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The conservation of African immovable heritage is increasingly faced with the challenge of irreversible change from the development process. There is an urgent need to ensure that those remaining places are properly documented for posterity. This paper reports on action taken to safeguard Lesotho national heritage, through the upgrading of its heritage documentation system and the establishment of a baseline inventory for the national heritage conservation agency. The exercise was carried out over two years, with international partnership, based on regional expertise. The heritage typologies recorded were architectural, archaeological and natural, including rock paintings, in nature. It provides an example of how cooperation of international organisation and exchange of skills among African organisations could assist in solving some of the problems faced by the heritage sectors of countries that lack the capacity to preserve their cultural resources.
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Applied Methods for Upgrading Documentation of Immovable Heritage
in Lesotho
Ashton Sinamai
, Ishanlosen Odiaua
, Seke Katsamudanga
, Ndukuyake Ndhlovu
The conservation of African immovable heritage is increasingly faced with the challenge of
irreversible change from the development process. There is an urgent need to ensure that
those remaining places are properly documented for posterity. This paper reports on action
taken to safeguard Lesotho national heritage, through the upgrading of its heritage
documentation system and the establishment of a baseline inventory for the national
heritage conservation agency. The exercise was carried out over two years, with international
partnership, based on regional expertise. The heritage typologies recorded were
architectural, archaeological and natural, including rock paintings, in nature. It provides an
example of how cooperation of international organisation and exchange of skills among
African organisations could assist in solving some of the problems faced by the heritage
sectors of countries that lack the capacity to preserve their cultural resources.
KEYWORDS: cultural heritage, inventory, documentation, conservation, Lesotho
With the pace of infrastructural development in Africa, numerous heritage
places are lost before they are recorded. In Lesotho, the major threats are mining,
dam building and agriculture. This paper discusses a recent contribution to the
conservation of heritage places in Lesotho, a landlocked nation surrounded by South
Africa. There was no consolidated list of heritage sites and places and the few known
sites had no documentation. Heritage documentation is a prerequisite for all
conservation actions and its absence in Lesotho meant that there were no records to
consult in development and conservation processes. Management of heritage places
was, therefore, impossible without thorough documentation.
In 2007, the government of Lesotho, through the Department of Culture of
the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Culture (MTEC) approached the Africa 2009
of ICCROM for assistance with its heritage documentation system. In its
request, the Lesotho government acknowledged that the effective management of
national cultural assets was almost impossible with ‘no clear documentation system’
Research Fellow, University of York, UK.
Consultant, Montreal, Canada.
Lecturer, University of Zimbabwe.
Lecturer, University of Pretoria.
The AFRICA 2009 programme, a 12-year partnership of sub-Saharan African cultural heritage organizations,
ICCROM, the UNESCO -WHC, CRATerre-ENSAG, EPA and CHDA, came to an end in 2009. Its main objective was to
increase national capacities for the management and conservation of immovable cultural heritage. Financial
support for the programme came from various partners.
in existence. It thus sought assistance to enableMTEC to upgrade its existing system,
as well as establish a baseline inventory of heritage assets in the kingdom. To meet
this need, the Africa 2009 programme proposed an approach spread over two years,
to ensure adequate follow up and monitoring of the proposed systems. The Centre
for Heritage Development for Africa (CHDA) based in Kenya coordinated the project
on behalf of Africa 2009. Three regional heritage professionals and CHDA
implemented the project, in partnership with staff of the national institution. The
challenges observed within this national context are common to many countries in
sub-Saharan Africa. It is hoped that the results of this project, as shared in this paper,
will be useful to other African cultural heritage practitioners.
