Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Messak Project

Note: There are many beautiful rock art photos and maps in this paper.  I highly recommend linking to the original of this paper in order to enjoy its graphical content.  The format is a web page, not pdf, so it should be accessible to anyone reading this.

Detail of rock art scene, Messak Settafet


Cultural and Natural Preservation and Sustainable Tourism (south-western Libya)

Marina Gallinaro, Christine Gauthier, Yves Gauthier, Jean-Loïc Le Quellec, Saad Abdel Aziz, Stefano Biagetti, Luigi Boitani, Emanuele Cancellieri, Lucia Cavorsi, Isabella Massamba N'Siala, Andrea Monaco, Alessandro Vanzetti, Andrea Zerboni & Savino di Lernia



"The Messak Project started in summer 2010 as a joint project of the Libyan Department of Archaeology and the Italian-Libyan Archaeological Mission in the Acacus and Messak of Sapienza University of Rome, a three-year programme of heritage research and management of the Messak plateaux in south-western Libya. At the end of February 2011, in the final stages of the first season, the civil uprising interrupted the research and determined the termination of the project. After eight months of conflict, there is growing concern from the international scientific community about the state of the Libyan cultural heritage and its role in the future of the country ( In this respect, we believe that communication of the preliminary results of the project can contribute to keep focusing attention on the Libyan situation, and to emphasise the wealth and outstanding value of the cultural heritage in a remote but crucial area for the country."


"Data on c. 9000 archaeological entities, half of which are unpublished sites from the past 30 years of research, were entered into a geo-database, creating the first geo-archaeological map of the region (Figures 5 and 6). This gave a wider view of the location of archaeological evidence and revealed the presence of sites in a great variety of settings. The development of statistically based predictive models will enhance the understanding of occupation dynamics in the region in different periods. The types of sites and their periods of occupation vary greatly. While most data refer to the Holocene, Pleistocene evidence is undeniably remarkable (Figure 7), also featuring some unexpected ancient records relative to the earliest phases of the Early Stone Age. Other data refer to the frequentation of the plateaux over the last two millennia (e.g. tifinagh inscriptions, caravan routes or nomad campsites)."

"One of the main outcomes of the Messak Project is the map of damage sustained (Figures 8 and 9). The extent of damage caused to each archaeological and rock art site was assessed and all recent activities caused by human agency (such as car tracks, roads, oil research facilities and infrastructures) were recorded. This resulted in a thematic map synthesising the state of the environmental and cultural heritage as at February 2011 and a map of the potential risk to the natural and archaeological heritage (Figures 10 and 11). These maps provide a new tool for planning conservation strategies of the heritage of the Messak region. Evidence of different types and levels of damage and risk for archaeological and rock art sites, as well as for the wadis, forms the basis for the selection of restoration priorities and the definition of areas requiring special protection measures."

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