Little archaeological research has been conducted in Western Sahara as a result of the territorial conflict between Morocco, which occupies some 80 per cent of the territory, and the Frente Polisario independence movement, which administers the remainder of the territory from the Saharawi refugee camps in southwestern Algeria. While some archaeological studies have been undertaken recently, there has been no recent excavation, or dating of archaeological materials and palaeoenvironmental indicators, and little detailed publication of the archaeology in international journals. This is largely due to problems of access and logistical difficulties resulting from the ongoing political conflict and the security situation in neighbouring Algeria. This article is based on observations made during two seasons of fieldwork in 2002 and 2005 in the Polisario-administered ‘Free Zone’. It provides a brief overview of the archaeology of the Free Zone, addresses threats to archaeological sites within the context of the military and political conflict between the Polisario and Morocco, and discusses the wider political relevance of archaeology in Western Sahara.