Vandalism, Lajuad. Photo (cc) Western Sahara Project.
Via the Megalithic Portal comes news of vandalism of rock art. The culprits are soldiers, but in a twist they’re not American. From the graffitti scrawled over the walls of the shelter they’re Russian, Croatian, Kenyan and Egyptian. Along with name and rank the perpetrators also left tags saying which base they were operating from.
I’m slightly frustrated I can’t tell you why these rock shelters are important. That’s because I know so little about this region. After reading the field reports for 2006 I can tell you that some of the art depicts animals that probably haven’t been in the area for 5000 years, so this is prehistoric material. The artefacts and artwork of these people are all we have. In my defence Nick Brooks, who found this graffitti, says that this really is an underexplored area of the world. The finds from here could tell us about how the climate changed and how people adapted to life in their new environment.
Sadly Nick Brooks also reports this isn’t the first time the UN Peacekeepers have damaged archaeological sites in the area. Nor is it a problem with the soldiers. Some of the graffitti quite clearly states the rank of the officers including a Major and a Captain. The discipline seems to be rotten a long way up the chain of command. Islamic states in Africa tend to see themselves in relation to the expansion of Islam and so can see pre-Islamic remains as remains of an other. Given the politics of the Western Sahara that would suggest that the actions of the UN Peacekeepers are coming awfully close to endorsing the Moroccan government’s claims over those of the Polisaro Front.
It’s also a project you can take part in. If you want to help survey sites which are unknown the West you can volunteer.Google+