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The Neolithic Laas Geel cave paintings are similar to the Paleolithic Lascaux cave paintings near Montignac, France. Discovered in 1940, the French cave paintings are thought to be 17,000 years old.

The Somaliland cave art also resembles the Altamira cave paintings discovered in the Cantabria region of northern Spain in 1880. They have been referred to as the “Sistine Chapel of Paleolithic art,” depicting life 18,000 years ago. Many of the scenes at Altamira are centered on bison, bulls and other animals prevalent in Europe at the time.

Somaliland is in one of the most strategic parts of Africa, on the Gulf of Aden. This northern region is part of an ancient world that archaeologists have barely begun to explore — where treasures may abound, in Somaliland and adjacent Puntland.

Somalia has become better known in recent years for its ethnic conflicts, al-Shabab terrorists, pirates, kidnappings and corruption. Drought and famine have added to the humanitarian disaster, which has sent thousands of Somalis fleeing to refugee camps in nearby Kenya.

Somalia’s 2,000-mile coastline was a primary trading route at the time of the Egyptian pharaohs, with ships stopping regularly to trade goods and take on supplies. Somalia was on the spice route to the Far East and India — a key to the Arabian trade link with Africa.

Stories abound regarding the biblical three wise men who brought gifts to the infant Jesus, including frankincense and myrrh — the best in the world — from the hills of Somaliland, formerly known as the “Land of Punt.”

Another archaeological team recently discovered the remains of a 4,500-year-old Egyptian harbor at Wadi el-Jarf, on the Red Sea coast. The port is being linked to ancient Egyptian mining operations that included copper, turquoise and other minerals brought from the south Sinai.

The port also has led to speculation that it was used for voyages to the mysterious Land of Punt in Somalia.

John Price is a former U.S. ambassador to Comoros, Mauritius and the Seychelles islands. He currently serves as a resident scholar at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics. He is the author of “When the White House Calls,” and regularly writes commentaries on Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.