The kingdom of Lesotho is a small country that covers an area of
approximately 30,000km2. Over 70% of its land surface is mountainous and its
population of 2.1 million people is concentrated in urban centres and in the less
mountainous areas. Settlement on the Lesotho Highlands is not a recent
phenomenon as evidence shows that there were occupied as early as 60 000 years
ago (Mitchell 2010). The evidence of this settlement is reflected by the thousands of
rock art sites that have been recorded in the kingdom, especially in the Maloti
Mountains. The Maloti-UKhahlamba (Drakensberg) World Heritage Cultural
Landscape, which is shared with South Africa, is recognition of the cultural richness of
the region. There are also Later Stone Age and rock art sites in pristine condition,
especially in the Maluti Mountains. With a much colder environment, the Lesotho
Highlands are one of the few mountainous areas settled by the Bantu. Recent high
concentrations of population on the highlands, however, are a result of the Shaka’s
18th century Difaquane wars which send much of southern Africa into turmoil. After a
series of raids, the then Sotho king, Moshoeshoe led his people into the highlands in
search of defensive positions that the mountains provided. Their settlement on the
highlands also attracted Christian Missionaries who constructed some of the historical
buildings that are national monuments today. Lesotho also has numerous
paleontological sites with sites at Morija, Subeng Stream and Tsikoane Plateau,
Moyeni, Matsieng, and Mohale’s Hoek. With this history of occupation, the Lesotho
Highlands have significant cultural heritage resources that require not just research
but also documentation and preservation.
Because of these heritage sites, Lesotho has been an important research
destination since the 1920s, attracting archaeologists and anthropologists with interest
in rock art, anthropology, archaeology, palaeontology, paleoecology, bioarchaeology
and montane vegetation. Archaeological interest in the Lesotho area began as early as
the 1920s when the Leo Frobenious expedition visited the kingdom. The archaeological
sites are important, not only for a better understanding of Lesotho but also for their
implication to much of southern African archaeology. Much has been published about
the significance of these sites to the understanding of hunter-gatherer lifestyles, the
interaction of later Stone Age communities with farmers and the drawing of
inferences that can be used elsewhere in the sub-region (Mitchell 2002, 2009). This is
important because hunter-gatherer communities continued to exist alongside
farming communities until very recent times (Mitchell 2009). Many archaeological
sites have been recorded through this and subsequent expeditions but the records
don’t seem to exist within the Ministry that manages the cultural heritage sites.
There are also sites from the occupation of the Highlands by the modern Sotho
which include historical routes followed by Moshoeshoe as well as settlement sites
established after settlement. Other sites include colonial heritage places, especially
mission stations, churches, houses and historical houses build in the early 19th century.
One of the unique heritages of Lesotho lies in its vernacular architecture which
presents an interesting variation of mountain architecture in Africa. The often-circular
buildings that make up the homesteads are made of stone rubble (coursed or
uncoursed) laid in mud mortar and often with elaborate entrance mouldings, in earth
plaster, around entrances and windows. The thatch roofs are strong enough to
withstand the weight of snow during winter (See Figure 1).
Figure 1 Example of Sotho architecture in Lesotho (Photo: I. Odiaua)
Much of the research carried out in Lesotho, however, has been done by
foreign experts usually with huge research projects in world-renown universities.
These research projects have not seen the responsibility to train local archaeologists
in the documentation of the heritage sites that they recorded. In most cases, records
of sites recorded by researchers have not been deposited with the Lesotho
government. Most records are at the University of Witwatersrand (South Africa) and
Cambridge (UK) and are not accessible to heritage managers in Lesotho. With a
shortage of manpower (only two BaSotho have training as archaeologists),
documentation of heritage places has been impossible.
Lesotho has an aggressive national tourism promotion policy, tapping into its
rich cultural and natural heritage as important assets than can contribute significantly
to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With little else in terms of natural resources
(except diamonds), Lesotho sees tourism as one of its most important industries.
Though this depends on the natural beauty of the mountainous landscape, its cultural
heritage sites also enhance visitor experiences in the Kingdom. The success of this
tourism policy, however, is hampered by the absence of adequate documentation
which can be used to identify heritage places suitable for tourism purposes. This
combined with the fear of loss of these cultural heritage sites has led to increasing
concern about the lack of proper documentation and the absence of information on
some of the sites with potential for tourism. In spite of the vast amount of research
that has been carried out at various heritage sites in the past, little work has been
done to organise the data and results that these studies produced. Many of these
studies used varied standards to record sites and there was a need to create a
standardised database with an efficient information retrieval system.
In recent times large-scale development projects such as the Lesotho
Highlands Water Project
and erosion have become very real threats to the heritage
resources of the kingdom. Lack of Environmental Impact Assessment policy and
expertise pose a major threat to the cultural heritage in the areas where the
Highlands Water Project will be implemented. In addition, there are other threats
that include vandalism, natural deterioration and illegal trafficking of rock art, which
endanger these non-renewable resources. Panels of rock art are sometimes cut out of
the rock and used as decoration in homes in South Africa.
