State of Conservation (SOC)
Rock-Art Sites of Tadrart Acacus (2012)
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds
International Assistance granted to the property
Total Amount Ap proved:0USD
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
Current conservation issues
The Tadrat Acacus is a large massif in a remote area near the Algerian border that hosts hundreds of rock shelters containing mainly Neolithic rock paintings and engravings. In April 2009, ten rock art sites in two of the main wadis, including some of the most well-known and highly acclaimed images were vandalised through the application of spray paint.
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.
Link to the decision
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B.Add,
2. Recalling Decision 35 COM 7B.54, adopted at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011),
3. Encourages the State Party, once conditions allow, to implement the action plan and the recommendations made by the 2011 reactive monitoring mission;
4. Invites the State Party to consider submitting an International Assistance request for the implementation of priority measures and for the development of a multi-faceted conservation and management strategy for the property;
5. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013.
Draft Decision: 34 COM 7B.59
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add,
2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 5A, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),
3. Expresses its great concern at the damage inflicted on some of the most widely known Saharan rock art images;
4. Regrets the delay in the agreed joint reactive monitoring mission visiting the property and requests the State Party, the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS to organise this mission before the end of 2010;
5. Urges the State Party, after discussion with the mission, to undertake a detailed assessment of the damage in association with experts who have worked on the sites, and to explore which sites might be susceptible to conservation and how this work might be undertaken;
6. Also urges the State Party to consider the protection of the property, and establish an adequate management system, including possible collaboration with the local communities, with means notably to promote the significance and sensitivity of the area to tourist agencies and individual tourists, to strengthen the permit system for visitors and to improve the overall access control;
7. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2011, a detailed report on the above-mentioned issues, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 35th session in 2011.
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The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).