Friday, March 04, 2011

Libya's extraordinary archaeology under threat

Nature (Declan Butler)

This is only the second report that my Alerts service has picked up so far for Libyan heritage under the current conditions of unrest. The good news from this report is that security seems to be good around museums and some sites but that archaeologists are leaving the country and are uncertain when or if they will be able to return. Here's a short exerpt but see the above page for the full story.

Eleven Italian researchers who were evacuated from Libya in a C-130 Hercules military aircraft on Saturday are thought to have been among the last foreign archaeologists in the country. With Libya's people being attacked by forces loyal to the regime of leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, the scientists were thankful to escape to an air-force base south of Rome.

The team of seven men and four women were from the Italian–Libyan Archaeological Mission in the Acacus and Messak, an expedition to research prehistoric archaeology and rock-art. They took temporary refuge in an oilfield camp in the open desert. Stress levels were high, explains Savino di Lernia, head of the team: "We were hundreds of kilometres from an airport, with the entire country to be crossed to reach it," he says. In a Twin Otter light aircraft, they had to make their way at short notice to Sebha airport in central Libya to rendezvous with the evacuation plane.

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