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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 211–223 | Cite as

Rock Art Between Preservation, Research and Sustainable Development—a Perspective from Southern Ethiopia

  • Marina Gallinaro
  • Andrea Zerboni
  • Tadele Solomon
  • Enza Elena Spinapolice
Original Article

Abstract

This paper focuses on southern Ethiopia, along the outer rim of the Rift Valley and not far from the Kenyan border, in an area forming part of a larger region known as a cradle of humankind. However, it also hosts a diverse Holocene rock art heritage, which is still underestimated and underdocumented. Paintings and engravings are widespread in the region, both in rock shelters and open-air sites, often located in remote areas currently inhabited by communities belonging to different ethnic groups. The aim of this paper is to present the first results of a new project in the area around Yabelo, within the broader framework of rock art research in East Africa, integrating archaeological research, preservation and heritage management with a relevant involvement of local communities. The outstanding cultural importance of these contexts offers new prospects for both scholarly research and sustainable development. The recording and study of the artworks is underway, using digital technologies that guarantee a high standard of accuracy of the documentation and non-invasive recording methods. This provides important insights for reconstructing cultural dynamics in the area between the final Pleistocene and onset of the Holocene. Moreover, the focus on rock art makes it possible to enhance local knowledge, increasing the awareness of local communities, with a significant impact on the preservation of this fragile heritage and the development of local, sustainable tourism projects. Differently from other archaeological features, rock art can have a more immediate attractiveness for contemporary observers, in terms of the apparent immediacy of the images and their emotional impact, raising awareness of cultural heritage and fostering major involvement in its preservation.

Keywords

East Africa Southern Ethiopia Rock art Holocene 2D-3D recording Local engagement 

Résumé

Cette contribution se concentre sur le sud de l’Éthiopie, le long de la vallée du Rift et non loin de la frontière kenyane. La zone fait partie d’une région plus vaste connue comme l’un des berceaux de l’humanité. Cependant, il abrite également un patrimoine d’art rupestre holocène varié, encore sous-estimé. Les peintures et les gravures sont très répandues dans la région, aussi bien dans les abris rocheux que dans les sites en plein air, souvent situés dans des zones reculées, actuellement habitées par des communautés de différents groupes ethniques. L’objectif de ce document est de présenter les premiers résultats d’un nouveau projet dans la région autour de Yabelo, en le plaçant dans le cadre plus large de la recherche sur l’art rupestre en Afrique de l’Est, en intégrant la recherche archéologique, la préservation et la gestion du patrimoine, avec une participation active des communautés locales. La valeur culturelle exceptionnelle de ces contextes peut ouvrir un nouveau scénario, tant en termes de recherche scientifique que de développement durable. L’enregistrement et l’étude des œuvres d’art sont en cours grâce à l’utilisation de technologies numériques qui garantissent une précision de la documentation et des méthodes d’enregistrement non invasives. Ces données offrent un éclairage important pour reconstruire la dynamique culturelle qui s’est produite dans la région entre le Pléistocène final et l’Holocène. De plus, l’accent mis sur l’art rupestre peut permettre de valoriser les savoirs locaux, en sensibilisant les communautés locales, avec des effets significatifs dans la préservation de ce patrimoine fragile et dans le développement de projets locaux de tourisme durable. Contrairement à d’autres contextes archéologiques, l’art rupestre peut avoir un attractivité plus immédiate sur les observateurs contemporains, en termes d’immédiateté apparente des images et d’impact émotionnel, ce qui aide à capter l’attention, à favoriser la prise de conscience du patrimoine culturel et à créer une implication majeure dans sa préservation.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research is part of the (H)ORIGIN Project, funded by the Italian Ministry of Research within the framework of the SIR 2014 programme (Project RBSI142SRD, PI: E.E. Spinapolice). We wish to thank the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the ARCCH in Addis Ababa, the Italian Institute of Culture in Addis Ababa and the Borana Zone Culture and Tourism Office, in particular Jillo Dida and Jaatani Dida. We also thank Abebe Hailu, ARCCH inspector, and Halake Shoba, culture and tourism expert and field representative of the Borana Zone, for their precious collaboration and friendship; Alessandro Vanzetti for the comment of a previous version of this manuscript; Marco Bassi and Boku Take for discussions about Borana; and Guyyo Gobbaa and Kura Jarso, respectively; and the 70th and 71st Borana abba gaada, for welcoming us. We warmly thank all the participants in the field in 2016–2017 in southern Ethiopia, in particular Haftom Birhane, Elena Carletti, Marianna Fusco and Lorenzo Guidi. We wish to thank Elizabeth Galvin, Helen Anderson and Jorge de Torres for inviting us to contribute to this special issue and Adria LaViolette and the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments, which helped us improve this article.

Author Contributions

MG designed the research, directed the fieldwork in the Yabelo area and wrote the paper; AZ is in charge of the geomorphological study, described and sampled the rock surfaces and contributed to the paper; TS collaborated on the survey and documentation of rock art, acted as interpreter and contributed to the paper; EES designed and leads the (H)ORIGIN Project and contributed to the paper.

Funding

This study was funded by Italian Ministry of Research within the framework of the SIR 2014 programme (Project RBSI142SRD, PI: E.E. Spinapolice).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze dell’AntichitàSapienza Università di RomaRomeItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra “A. Desio”Università degli Studi di MilanoMilanItaly
  3. 3.Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage (ARCCH)Addis AbabaEthiopia
  4. 4.Dipartimento di Studi UmanisticiUniversità di FerraraFerraraItaly

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