| 2 July 2016
Rocky future for Somalia's ancient cave art
Paintings at Laas Geel in the self-declared state of Somaliland retain their fresh brilliance some 5,000 years or more after Neolithic artists swirled red and white colour on the cliffs of northern Somalia, painting antelopes, cattle, giraffes and hunters carrying bows and arrows.
Abdisalam Shabelleh, site manager from Somaliland's Ministry of Tourism, says: "These paintings are unique. This style cannot be found anywhere in Africa." Then he points to a corner, where the paint fades and peels off the rocks. "If nothing is done now, in 20 years it could all have disappeared."
Amazed by the remarkable condition of the paintings as well as their previously unknown style, Xavier Gutherz, the former head of the French archaeology team that discovered the site in 2002, asked for the cave's listing as a Unesco world heritage site, but that was refused because Somaliland is not recognised as a separate nation. "Only state parties to the World Heritage Convention can nominate sites for World Heritage status," said a Unesco spokesperson. Requests for funding from donor countries face the same legal and diplomatic headache.
The cave paintings have become one of the main attractions for visitors to Somaliland. Around a thousand visitors each year endure rugged terrain with armed escorts to reach Laas Geel, and numbers are growing.
Archaeologists say that Laas Geel may only be one of many treasures awaiting discovery in the vast rocky plains stretching towards the tip of the Horn of Africa.
Edited from Mail Online, News24 (26 June 2016)
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