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  #1  
Old 8 Mar 2012
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A slur on us Overlanders!

I have just read a fascinating article in the British Museum Magazine - Winter 2001, entitled ‘History Erased’. It is about the erosion, both natural and mad induced, of Rock Art in Libya. It all made an interesting read until I reached the sentence:

‘This region was once protected by being remote and hostile - except to a few indigenous people. Today the region is accessible to ‘overlanders’ on powerful motorbikes and tourists in massive trucks and land cruisers, leaving litter in their wake.’

As an Overlander and owner of a big motorbike I was enraged at this suggestion and wrote to the British Museum expressing my views. I have not had a reply. Should you too feel compelled to take up arms the authors of the article were Dr. Jill Cook of The British Museum and David Coulson of the Trust for African Rock Art. A quick Google search digs them out!

I have a pdf of the article if anybody wants a look pm me.

‘Tidy’ Toby Savage.
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Old 8 Mar 2012
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Hi Toby,

I understand your outrage, but I wouldn't care too much about such generalizations.

While we always do leave traces on our travels in one or another way, some of us do it in a respectful manner, some of us don't, and all grades in between.

Cheers,
Raf
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Old 8 Mar 2012
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Thanks Raf. What I find ironic is that this is about Rock Art in Libya - a Country noted for it's exceptional control of litter. ;-)
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Old 8 Mar 2012
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Thanks Raf. What I find ironic is that this is about Rock Art in Libya - a Country noted for it's exceptional control of litter. ;-)
you are right there Toby , i was in Libya a couple of years ago and en route to Nalut and Ghudamis and 60 miles from anywhere there was a fridge and a pile of rubbish and it was about another 120 miles before we came across another village. ? . In other remote parts there was loads of rubbish dumped and obviously not dumped by the travelling community.

The rock art is an area on the south west on the border with Algeria, difficult and arduous to get to so just how many visitors go there ? They have had trouble with guides hired by unesco before
Or is this just a campaign to raise more funds for the heritage site ?
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Old 8 Mar 2012
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The last incident I recall where Libyan rock art was defaced involved a Libyan tour guide who was subsequently convicted.

As for overlanders being blamed, its a bit like accusing sailors of stealing the Elgin Marbles.
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Old 8 Mar 2012
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I always find subjects about conserving the past quite interesting. I seem to recall learning in my history class at school that etchings/paintings/hieroglyphics tend to get defaced over time. This is either done on purpose by succeeding generations, by accident or simply by the passage of time.

Take the Buddhas of Bamiyan for example, destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. There was a huge outcry by UNESCO and I remember reading several articles on the likes of "look at what these rat bags have done".

But surely, this IS history in the making, as is the passage of 'overlanders' in North Africa. It is very hard to conserve parts of the planet when human beings are still in existence.
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Old 8 Mar 2012
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This reminds me of a 2003 UNESCO report making similar absurd accusations (see below). I always assumed it was J Keenan behind it, as that was the bee in his bonnet at the time, but it wouldn't surprise me if David Coulson and TARA had a hand in it too.

Like JK, DC was not above manipulating facts to make himself took better. Around that time he published a book on African rock art which led with press releases of a 'sensational discovery' of a 30' giraffe engraving just off the road south of Arlit (Niger). I recall going to the book's launch at the RGS. Iirc there was much hoo haa about making a plaster cast of the giraffe and bequeathing it to some museum back in Europe. The press lapped it up and I was amazed myself that such a big engraving had not already be recorded just off the TSH.
An old Saharan hand duly informed me that it had indeed been found ages ago ago by the French (possibly the 50s? - despite what the above link says), along with much more besides.
A couple of years later I met a woman in Agadez with Unimog problems (those 'massive truck and land cruisers' again ...) and who boasted of working with DC on that book. I mentioned the giraffe business nearby, but can't honestly recall her explanation (although I like to think some spluttering was involved ;-)

All true that historical legacies and monuments have been trashed since pharaonic times, but the motivation to drive all the way out to the Sahara to vandalise rock art seems hard to fathom. Much more damage has been done by bored UN soldiers (Western Sahara) or Muslim fundamentalists offended by depictions of human figures (Tamajert, DZ, I think it was).

Ch

p289 the the Sahara book
Quote:
... In 2003, section 5.3.1 of a 78-page UNESCO report titled: The Sahara of cultures and people. Towards a strategy for the sustainable development of tourism in the Sahara in the context of combating poverty' categorised Saharan tourists as ‘excursionists’, ‘discoverers’, or ‘initiates’. A final category, ‘independents’ was described as follows:

These are essentially travellers who move around in complete autonomy, with their own ‘super-equipped’ vehicles, and make very little use of local personnel (sometimes a guide, on the understanding that the use of GPS provides access to all places, particularly neolithic sites). They consume lots of water and wood without necessarily realising what the consequences could be and make only minimal purchases in the countries they visit (food, fuel and craft products). As they are unsupervised, they often cause, through ignorance, irreparable damage to the environment and to neolithic sites. It would seem that their presence causes more damage than it might bring additional resources to those regions and their population. They are to be found in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and Niger, and less so in the Libya and Mauritania.
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Old 8 Mar 2012
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I'm not sure why some folks are upset: the article didn't say anything that isn't true. If you've travelled extensively then you've surely seen places that used to be beautiful and pristine now downtrodden by too many visitors, and the trash and wear that they bring with them.

About 10 years ago I did a Enfield tour through India. There was one point where tour buses stopped for a cliffside view of a valley with some waterfalls. I hopped off my motorcycle and walked over to enjoy the view. As I stood at the cliff's edge, I looked down and saw a small mountain of food wrappers and other trash scaling down the cliff. When I looked around I noticed that although there were trash barrels only a few meters away, people were chucking there wrappers and bottles over the edge.