The responsibility to document, research and preserve this heritage is the
responsibility of the Department of Culture which is under the Ministry of Tourism.
The department is responsible for the safeguarding of cultural and natural heritage in
Lesotho, administering it under Act 41 of 1967 but has no infrastructure and
manpower to implement the act. Though the act makes an effort to define cultural
heritage, its focus is on immovable cultural heritage, mainly archaeological sites and
historical building. Being a law from the 1960s, it does not protect intangible cultural
heritage and cultural landscapes. This Act, however, protects all sites of value (i.e.
any sites with archaeological remains) including those that have not been listed. The
legislation implicitly calls for the keeping of a register of all ‘monuments, relics,
antiques, fauna and flora’ found in the country (Act 41, 1967: 2c).
The Lesotho Highlands Water Project is a water supply project, with 5 dams, hydropower generation and
transmission, canals, roads, tourism facilities developed as a partnership of the governments of Lesotho and
the Republic of South Africa. It is supposed to supply water to towns in Lesotho and South African cities in
the dry Karoo region.
Figure 2: Ha Kome cave dwellings, Lesotho (Photo: A. Sinamai)
However, apart from the list of declared monuments, there is no systematic
documentation of these sites or other sites of national value. There is also no
organisation that is directly responsible for heritage management and preservation in
Lesotho. The Department of Culture has many other roles within the cultural sector
and is often not provided with a budget for documentation and conservation of
heritage sites. With only five members, most of whom who had no training heritage
management, the task of creating a database of sites was difficult. The Lesotho
government, therefore, sought assistance from ICCROM’s Africa 2009 Programme.
This call for assistance was made at the most opportune moment within the
framework of regional field projects (projet situé) of the Africa 2009 programme.
Initial visits to Lesotho recognised that one of the challenges in the existing
arrangement in the Department of Culture was a critical shortage of human resources
in heritage management as well as the poorly organised heritage archives.
Documents relating to cultural heritage sites and objects were located in different
offices within the Ministry of Tourism, often with the officer whom researchers had
left the documents with. Much of the information of the site documentation list was
missing or not updated. There was also no support institutions like national museums
Africa 2009 implemented its activities at two levels. The projet situé, at site level, was deeply rooted in the
realities of the field while responding to specific needs of selected sites in terms of training and
implementation of conservation activities. The project cadre took place at regional level and included
training courses, seminars and research projects. These two worked together in a continuous loop of
feedback and response, thus creating specific references and models useful for planning and management at
both the site and national levels.
or archives that could store artefacts and documents or carry out research within
Lesotho. Most artefacts collected from these archaeological sites are in small private
museums and much of what was collected during recent archaeological surveys and
excavations was presumably taken overseas. This free-for-all state of affairs has not
only frustrated researchers who want to carry out further research in Lesotho but has
also the Department of Culture which could not audit its own cultural resources or
where they were located. The project was thus regarded as very important in the
creation of a tourism product as well as in the preservation of cultural heritage. At
that time Lesotho was also trying to nominate its part of the Drakensberg (Maloti as
part of the transnational Maloti Drakensberg Cultural Landscape but did not have
records of cultural heritage sites within its part of the property. The project was thus
widely publicised in national media and highlighted the problems that the heritage
sector faced. There was also a radio broadcast on the results of the project, at the
continental level, through the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Channel
Africa radio station.
Though this project did not solve all the problems within the Department of
Culture, it highlighted the need to document cultural heritage in Lesotho. With the
shortage of manpower, however, some of the problems are still being experienced
even today. One of the results of this was the extension of the Maloti-UKhahlamba
World Heritage Landscape without an updated list of heritage sites. This was
remarked on by the World Heritage Committee which advised Lesotho to
continuously update the records of the part of the World Heritage Landscape that lies
in the kingdom. It also recommended that Lesotho develops conservation status
reports for sites on its inventory.
The project supported by the Africa 2009, Upgrading Documentation System
and Undertaking Baseline Inventory study in Lesotho, took place over two seasons in
2008 and 2009: three weeks in August 2008 and two weeks in July 2009. It was
implemented through a variety of hands-on and theoretical applications, which took
into consideration the local conditions and manpower capacities. The applied
methodology of the project also incorporated hands-on training for national heritage
professionals. Staff members of the Department of Culture were trained in the design
and operation of a heritage database based on the standards that had were
developed with their participation.
