Thursday, January 31, 2008

UN vandals spray graffiti on Sahara’s prehistoric art

Times Online (Dalya Alberge)

OK, so this is all the way over the other side of the Sahara, but it makes me so cross. And it is exactly the type of problem that rock art all over the Sahara, including Egyptian rock art, is being subjected to. Just look at the photographs.

Spectacular prehistoric depictions of animal and human figures created up to 6,000 years ago on Western Saharan rocks have been vandalised by United Nations peacekeepers, The Times has learnt.

Archaeological sites boasting ancient paintings and engravings of giraffes, buffalo and elephants have been defaced within the past two years by personnel attached to the UN mission, known by its French acronym, Minurso.

Graffiti, some of it more than a metre high and sprayed with paint meant for use for marking routes, now blights the rock art at Lajuad, an isolated site known as Devil Mountain, which is regarded by the local Sahrawi population as a mystical place of great cultural significance.

Many of the UN “graffiti artists” signed and dated their work, revealing their identities and where they are from. Minurso personnel stationed in Western Sahara come from almost 30 countries. They are monitoring a ceasefire between the occupying Moroccan forces and the Polisario Front, which is seeking independence.

One Croatian peacekeeper scrawled “Petar CroArmy” across a rock face. Extensive traces of pigment from rock painting are visible underneath. Another left behind Cyrillic graffiti, and “Evgeny” from Russia scribbled AUI, the code for the Minurso base at Aguanit. “Mahmoud” from Egypt left his mark at Rekeiz Lemgasem, and “Ibrahim” wrote his name and number over a prehistoric painting of a giraffe. “Issa”, a Kenyan major who signed his name and wrote the date, had just completed a UN course, Ethics in Peacekeeping, documents show.

See the above page for the full story.

For a recent story about damage inflicted on rock art in Egypt and Libya, see:
Desert art in danger at Egypt's new tourism frontier (Charles Onians)

For a truly disturbing scene of a tourist tracing rock art in Egypt's Gilf Kebir, see:
Gilf Kebir Expedition on You Tube

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