On all continents, nowadays, associations of people interested in rock art fight for its preservation and recognition. Most of them are grouped in the International Federation of Rock Art Organizations (IFRAO). They may initiate, launch or support actions of conservation, as currently is the case for the Burrup sites in northwestern Australia threatened by a giant industrial plant.
Despite all their good work, huge losses to our rock art heritage are foreseeable. As a consequence, we must basically apply our efforts in two directions. First, how to better protect the art and at least significantly diminish the impact of natural and human destructions. Second, safeguard knowledge of the art in case the worst should come to the worst. Education and knowledge are the keys, with relentless educational efforts towards the general public and pressure upon governments and politicians, in order to provide and above all to enforce protective legislation. These are the aims.
As to the means, to promote the recognition of the immense cultural value of rock art worldwide, one of the ways is to propose major rock art sites for the World Heritage List of UNESCO, thus bringing them into the international limelight.
But this is not enough.
What is lacking is a sort of World Rock Art Museum to serve several purposes. Firstly, it would constitute a growing archive for the future. Secondly, it would set an example as a fount of information on the data to collect and to store and about the means to do so. Thirdly, it could be a focal point for the organizing of the workshops necessary to increase the expertise of researchers, managers, rangers and guides. Finally, as the replication techniques in existence offer now the possibility to make life size replicas of stupendous quality, like the ones for Chauvet, Lascaux, Altamira, Niaux, Teverga, such a museum could have rock art panels from the five continents, thus raising the awareness of one of the most spectacular cultural achievements of Humankind.
Dr Jean Clottes is now retired from the French Ministry of Culture where he used to be Conservateur général du Patrimoine and scientific Adviser for everything related to rock art. He is the editor of the International Newsletter on Rock Art (INORA), three 32-pages issues a year published in French and in English. He is currently working on the rock art in India (in collaboration with Dr Meenakshi Dubey-Pathak).