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Laas Geel rock art site in Somaliland

09 Nov 2016
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A UNESCO report on - UNESCO expert mission examines the state of conservation of Laas Geel Rock Art site in Somaliland - reviews the state of conservation of the Laas Geel Rock Art site, one of the oldest rock art sites in Africa and the most important ancient site in Somaliland.

Laas Geel rock art site in Somaliland

Laas Geel rock art site in Somaliland. Image: TARA/David Coulson.

In the framework of UNESCO's support towards the sustainable development of the Somali Culture Sector, and in partnership and with the financial support of the French Embassy in Kenya and Somalia, UNESCO sent a technical expert mission to Somaliland from 28 October to 2 November 2016 to review the state of conservation of the Laas Geel Rock Art site, one of the oldest rock art sites in Africa and the most important ancient site in Somaliland.

Laas Geel rock art site in Somaliland. Image: TARA/David Coulson.

Two experts, Prof. Xavier Gutherz, a renowned archaeologist and researcher (one of the first experts to work on Laas Geel), and Mr. Laurent Bruxelles, an expert from the INRAP, French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research, and IFAS, French Institute of South Africa, Johannesburg, carried out the review in close collaboration with the Somaliland Ministry of Youth, Sport and Tourism.

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The last UNESCO mission to Laas Geel took place in 2010 and was led by a team from the Trust for African Rock Art (TARA) and Kenyan archeologist, Mr. George Abungu. They were accompanied by the former Director of Heritage in Somaliland, Dr Sada Mira. Some of the images from their mission are featured on the TARA Rock Art database, which is now housed through the British Museum.

From the 2010 mission, the mission team did not report any serious damage to the Laas Geel site. However, threats of serious deterioration over the past years have been reported.

The mission team reviewed available documentation and research, knowledge from prior visits and other sources of reference prior to their mission, and then undertook interviews with the site manager and local authorities as well as local communities in order to make recommendations for the safeguarding of the site.

UNESCO has now initiated a Friends of Somali Culture Group. Preparations for the next meeting are currently underway in order to mobilize governmental and non-governmental stakeholders, partners and technical experts in the safeguarding and sustainable development of Somali cultural heritage.

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