1996 World Monuments Watch
Forest exploitation is damaging the ancient heartland of the Warao, one of the oldest cultures of the region. The Warao have occupied the various shell mounds between the Orinoco Delta and the mouth of the Amazon dating back about 7000 years. These coastal shell mounds represent a system of reciprocal exchange that led to the development of the dugout canoe and consequent colonization of the Antilles. Excavation of the prehistoric Warao settlements has helped scientists to understand coastal evolution and to identify episodes of climatic change. It also presents a unique opportunity to educate surviving Warao groups about their heritage. Approximately half of the known mounds have been excavated, and key aspects of Warao cultural history have been reconstructed. Now, with increasing development pressures in the region, international recognition is needed to catalyze an effort to develop a tourism and conservation management program. Interpretive exhibits installed in kiosks will help raise awareness of the area and the need to conserve it.