Somalia’s Legacy: Laas Geel Caves Covered With At Least 5,000-Year-Old Paintings

Africa’s rock art is very rich and can be found in many places across the vast African continent. It constitutes an important legacy of the ancients.

One such place is about 37 miles north of Hargeisa, the second largest city in Somalia. The place is known as – Laas Geel Caves, which in Somali language means: “where the camels once watered”, located in ten areas within a huge granitic outcrop.

The rocky massive of Laas Geel stands out from a gigantic plateau of granite carved out by wadis.

In 2002, local villagers, who have known about the paintings of Laas Geel for many generations, guided a team of French archaeologists to the caves.

The ancient rock art, depicting nomadic life more than 5,000 years ago has been well-preserved due to the dry climate of the region.

The cave paintings are estimated to be at least 5,000 years old and most probably twice that age. The paintings portray with different colors, many animals such as dogs, antelopes, camels, giraffes; there also scenes showing the indigenous nomadic people worshiping cows.

The paintings cover the rock surface, practically outdoors, but are still in pristine condition. In Laas Geel rock art, several figures have have a thick neck; cows wear many ornaments. Ancient artists used several colors such red ochre, white, yellow ochre and sometimes, black.

The most painted animal is dog or a similar canid with a curved tail and pointed ears;this animal is accompanied by a human figure. The painted panels are distributed within 20 shelters; some are larger about 5 meters and a width reaching about 10 meters.


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