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5 May 2009
Vandal damage to cave paintings in Lybia

Some time around the middle of April, in an area of the Libyan Sahara on the Algerian frontier known as Tadrart Acacus, seven cave paintings from the Neolithic era, dating back to a period between 3,000 and 10,000 years ago, were vandalised with tins of spray paint. The caves were declared UNESCO world heritage sites. The crime was committed by a former tourist guide, a Tunisian citizen whose identity has not been revealed since he was arrested by local police on April 24. The only news to have leaked out from Tripoli's Department of Archaeology is that the man had recently been fired by qn Italian tourist agency, which has been present in the area for many years.
     "The red, black and white graffiti written in spray paint consists of insults addressed to the Libyan government and against Italians", says Juma Anag, the head of the Department of Archaeology. A mission from the department, together with colleagues from the Italo-Libyan Archaeological Mission from Rome's La Sapienza University, led by Professor Savino di Lernia, will be visiting the sites over the coming days to assess the extent of the damage.
     "The paintings - and the graffiti - are easily accessible to anyone who provides themselves with a simple desert pass", comes the complaint from the head of the Italian archaeological mission to Acacus, Savino di Lernia, who will himself be on site in Libya to assess the financial and scientific effort involved in cleaning the paintings. Security for all these sites has up to now been entrusted to a few patrols of tourist and border police who share an immense territory between them. The area of Tadrat Acacus alone covers 6,000 square kilometres. This is too much for the scattered police patrols who have a growing number of tourists to control.

Source: ANSAmed (25 April 2009)

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