A key starting point was to mobilise local support for the work of the national
institution through an awareness workshop for various stakeholders in the heritage
sector. It brought together representatives of key government departments and local
communities from each of the ten districts in Lesotho. It also provided an opportunity
to present the draft heritage recording form and standards (these will be discussed
below) that had been developed in partnership with the national institution. These
were discussed and modified as necessary by the workshop and eventually adopted
as a national instrument for recording heritage sites. The involvement of local
communities was also made on the premise that they would assist with the
identification of new sites for recording. Other actions carried out are:
Identification of existing data, development of recording forms and standards
Application of recording forms and standards in fieldwork;
Matching data and record fields
Development of a national heritage database
Identification of existing data
The existing data was collated through identification of various recording
forms from different development and research projects previously carried out in
Lesotho. Most of the research projects were carried out by researchers and contract
archaeologist from the region, specifically from South Africa and Zimbabwe, as well as
from the United Kingdom. There was a corpus of records from several archaeological
and paleontological excursions, which had been lodged with the MTEC. Other major
projects included environmental impact assessment reports for Mohale, Katse and
other Highlands Water Project dams (Smits, 1983). The heritage information captured
by each of these projects was different as they all had different fields in line with the
interests of the implementing institutions. Researchers, for instance, were more
interested in collecting archaeological evidence than information on the conservation
status of the sites. Most documentation formats were found to be inadequate for
recording the different typologies of sites found in Lesotho. Officials of the
Department of Culture seemed to have no control on what was recorded and how it
was recorded.
A draft recording form and standards, to be used by everyone undertaking
research or field surveys in Lesotho, was developed through a review and update of
the existing documentation system. It included all the fields that could possibly be
used to identify or classify heritage types in Lesotho, location (in terms of
coordinates, topography and district), identification, management and ownership of
location area, significance, state of conservation as seen during documentation,
existing documents before the recording form was completed, and documents
accompanying the form when it is filed. The idea was that this form would capture
the core data elements or details of the sites and enable the development of a useful
management and conservation profile as well as general identification of the heritage
of the country.
During the second season of the project in 2009, the national institution drew
attention to the existence of a database from the Maluti Drakensberg Transfrontier
Project (MDTP). The MDTP had recorded 514 sites, mainly of rock painting sites. The
‘discovery’ of this database created another challenge: that of merging its contents
with that of the newly created one to ensure that all relevant fields were covered. In
order for the records from this database to be useful, there was a need to identify
and eliminate duplicated records. The data fields from the MDTP database thus had
to be streamlined and matched with those in the newly developed system, to ensure
that the information from the MDTP could be entered into the new recording system.
This was effectively carried out in smaller working teams
Application of recording forms and standards in fieldwork
The draft recording form was used in field surveys of selected areas as part of
an inventory used for the production an electronic database of the cultural sites. The
project team also created a consolidated compilation of information on sites from
various documentation projects into a single expanded inventory, catalogue and
database. During the first phase, the heritage recording form and accompanying
standards were tested in the field in a recording exercise that lasted one week. In
addition to the recording forms, basic recording tools were used to record sites in the
field: GPS, measuring tapes and cameras. The time spent in the field also served as a
period of sensitisation of the local communities with members of the identifying
some of the important heritage places themselves. All surveys were carried out with
members of the local communities and this provided more details about the sites and
related features within the landscape.
As part of follow up and monitoring of the effectiveness of the first season,
the personnel of the Department of Culture were charged with the task of recording
all known sites, in Maseru District, using the new form, ahead of the second phase in
2009. Stakeholders who had actively participated in the development of the recording
form at the workshop were also requested to record the sites in their districts using
the new national recording form. Between September 2008 and January 2009, the
national staff had recorded sixty-nine (69) sites using the standards and recording
forms developed in 2008. Currently, over 586 sites have been added to this new
After the fieldwork, completed recording forms were filed and a file
movement register created to ensure the effective monitoring of each site files
movements within and outside the Department of Culture. Experience has taught
that uncontrolled movement of files, even within the same institution, normally leads
to loss of documents. The need to record the names of file borrowers was constantly
emphasised to national staff.
