The recent uprisings and revolution in Libya has given archaeologists new hope for exploring and conserving the vast historical treasures within the country. Sites, such as the famed Leptis Magna, have largely been ignored and neglected by the Gaddafi regime in the last few decades. Budding nationalism and patriotism are expected to foster greater interest in the heritage of Libya. Still, the current instability of the nation provides dangers to those who would hope to preserve the archaeological treasures. Looting is rampant and unstabilized regions still pose a risk to those who wish to investigate.
“It is moments like these when big directions are taken by design or default, and those who care about heritage should aim for design,” William Brown, Brookings Institute
To learn more about the possibilities and dangers that face a new Libya, read this article in Nature.
After the death of Muammar Gaddafi has provided a brief respite for Libyans. As the civilization begins to take a catalogue, one of the greatest heists in history has been publicized. The so called “Treasure of Benghazi,” the world’s largest collection of gold and silver coins (many dating to the time of Alexander the Great) have gone missing from a bank vault in Libya.
Antiquities dealers believe this could be the largest archaeological heist in history. Some have speculated the the looted coins are now in Egypt. To learn more about this, see the article in the BBC or the Sydney Morning Herald.
In the wake of the civil unrest in the Libya, the state of its antiquities has been cause for concern for scholars and archaeologists. Due to the current political state, independent reporters and UNESCO investigators cannot travel to the state to verify their status.
Libya has a wealth of historical material, prehistory, Carthaginian, Phoenician, Greek, Roman, and more modern amenities. Such sites are often of little to no concern during bloody coups when people are most concerned about basic survival.
We know that artifacts have already been stolen, and UNESCO has issued statements to auctions houses warning them to be on high alert for looted antiquities (see the article on BBC). Native archaeologists have already begun to petition the provisional government to take special efforts to preserve sites and artifacts. CNN has issued a special report on Libya’s “other wealth” and you can read more about here.
The recent civil unrest in Libya has brought to the forefront concerns about the safety and conservation of the country’s Archaeological ruins. Northern Africa was home to many powerful, classical civilizations (Carthage, Egypt, Rome, etc). Libya houses magnificent ruins, such as those at Leptis Maga and Cyrene.
The Severan Basilica at Leptis Magna
In the wake of such human tragedy, however, these ruins have come to new light and brought together academics and lay-persons on a new level. Libyan patriots, who identify so strongly with their roots and heritage here, have literally risked life and limb to preserve these sites and to open new investigations into their significance as well as invest heavily in their conservation.
NPR has begun a series highlighting the patriotic and personal significance of Libya’s cultural heritage to a people in crisis.