Rock Art Sites of Somaliland, Somalia

Spectacular African Rock Art



Technical training while scanning the rock art in Somaliland by CyArkCyArk

Expedition Overview

In September 2013, CyArk digitally documented Laas Geel, Dhagah Nabi Galay and Dhagah Kureh rock shelters using laser scanning and photogrammetry.  The project was conducted in partnership with the Horn Heritage Charity, a nongovernmental organization that works to protect and promote the archaeological heritage of the Horn of Africa and ICCROM, the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property.  CyArk also provided a training workshop to  heritage professionals from Somaliland. The expedition was made possible through a generous donation from the Government of Switzerland.

A view of the rock formations where the rock art was created by CyArkCyArk

Introducing the Rock Art of Somaliland

The complex cave and rock shelters of Laas Geel, Dhagah Kureh, and Dhagah Nabi Galay lie just 30-45 minutes outside of Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland, a self-declared republic and autonomous region of Somalia. Exhibiting outstanding Neolithic rock art, the sites’ cave paintings are considered to be some of the best preserved rock paintings in all of Africa. The images provide valuable information about some of the earliest pastoralists living in this region. The paintings, dated to the third and second millennia BC, depict the herding of humpless cows, sheep and goats, as well as the hunting of antelopes, giraffes, and other wild animals.

A pictograph on the wall of a rock art site in Somalia by CyArkCyArk

Oldest Rock Art in Africa

The Laas Geel shelters feature poly chrome painted panels that are considered to be some of the oldest known rock art in the Horn of Africa. The scenes depict human figures and animals painted in bright reds, whites, yellows, and sometimes black. In many cases the human figures are shown with arms outstretched in postures that demonstrate reverence and perhaps even worship which may indicate the important status ascribed to cattle in this pastoral culture.

A photogrammetry reconstruction of Chamber 9 in Laas Geel, Somalia by CyArkCyArk

CyArk utilized the laser scanning and photogrammetry documentation to create models of several of the rock shelters. The models serve as a point in time record of the site conditions and were archived.

Open Heritage 3D by CyArkCyArk

Data from this project is now freely available through Open Heritage 3D.

Download the data from this project.

About Open Heritage 3D

The mission of the Open Heritage 3Dproject is to:

● Provide open access to 3D cultural heritage datasets for education, research and other
non-commercial uses.

● Minimize the technical, financial and legal barriers for publishers of 3D heritage data.

● Promote discovery and re-use of datasets through standardized metadata and data formats.

● Foster community collaboration and knowledge sharing in the 3D cultural heritage community.

● Share best practices and methodologies for the capture, processing and storage of 3D cultural heritage data

Credits: Story

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This project was made possible with the following partners:

Government of Switzerland


The Horn Heritage Charity

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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