Libyan ar­chae­ol­o­gists on the rise

Timeless Travels Magazine - - ARCHAEOLOG­ICAL NEWS -

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

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