|17 February 2011
Prehistoric cave art under threat in Somaliland
Prehistoric paintings in Somaliland - a state that previously was a region of Somalia - have come under threat from the elements as well as looting. The paintings, first discovered in 2007 by Dr Sada Mire, are thought to be over 5,000 years old. They depict both animals and humans and cover the walls of a sandstone shelter at Dhamlain, near the Red Sea.
Unfortunately the main problem appears to be a political one. Somaliland is a breakaway state, formed from Somalia in 1991. As Somaliland has no international ratification it is not eligible for World Heritage status and the protection this would provide. The other problem is where to put any artifacts, once they have been rescued. The main Somali museums in Mogadishu and Hargeisa have both been caught up in the civil war and have been looted. Couple this with the fact that Somaliland itself has no museums at all.
It is very difficult to instill a sense of protection of prehistoric artifacts in a people who are so poor that they turn to looting to supplement the little income that they have. But Dr Mire is optimistic as she feels that, by understanding the sites, it should give the people of Somaliland a pride in their heritage. She is quoted as saying "That gives them a sense of dignity and that they are not totally desperate, they have something that the world thinks is very valuable".
Edited fron CNN (5 Feruary 2011)
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