Libyan archaeologists on the rise
Libyan news outlet Al-Fanar Media, has recently reported that whilst in the past, the Gaddafi regime discouraged the study of the country’s ancient past, as he viewed archaeology as a relic of colonialism, a cohort of experienced and dedicated Libyan archaeologists is now emerging.
“Libya now has a growing group of competent, welltrained archaeologists who are not yet in the top jobs,” said David Mattingly, professor of Roman archaeology at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. They have done or are doing PhDs at universities in the U.K. and Italy, after years of work in field archaeology and teaching in Libya.
Libya has an abundance of archaeological riches, from every phase of human civilization, from pre-history to the Ottoman era and vast areas and eras remain unexplored.
The most urgent problems faced by Libyan archaeologists are consequences of the country’s social and political instability. The absence of effective government anywhere in the country means that illegal construction proceeds unchecked.
The climate of lawlessness has also encouraged the theft of antiquities from sites where they lie unprotected above ground. News reports of antiquities either being stolen or recaptured are a regular occurrence. A famous example was the Benghazi treasure, a cache of coins and antiquities that was stolen from a bank during the siege of the city in 2011 and is still missing.
Many of the cases of antiquities theft have been the work of Da’esh, which has looted ancient sites for valuable artefacts. In July, Libyan television reported that Libyan forces had seized a collection of antiquities in a Da’esh stronghold in Benghazi. In June, police found a hoard of ancient books and manuscripts that Da’esh had looted from the University of Benghazi and buried in the courtyard of a house.
Professor Mattingly says that the post-Gaddafi group of Libyan archaeologists can count on the support of the foreign archaeological teams that are dedicated to the study of Libya.
The Roman Forum at the magnificent site of Leptis Magna in Libya