Figure 3: Map of Lesotho showing some of the sites that were documented during the survey. (Seke
Matching existing data and record fields
The development of the heritage database started from the basics of
producing index cards for each site. This method was considered as imperative for
any eventual development of a database and served as an intermediary phase to
electronic recording. It was also selected in view of the lack of requisite technical skills
for the effective manipulation of electronic data and the available skills within the
national institution. ‘Old style’ catalogues and a filing system would also serve as a
back up for the electronic database.
The recording form and the standards were used to develop the structure for the
electronic database. Data gathered from the field using the standard form was used
to populate the database and generate sites index cards and reports from queries.
Queries are another example of information retrieval from the inventory. A test
catalogue for nine sites was developed in 2008 and further improved in 2009. The
catalogue is still being updated.
Development of a national heritage database
Following the development of catalogues and index cards, there was a move
towards electronic recording and archiving. To achieve this, the staff of the
Department of Culture had to acquire basic skills in the use of Microsoft Access
software, in order to be able to develop and manage the database. The training
involved understanding how databases are developed in the MS Access software and
how the software, in turn, organises the input of data. In order to adequately meet
the challenge, the training sessions were very simple and generally focused on data
input into tables, extracting data through queries as well as deriving forms and
reports based on pre-determined criteria.
To ensure the long-term sustenance of the MTEC database, a simple flat-file
format was selected over the usual relational structure of databases. This could
eventually be developed into the relational structure as staff gain understanding of
the system and become versed in its manipulation. The simple-file format, easily
understood within the context of the file system already developed, also has an
added advantage of easy manipulation through queries. The MTEC staff members
were encouraged to try the software manipulation on their own in order to better
understand how it functioned.
The outcome of the fieldwork was an inventory of sites that will serve as a
base for future development of the database of heritage resources. An electronic
database is now available and this can be used without compromising the manual
records. Whoever would want information about archaeological sites in the kingdom,
or to check for where impact assessments have been carried, that information can be
easily accessed and retrieved. The fields in the recording forms are the same as those
in the index cards and electronic database.
Figure 4: Lesotho Heritage Index card
Figure 5: Part of Lesotho’s Monuments Database interface form
The records will allow the team at the Department of Culture to assess the condition
of the heritage place and also allow for management and conservation planning. The
project eliminated the duplication of information that resulted from the use of
different documentation systems. Over and above this and with relevant software, a
map could be generated easily using the coordinates recorded from the GPSs. The
mission did not extend into that aspect as this would have required additional training
resources and time.
One of the most important sites on the heritage list is Thaba Bosiu which was
declared a national monument in 1967. The site is located on a plateau in the
Phuthiatsana Valley, 23km south-east of Maseru, the capital city. With very steep
cliffs, the mountain was a formidable defence against raids from the Zulu. King
Mosheshoe I occupied the hill in 1824 and continued to live there until his death in
1870. Cultural remains include houses, sacred springs, royal graves as well as rock art
sites on the cliffs of the mountain. It has continued to be an area of importance for
the kingdom as Sotho royals are still being buried here. The father of the present king,
King Mosheshoe II was the last to be buried at Thaba Bosiu in 1996.
All these sites were not documented and one of the tasks of the project was
to record the cultural remains at this heritage place which the royal family was keen
to develop for cultural and tourism purposes. The documentation of Thaba Bosiu
which included the conservation of various sites within the landscape resulted in the
identification of problems that needed to be solved before visitor numbers increased.
One of these was the deterioration of the remains of the royal houses. The
interaction of Ministry of Culture staff with experts from the southern African region
resulted in the identification of expertise in stone masonry. In 2012, a team of stone
masons from Great Zimbabwe completed the restoration of these houses. Work at
the site has also included the construction of an interpretive centre, lodges and better
access to the top of the hill.
Figure 6: Thaba Bosiu houses before reconstructions (Photo: Min. of Tourism, Environment and Culture)
Figure 7: Thaba Bosiu houses after restorations in 2016 (Photo: Min. of Tourism, Environment and
This project was an eye-opener to the problems that are often faced by
African countries in the documentation of cultural heritage. In many African
countries, development takes priority over cultural heritage. It is quite clear where
priorities for the Lesotho government lie; its citizens require reliable sources of water.
