Before Moammar Gadhafi, there were the Phoenicians. And the Greeks. The Romans. The first Arabs. They're a reminder that no civilization -- and no leader -- is forever.
The Libyan transitional leaders have a lot to deal with once they stop being rebels, and begin shaping a new Libya: Keeping law and order, setting up a rudimentary government, dealing with money -- and oil.
But what about Libya's other wealth? Its archaeological treasures?
They are all over the country.
In the south, in Acacus, rock paintings 12,000 years old cross an entire mountain range.
In the east, the city of Cyrene holds a thousand years of history -- Roman general Mark Antony once gave it to Cleopatra.
And along the coast, the splendid ruins of Leptis Magna that were buried for centuries under the sand was said to be one of the most beautiful cities of the Roman Empire.
What will happen to these sites in the days ahead? If you look at history, their fate does not bode well.
Archaeological Institute of America
We, the presidents of the undersigned cultural organizations, call on the international community to protect the ancient sites and antiquities of Libya, which face very real threats of damage and destruction caused by the unfortunate events and military action currently taking place there. The cultural heritage and archaeological resources located in Libya are irreplaceable elements of the world’s shared memory, going back thousands of years. The importance of guarding these treasures while civil unrest is underway cannot be overestimated.
We strongly urge immediate action to protect Libyan antiquities, cultural heritage, and archaeological sites, as illustrated at www.archaeological.org/news/aianews/4604. Through such action, significant archaeological artifacts and irreplaceable historic objects will be preserved in situ and in the many museums and sites across the country. Such an initiative will also help stem illicit international crime organizations that have links to money laundering, human trafficking and the drug trade and are known to exploit civil unrest and political instability for profiteering.
Ahram Online (Nevine El-Aref)
Following Libya's uprising, the UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova called on the world’s nations, Libyans and international art and antiquities traders to protect Libya’s cultural heritage.
In a release sent by UNESCO Media Service, Bokova stated that looting, theft and the illicit trafficking of cultural property are manifestly in contravention of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, the only international instrument that focuses exclusively on the fight against the illicit trafficking in cultural property.
“The heritage of a nation is essential to the ability of its citizens to preserve their identity and self-esteem, to profit from their diversity and their history and build themselves a better future,” Bokova said. With this timeless truth in mind, she called on the people of Libya, on neighbouring countries and all those involved in the international art and antiquities trade to do all they can to protect Libya’s invaluable cultural heritage.