I'm not sure what the solution is. You can put a trashcan in front of some people and they still won't bother using it. Maybe some sites do need to be closed off to the public for their protection...
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Old 8 Mar 2012
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I'm not sure why some folks are upset: the article didn't say anything that isn't true. If you've travelled extensively then you've surely seen places that used to be beautiful and pristine now downtrodden by too many visitors, and the trash and wear that they bring with them.

About 10 years ago I did a Enfield tour through India. There was one point where tour buses stopped for a cliffside view of a valley with some waterfalls. I hopped off my motorcycle and walked over to enjoy the view. As I stood at the cliff's edge, I looked down and saw a small mountain of food wrappers and other trash scaling down the cliff. When I looked around I noticed that although there were trash barrels only a few meters away, people were chucking there wrappers and bottles over the edge.

I'm not sure what the solution is. You can put a trashcan in front of some people and they still won't bother using it. Maybe some sites do need to be closed off to the public for their protection...
I have to disent.

By no means I try to mean that "locals" (don't be picky about the term, had to choose one) are any worse than tourists, since first of all it's their own country/home, so we should be more respectful BUT, in general terms, in developing countries locals tend to be much careless about trashing around than visitors.

Of course, tourists add to garbage, although quite often more in a indirect way, such as more plastic/glass bottles which may not be recycled, etc. But usually, people willing to visit those paintings tend to take good care. Regarding locals and trashing, it's not their fault, but only consciousness and education and a matter of time, as it was the case here before (ex. Industrial revolution).

I recall once a Guatemalan woman asking me to throw her white plastic dish full of chicken bones and a plastic bag with the straw and remains of juice through the window of the yellow ex US school bus. I just got paralyzed before the dylema about what do to. In the end, I just threw it away as she asked. It did not make a big difference to the hundreds I had seen to be thrown, and it was not the right moment for the white man (even worse, Spaniard "conquistador") to teach moral/environmental lessons. However, I did not throw mine, if she wanted to learn from my acts.

So, impact yes, and definitely more than if no overlander is going there. Awareness, as well. And indirectly, protection to the site, since tourism means cash, so authorities will take measures. And one overlander does not damage more than an hord of tourist on a bus, of that I'm sure.

My 2 long/boring cents.

Esteban
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Old 8 Mar 2012
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Let's keep the discussion in the Sahara - it's not like other places.
That's the point.

Ch
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Old 9 Mar 2012
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If you are actually wondering about the issues and why this statement was made it is nothing to do with the means of travel, it is to do with what has been done to the rock art.
In the 60s henri lhote wrote a book and publicised articles about them which brought alot of attention via tourism, one of his methods for taking pictures was to pour water over the painted images to get better photographs.He was not really an archaeologist more of a traveller and since then alot of people copied that method which damaged the paintings. this was mentioned again by him in NAT geo in the 80s.
Even back then there was multiple cases of the rock art being defaced by people carving their initials on them, damaging them with pouring water over them, adding bits, removing bits and outright stealing them. This was not all done by foreigners but it was the tourism that brought the footfall.
The term overlander does not just refer to the hubb type crowd just google it and you are more likley to see adverts for gap year students or package type tours so why anybody is getting offended I don't know.
As for being found by the French ,they were made famous and largley documented by French and Italians in the 1950s but they were using reports from a German archaeologist on a Brit expedition from the 1850s.
The Unesco report Chris has linked is actually very accurate despite Unesco being a bunch of two faced fannys, apart from all the water, wood ect bit. If people are parking up, camping or driving on open sites that have not being recorded fully by archaeologists or are not marked it could easily destroy them or at the very least turn them into a nightmare to record in the future. This is very much the case with neolithic stuff as there is often very little left to start with. I am not talking about the visible rock art as only a moron would drive over that or deface them but the surrounding area, cooking over a stove or a fire can cause issues with cave art or any site, leaving remains that get churned in with the older stuff, driving over loose soil can damage whats underneat, digging pits burying poo all that causes issues. You may not see it because it is buried, but how many of you can identify a filled in post hole or ancient midden when your digging your fire pit or latrine.
What makes these sites so important is that they have not had a major population tramping all over them or defacing them, their isolation kept them safe , now they are no longer isolated and easy to find, they are no longer safe. The sahara has loads of secrets to give up and projects like the western sahara project and other groups of archaeologists such as the Bufalo expeditions who found a missing persian army are trying their best to record them before the goods end up on ebay.
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Old 9 Mar 2012
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Let's keep the discussion in the Sahara - it's not like other places.
That's the point.

Ch
True, didn't notice.
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Old 9 Mar 2012
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Gosh. I have to say I am flattered to have started such a debate! I fully agree with all of your comments and having been fortunate to have visited and photographed a lot of Rock Art sites in Libya am happy to confirm that most of them are so off the beaten track and relatively unknown that they should be there for a further 5-9000 years. I have also seen red ochre paintings wiped clean off the rock face over a five year span in Western Sahara by Guides keen to enhance the colours for visitor photographs. Gone! The thing that got me about the article was that it implied all of the litter was being generated by 'overlanders' and Tourists in trucks, 4x4s and on Bikes. This is simply not true. As Esteban touched on, the attitudes of many locals (for want of a better title) is that litter is somebody else's problem. This attitude will, I expect, remain unchanged for generations, but it is grossly unfair of the authors of this article to sit in their Ivory Towers and blame us. That's it. It's 6.00 pm on a Friday and I'm off for a pint - Timothy Taylors Landlord, if you are interested. May have two. Have a good weekend.
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