The country has been building dams to provide water for its towns as well as for
South Africa’s sprawling cities which lie in the dry Karoo environment. These
development projects have had detrimental effects on cultural heritage in a country
where that heritage is not fully documented. It is often very difficult to convince
governments that cultural heritage could also be preserved during the development
process as this can increase the costs of the projects. Cultural disasters from dam
constructions, especially in colonial Africa have been documented (Brandt and Fekri
2000) and Lesotho can learn from them. The kingdom could suffer further loses as the
massive Lesotho Highlands Water Project with its five dams, numerous canals, feeder
roads, electricity generation plants and transmission lines, is implemented. Important
decisions, therefore, have to be made to ensure that cultural heritage is not lost
through these developments. At the same time, cultural heritage should not impede
the development agenda unnecessarily, especially in countries with poor economies
like Lesotho.
In Lesotho, numerous heritage sites could already have been destroyed largely
because no one knew of their existence. Given the report of cultural losses from dam
constructions as mentioned in the Brandt and Fekri (2000) World Commission on
Dams report, the need for documentation of heritage resources before construction
can never be over-emphasised. It was, therefore, prudent that the nation develops an
inventory of this cultural heritage so that decisions affecting that heritage are not
made in ignorance.
Figure 7: Erosion is a serious problem affecting heritage sites in Lesotho (Photo: S Katsamudanga).
Lesotho also faces the threat of erosion on its landscape: the country is
regarded as the most eroded landscape in the world (Showers, 2005). The
mountainous nature of much of the country gives rise to erosion that threatens
agricultural land, archaeological heritage and the heritage sites from the formative
years of the Kingdom of Lesotho. This challenge, combined with the fact that the
Department of Culture is extremely understaffed makes it so difficult to effectively
document Lesotho’s cultural heritage.
There were also some of the common problems with the documentation of
cultural property, specifically the problem of site definition and identification of
cultural periods for the archaeological sites. Theoretical definitions do not always
prepare the field technicians on this. However, it is our thinking that other problems
cited such as those concerning cultural periods can be resolved through liaison with
the local archaeologists. The national staff reported that there had been difficulty
using the recording forms as a result of certain ambiguities in the standards. These
difficulties had been faced mainly with complex sites and cultural landscapes whose
various components might stand alone but are obviously related, inextricably linked,
to other features on the vast landscape. This problem starts at recording stage and
emerges on filing and extends to influence the complexity of the database so as to
make sure that correct spatial relationships are captured.
During the course of this project, it also emerged that the Department of
Cuture already had a large amount raw data in its possession. In spite of this, there
was a lack of capacity to organise this data into a system that could be managed for
information retrieval. The weak management and storage organisation of this data
further made it difficult to understand how to get information when needed. Some of
the data was available in the form of several archaeological impact assessment (AIA)
surveys that had been carried out and submitted to the Department. This lack of
organisation meant that it was possible that AIAs for future projects could be
commissioned in areas that already would have been assessed as the duplication of
projects is also possible when records are not properly managed. The MDTP database
is a case in point. The experience from working with the Department of Culture
showed that documents were being held as personal documents of the office holders,
with reports thrown amongst various personal documents with no record of where
these documents could be found. This situation was further compounded by a lack of
physical space for storage of these important documents.
To deal with this problem, a filing cabinet was requisitioned for the storage of
site records, which were sorted and stored therein according to the districts and in
alphabetical order and site number sequence. Each site record consists of a site folder
in which all documents (recording forms, correspondences, conservation reports etc)
relating to the site are kept and sorted according to document type and dates. A file
movement register was also created which, if properly maintained would help track
the movement of the site files. This is crucial as it was observed that some
documentation files were taken out and never returned to their usual storage area.
The option here is that one would borrow the files for perusal in their own offices and
the documentation officer will have to track all files borrowed and make sure that
they are returned to the specified storage area.
