On 2 February 2010, the State Party submitted a ‘Report on Vandalism in the Tadrart Acacus Mountains’ prepared in June 2009 jointly by representatives of the Libyan Department of Antiquities and the Italian-Libyan Archaeological Mission in the Acacus and Messak. The latter has been working in the area since 1955 in close collaboration with the Department of Archaeology.
The report summarizes the damage on the basis of a site visit. Unfortunately some of the most famous and significant masterpieces appear to have been deliberately targeted. Seven distinct sites are known to have suffered ‘very high to high’ levels of physical damage with black and silver nitro paint sprayed onto the images, either entirely covering them or partially covering them with graffiti. In some cases, such as at the Ti-n-Asching II site (among the best known in Saharan rock art in the Horse/Bitriangular style), the nitro spray paint completely covers all the rock art scenes.
In the 1983 nomination, the State Party documented that a programme of protection of these outstanding, remote and vast sites from man’s destruction was of the highest priority. However the scale of the area – it covers around 7,500 sq kilometres; and the increasing number of tourists, which the report notes has taken the authorities by surprise, make the protection of the area a massive challenge given the limited resources available. In recent years, as a first response, some sites have been fenced off.
The report concludes by saying that a detailed assessment should be undertaken as a matter of urgency by the Department of Antiquities, in collaboration with UNESCO and the University of Sapienza, Rome, in order to understand what sites might be susceptible to restoration.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies express great concern and sadness at the damage to some of the most widely known Saharan rock art images. They agree that an expert mission is urgently needed. Regrettably, the arrangements for a proposed reactive monitoring mission scheduled in April could not be made in time to report to the World Heritage Committee.
It is clear that the first priority of the mission must be to consider how a detailed assessment of the physical damage might be undertaken, which sites might be the subject of conservation work, and how such work might be undertaken. It is also clear that the mission needs to consider future protection of this extensive property, including through possible collaboration with the local communities, how the significance and sensitivity of the area might be better promoted to tourist agencies and individual tourists, how the permit system for visitors might be strengthened and monitored and how overall access might be controlled.
34 COM 7B.59
The World Heritage Committee,
Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add,
Recalling Decision 33 COM 5A, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),
Expresses its great concern at the damage inflicted on some of the most widely known
Saharan rock art images;
State of conservation of World Heritage properties inscribed on the World Heritage List
WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add, p. 108