Protect the Saharan Heritage
Hence give up all claim to souvenirs, keep your inquiring mind in check and help save the past for the future!
Every year thousands of people visit the Sahara in order to research, to work or just because they have been attracted by the fascination of the desert. Many of them bring home at least one arrow head or other stone implements for souvenir and doing so they spoil, for the most part unknowingly and often apparently justified by scientific interest, an important source of historical reference from one of the poorest and least known countries of Africa.
Certainly, the number of archaeological sites seems to be inexhaustible, as once did the number of whales or the tropical forest in the world. But even today there are already regions, where not one stone age settlement has been left untouched. The just one tool taken could be the crucial link in a chain of information decoding a message from prehistory. An historical document missing an unknown number of pages is virtually as worthless as the pages themselves when they are taken out of context. African history is mainly unwritten history and thus in particular relies on archaeological sources.
Today, there are surely greater problems facing the countries concerned than these. But later generations will blame our time for the ruin of their cultural heritage that is more final than the looting of art during colonial times.
One does not have to be an archaeologist to recognize these consequences of an uncontrolled passion for collecting. Ralph Bagnold pointed out this problem in a warning which is supported here by Professor Theodore Monod and Dr Hans Rhotert. All three belong to the pioneers who in the first half of the century opened up vast parts of the Sahara. Their joint appeal is aimed to those who love the desert as they did and likewise feel responsible for this legacy of the past – which only seems inexhaustible.
Take care that your journey does not contribute to the further ruination of a rich but currently unwritten chapter of cultural history. The loss to future generations can never be reclaimed.
Dr Hans Rhotert
Ralph Bagnold, O.B.E., F.R.S.
Professor Theodore Monod