The end result of this project was an electronic database from which
information about the sites in any district can be easily retrieved. The database can
generate reports in set formats but the advantage is simplified updating. It was also
configured to generate a catalogue that refers to the files in the filing cabinet. If one is
looking for information about a particular site, they can start with the electronic
catalogue and then go the filing cabinet knowing where to look for the site
documents. With advances in information technology, some of the physical records
and documents about the sites can be scanned and integrated with the rest of the
database. The Department’s current electronic resources are sufficient to facilitate
easy development, update and management of the electronic database. The staff of
the Department of Culture, however, seems to consider working on the database as
extra work. Indeed, the manual inputting of data into the electronic database can be
a tedious process. As it stands, the recording form has to be filled in manually in the
field and the data in it manually fed in to update the database. However, with
increasing IT skills and database knowledge this can be easily solved. The latest
version of MS Access can export a form, or table to external sites from the database.
These can be filled in and then sent back to the database administrator and the
information is automatically transferred into the database. Thus, an electronic form
on a laptop can be filled out in the field and it can be used to update the database
directly. A hardcopy of the completed form can then be printed for filing purposes. It
is hoped that the MTEC staff will continue to acquire IT skills and knowledge to ensure
further development of the documentation system as well as the maintenance and
improvement of the database. The responsible government ministry will further have
to show its commitment to safeguarding national heritage, as national assets, by
building up staff capacity through training in heritage documentation and information
The Department of Culture will also have to enforce the standards that were
created through this documentation project, especially with research teams and
impact assessment experts. During the course of the two-year project, it was noticed
that the Department had been weak in enforcing this, even though its staff had
participated in inventory development. It was brought to the attention of the regional
team that a researcher from Europe had carried out an archaeological impact
assessment soon after the 2008 phase. Although an MTEC staff member who
participated in the recent archaeological surveys had been involved in the
development of the national recording standards, he failed to alert the researcher to
the existence of these new national standards. As a result, the AIA consultants
collected archaeological information using their own standard forms. This kind of
situation compounds the challenge of the Department, especially the inclusion of the
information from the AIA to the new national database.
The major problem has been a lack of capacity in terms of both human
resources and funding on part of the Department of Culture. The department
currently does not have a heritage manager with experience in archaeology,
architecture or palaeontology and this has meant that some of the suggestions that
are made by experts who carry out AIAs are never implemented (see Cain 2006).
However, since 2010 most of the staff members have had some training in heritage
management with one undertaking an ICCROM course in Rome (Conservation of Built
Heritage) and also enrolling for a Master in Heritage Studies with the Central
European University in Hungary. The Ministry of Culture also now has plans to build a
National Museum which will be the base for those engaged in the documentation and
conservation of Lesotho’s heritage.
The situation of heritage documentation in Africa, as exemplified by the
Lesotho example, is fraught with many challenges. The development and choice of a
database system for Lesotho was based on consideration of the local conditions at
the Department of Culture: its organisational structure, available human capacity and
available relevant infrastructure. In view of this, each staff member of the
Department was involved in the creation and population of the database so that
everyone would be able to input, update and retrieve information from it. The
protocols of access and management of the database were left to the discretion of
the Department.
Understaffing and the absence of a dedicated heritage infrastructure may
reflect the lack of regard for cultural heritage in government circles. In the particular
case of Lesotho, there is no dedicated heritage organisation and all heritage sites are
managed by the Department of Culture which is also responsible for other forms of
heritage like the arts, crafts, drama, dance, as well as music. Immovable heritage is
not always on the top of the list as it competes with other industries that the
government think can be developed enough to generate foreign currency. While
regional bodies and private institutions dealing with cultural heritage can offer
assistance, it will be a daunting task to sustain the momentum where there are such
human resources challenges to document, conserve and manage the heritage. The
lack of a dedicated heritage organisation and trained manpower has meant that EIA
reports are not reviewed resulting in numerous sites being destroyed especially in
dam building and erection of water pipelines. The establishment of the anticipated
National Museum is expected to bring changes in how heritage is managed in
The setting up of regional teams to assist in the development of strategies for
the effective management of Africa’s heritage is perhaps a new concept in the
management of cultural heritage that should be supported. It brings in skills from
various sources on the continent, more attuned to the local realities, and helps with
the development of adapted solutions clears the technical challenges involved.
However, all that has to be supported by a local structure that makes sure the
benefits of the regional expertise are sustained. Ideally, what remains for Lesotho is
implementation or application of the procedures developed during this project and
the respect of these procedures by researchers.
Brandt, S.A & Fekri, H. 2000. Dams and Cultural Heritage Management. Report
submitted to the World Commission on Dams.
