Criteria v: The three mosques and the other mausoleums are witnesses to the urban establishment of Timbuktu, its important role of commercial, spiritual and cultural center on the southern trans-Saharan trading route, and its traditional characteristic construction techniques. Their environment has now become very vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.

Endangering Factors:

Past Problems (1990 -2015)
  • Flooding
  • Housing
  • Management Plan
  • Legal Framework
  • Wind
  • Vulnerability of Mosques
  • Solid Waste
  • No Protective Measures for Property Buffer Zone
  • Financial Resources
  • Desertification
  • Civil Unrest

Problems as of 2016

  • Deliberate Destruction of Heritage
  • Management Plan
  • War

(UNESCO State of Conservation)

A Time Article states that in 2012, terrorists linked to Al Qaeda destroyed numerous tombs and started tearing down the mausoleums. The destruction of this heritage site was an ideal way to instill fear among the people of Mali. The destruction of these cultural unifying monuments has generated the idea that peaceful living cannot be obtained.  There is little anyone can do to prevent or stop these types of attacks.

Islamic Terrorists attack Ancient Shrine Image Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/22/extremist-pleads-guilty-to-terror-attack-on-timbuktus-mausoleums/

Islamic Terrorists attack Ancient Shrine
Image Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/22/extremist-pleads-guilty-to-terror-attack-on-timbuktus-mausoleums/


In 2016 an Islamic terrorist involved in the above attacks, Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi, pleaded guilty in front of the ICC. He understands that he took part in destroying part of the major “contemporary living symbol of the city.” According to the ICC “Intentionally direct an attack against historic monuments and buildings dedicated to religion constitutes a war crime.” This was the first time that someone tried by the ICC confessed. In September 2016, the ICC sentenced al- Mahdi to nine years of imprisonment.

ICC case for Ahmad al-Faqi al-Mahdi Video Source

Al Mahdi at ICC trial Image Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/22/extremist-pleads-guilty-to-terror-attack-on-timbuktus-mausoleums/

Al Mahdi at ICC trial
Image Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/22/extremist-pleads-guilty-to-terror-attack-on-timbuktus-mausoleums/

Current Status of Timbuktu:

Corrective measures for the property are in progress, but there is still problems. There has been destruction to 14 mausoleums on the property and degradation of the three sacred mosques. While there is hope for the removal of Timbuktu from the List of World Heritage in Danger, there is no specific time frame set.

Timbuktu Mosque Source: http://mysterywonders.com/timbuktu.html

Timbuktu Mosque Source: http://mysterywonders.com/timbuktu.html

Insight To Global Issues:

As Sabloff mentions in his book, Archaeology Matters, heritage is a nonrenewable resource (Sabloff 2008). A major focus of archaeology is preserving heritage for future generations. Heritage is an important part of culture because it helps unify people and gives them an identity. In modern days heritage is being taken for granted until it is destroy. It can be destroyed in multiple ways such as: conflict, development, and environmental. It is important that heritage be preserved for future generations because we were born with the right to enjoy our heritage and it is this generation’s responsibility to protect that right for future generations.

In chapter 4 of Archaeology Matters, Sabloff states that he does not believe warfare is inevitable because war came as a consequence of development not a precursor. War and war crimes can be prevented. It is not just human nature to want to harm other it is done out of necessity. In order to reduce warfare people must be able to feel safe and secure.

A well-known current global issue is the conflict in the Middle East. The UN is focused on maintaining peace and security, but that is usually easier said than done. One method they are trying is to disarm those in conflict prone regions.

“Destroying yesterday’s weapons prevents their being used in tomorrow’s wars.”

United Nations Image Source: http://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/peace-and-security/index.html

United Nations
Image Source: http://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/peace-and-security/index.html


Ishaan Tharoor. 2012 Timbuktu’s Destruction: Why Islamists Are Wrecking Mali’s Cultural Heritage. Website. http://world.time.com/2012/07/02/timbuktus-destruction-why-islamists-are-wrecking-malis-cultural-heritage/ accessed December 1, 2016.

David Blair. 2016 Radical Islamist asks forgiveness for vandalising ancient monuments of Timbuktu. Website. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/22/extremist-pleads- guilty-to-terror-attack-on-timbuktus-mausoleums/ accessed December 1, 2016.

ICC. 2016 Statement of the Prosecutor. Website. https://www.iccpi.int/Pages/item.aspx?name=otp-stat-al-mahdi-160822 accessed December 1, 2016.

ICC. 2016 Al Mahdi Case. Website. https://www.icc-cpi.int/mali/al-mahdi accessed December 1, 2016.

Jeremy Sabloff. 2008 Archaeology Matters. Left Coast Press Inc, California.

United Nations. 2016 Peace and Security. Website. http://www.un.org/en/sections/issues?depth/peace-and-security/index.html accessed December 2, 2016.

ICC. 2016 Al Mahdi case: Opening statement, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, 22 August 2016. Video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b69iOzQ0FBY&feature=youtu.be accessed December 1, 2016

UNESCO. 2016 Timbuktu. Website. http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/119 accessed December 1, 2016.

UNESCO. 2016 State of Conservation. Website. (http://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/928) accessed December 2, 2016.

Mystery Wonders. 2009 Timbuktu. Website. http://mysterywonders.com/timbuktu.html accessed December 2, 2016.

Travel Corner. 2016 Djinguereber Mosque in Timbuktu.Website. http://travelercorner.com/mosque-in-timbuktu/ accessed December 1, 2016.

9 thoughts on Timbuktu

  1. This is a great start! I like that you included a map of where the site is, but maybe you could make it a bit bigger so it is easier to see. 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. Looking good! Note that the criteria ii, iv, and v you describe are what make this a World Heritage site, not criteria for what make it an endangered site.

  3. What is the history that shaped Timbuktu? I had never realized that conflict affected Timbuktu or that the site was as large as it is.

    1. I’m not sure about the history that shaped Timbuktu. I know it was built in the 5th century and that it was a huge center for Islamic culture, but for this website I focused more on the current issues that were affecting the sight.

  4. Very nice webpage! I enjoyed reading it because my site is also in Mali. I found it interesting to see the similarities and differences within our sites. The convicting of the man who destroyed part of the site is quite a story. I think it is a move in the right direction for the protection of the site, and considering it a war crime will hopefully prevent future attacks from happening around the world.

  5. It was very interesting to read your site because I also have a site in Mali. It was cool to see the similarities in architecture because the mosque at my site looks very similar to the Mosque of Djinguereber and is having the similar problem of deterioration. It is also interesting because our sites are pretty close together in Mali, but mine has not experienced destruction from conflict like yours has.

    1. I wonder why terrorist specifically chose Timbuktu to attack over the site you studied. That would be something interesting to research.

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