Thursday, May 31 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Architecture + Archaeological Conservation) A Collaborative Model for Rock Art Conservation in the Algerian Desert

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Algeria, the biggest country in North Africa with an area over 2 million square kilometers, has seven stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites. Among them are the earliest prehistorical sites in North Africa: the Oldwayen site of Ain el-Hanech, 1.8 million years BC. The area is enormous and it is difficult to administer effective long-term site management, preservation, and preventative measures. Not only are these cultural heritage sites threatened by extreme weather and climate, but human intervention, looting, vandalism, and terrorism. In order to protect these vast heritage sites, in the mid 2000s the Algerian authorities created the “Algerian Cultural Parks Projects” in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and executed by the Algerian Ministry of Culture. This launched a preventative conservation project applying a new model of local partnerships with Tuoareg and other tribal elders and stakeholders. 
Contained in this centralized Cultural Parks System are five major sites. Park of l’Ahaggar – over 633,000 km2; Tassili N’Ajjer Park – over 138,000 km2; Tindouf – over 168,000 km2; Atlas Saharian Park – over 63,000 km2; and Touat Gourarar Tidikelt Park – over 38,000 km2. The most important cultural heritage in this desert designation is the rock art. There are literally thousands of paintings and engravings out in the open, as well as sheltered in caves. They include masterpieces from the earliest period of art in the Sahara, the Large Wild Fauna Period. These life-size engravings of elephant, rhino, hippo, giraffe, and buffalo show a time when the Sahara was green and fertile. 
Conservation management in the Park of Ahaggar focused on the sites closest to roads and human communities, and then radiated out to the remote regions, often several days’ camel or jeep ride away. Preservation work commenced with detailed inventories including images, GPS, and narrative descriptions. For all the conservation surveys and routine checks, the Park recruited guides among the local population, namely the Touaregs. This detailed inventory work in remote regions was only possible with the collaboration and expertise of these partners, who are very familiar with the sites, locations, and routes. Most importantly, the communities and nomadic groups trust the guides; they often speak the same dialects, thereby facilitating a level of trust, access, and reliable information. The exchange of knowledge was two-way; the local Tuoareg elders and guides’ knowledge of the terrain, history, and symbolism of the sites was a rich resource that was documented as well. As archeological conservators, we were able to provide monitoring guidelines, compile massive data inventories, prioritize conservation site needs, and introduce an acceptable level of outside management to these sites. The relationships continue, as the guides serve on the “frontline” identifying areas of need and alerting archeological managers. This partnership has allowed for a much higher success in the protection of remote sites and movable cultural heritage, by developing a model based on trust, which has enabled government and university experts to work closely with local stewards. 

avatar for Hakim Bouakkache

Hakim Bouakkache

Assistant Professor, University of Constantine, Algeria
Hakim Bouakkache is an assistant professor at the University of Constantine, in the department of archaeology and conservation, who helped design and build the collaborative conservation model for desert heritage sites. He worked at the National Museum Bardo in Algiers, and studied... Read More →

avatar for Julia M Brennan-[PA]

Julia M Brennan-[PA]

Owner, Textile Conservation Services / Caring For Textiles
Julia M. Brennan is a textile conservator based in Washington, DC. She has a passion for textiles, Asia, preserving heritage for our children and great greats, and teaching people how to care for their own cultural heritage.

Thursday May 31, 2018 3:00pm - 3:30pm
Texas Ballroom C Marriott Marquis Houston

Attendees (49)