Cain, C.R. 2006. Summary report of the cultural heritage project for MDTP, Lesotho
Mitchell, P. 2002. The Archaeology of Southern Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Mitchell, P. 2009. Hunter-Gatherers and Farmers: Some Implications of 1,800 Years of
Interaction in the Maloti-Drakensberg) Region of Southern Africa. In Ikeya, K.,
Ogawa, H and Mitchell, P (eds), Interactions between Hunter-Gatherers and
Farmers: from Prehistory to Present. SENRI Ethnological Studies 73: 15-46.
Osaka: National Museums of Ethnology.
Mitchell, P.J. (2010). Making history at Sehonghong: Soai and the last Bushman
occupants of this shelter. Southern African Humanities 22: 149-70
Showers, K.B. 2005. Imperial Gullies: Soil Erosion and Conservation in Lesotho. Ohio
University Press, Athens (USA).
Sinamai, A., Odiaua, I., Ndlovu, N and Katsamudanga, S. 2008. Upgrading
documentation system and undertaking baseline inventory study in Lesotho
(Phase 1): Technical report. CHDA, Kenya
Sinamai, A., Katsamudanga, S., Odiaua, I and Molibeli, M. E. 2009. Report on
Upgrading documentation system and undertaking baseline inventory study in
Lesotho (Phase 2). CHDA, Kenya
Smits L.G.A. 1983. Rock Art Survey along the Southern perimeter Road, Mohale’s
Hoek-Qacha’s Nek: Preliminary Report.
How to Cite: Sinamai, A. et al., (2017). Applied Methods for Upgrading
Documentation of Immovable Heritage in Lesotho. Journal of African Cultural
Heritage Studies. 1(1), pp.3248. DOI:
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Sehonghong Shelter is a site of considerable importance to southern African archaeology by reason of its rock paintings, a few of which were interpreted by a Bushman informant with knowledge of the art in 1873, and because of its long sequence of Later and Middle Stone Age assemblages with good organic preservation reaching back to 57 000 years ago. This paper briefly summarises the history of archaeological research at the site, but focuses on its historical importance as a centre for the last generations of Bushmen to live in the Lesotho highlands. Historical accounts relating them to the site are discussed, the events surrounding the death there of the Bushman leader Soai described and the implications of recently published oral histories indicating a post-Soai persistence of Bushman occupation considered. The paper ends by underlining the urgent necessity of further investigation of the site's remaining, and threatened, rock art and the importance of extending archaeological research to include the history of the local Basotho communities.
Dams and Cultural Heritage Management
  • S Brandt
  • H Fekri
Brandt, S.A & Fekri, H. 2000. Dams and Cultural Heritage Management. Report submitted to the World Commission on Dams.
Summary report of the cultural heritage project for The Archaeology of Southern Africa
  • C R Cain
  • Lesotho Mdtp
  • P Mitchell
Cain, C.R. 2006. Summary report of the cultural heritage project for MDTP, Lesotho Mitchell, P. 2002. The Archaeology of Southern Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Imperial Gullies: Soil Erosion and Conservation in Lesotho
  • K B Showers
Showers, K.B. 2005. Imperial Gullies: Soil Erosion and Conservation in Lesotho. Ohio University Press, Athens (USA).
Upgrading documentation system and undertaking baseline inventory study in Lesotho
  • A Sinamai
  • I Odiaua
  • Ndlovu
  • S Katsamudanga
Sinamai, A., Odiaua, I., Ndlovu, N and Katsamudanga, S. 2008. Upgrading documentation system and undertaking baseline inventory study in Lesotho (Phase 1): Technical report. CHDA, Kenya
Rock Art Survey along the Southern perimeter Road
  • L G A Smits
Smits L.G.A. 1983. Rock Art Survey along the Southern perimeter Road, Mohale's Hoek-Qacha's Nek: Preliminary Report.
Summary report of the cultural heritage project for MDTP
  • C R Cain
Cain, C.R. 2006. Summary report of the cultural heritage project for MDTP, Lesotho
  • A Sinamai
  • S Katsamudanga
  • Odiaua
  • M E Molibeli
Sinamai, A., Katsamudanga, S., Odiaua, I and Molibeli, M. E. 2009. Report on Upgrading documentation system and undertaking baseline inventory study in Lesotho (Phase 2). CHDA, Kenya