Yagour, Morocco: Morocco’s government on Thursday denied claims that Salafists had destroyed stone carvings dating back more than 8,000 years in the High Atlas mountains.

“The reports that these stone carvings were damaged, as you can see, is not true,” Communications Minister Mustafa Khalfi told journalists, on a government organised trip to the Yagour plateau.

“It is one of our goals to protect these pre-historic monuments, which reflect Morocco’s cultural diversity and the deepness of our history,” Khalfi told AFP.

More than a dozen undamaged carvings of the sun, depicted as a divinity, were visible on rocks located in the middle of the valley south of Marrakesh, some 20km from Mount Toubkal, Morocco’s highest peak.

Earlier, the culture ministry had issued a statement strongly denying claims by a local rights group, reported in the Moroccan media and by AFP, that the stones had been destroyed by Salafists.

“This kind of incident, contrary to our values, cannot take place in Morocco,” it said, adding that an investigation carried out with local and regional authorities had showed that the claims were unfounded.

But such sites “can suffer, like elsewhere, the effects of natural and even human degradation, sometimes through vandalism and trafficking.”

The Amazigh [Berber] League for Human Rights had said on Wednesday that a number of the carvings in the Yagour valley had been destroyed by hardline Salafists, including the largest, called ‘the plaque of the sun.’

The carving appeared untouched on Thursday.