Sunday, February 27, 2011

Libya's Roman sites unscathed by unrest so far

London South East via Reuters (Marie-Louise Gumuchian)

A number of people have been emailing to ask if I know whether the situation in Libya has impacted its heritage in any way. I've been looking but it is remarkably difficult to find any news specific to museums and sites. This is the only well-sourced report I have seen so far. Below is a short excerpt but see the above page for the full story.

Libyans appear determined to safeguard their rich cultural heritage during the popular unrest against leader Muammar Gaddafi, protecting it from the looting seen in neighbouring Egypt's revolution just weeks ago.

Conquered by most of the civilizations that held sway over the Mediterranean, Libya's rich cultural heritage includes Leptis Magna, a prominent coastal city of the Roman empire, whose ruins are some 130 km (80 miles) east of Tripoli.

The birthplace of emperor Septimius Severus, its amphitheatre, marbled baths, colonnaded streets and a basilica are considered the jewel in the crown of its Roman legacy.

While communication with Libya difficult sketchy amid the uprising against Gaddafi's four decade rule, two archaeologists who frequently work in the country said cultural artefacts appeared to have been spared the ravages suffered during Egypt's recent revolt.

'So far there are no records whatsoever of any areas from the cultural heritage of Libya being affected by the troubles,' said Hafed Walda, a Libyan who advises the country's department of antiquities and once led an excavation at Leptis Magna.

'We're always worried about this in terms of chaos. It's going in the right direction so far but I'm not sure it will carry on like this. I don't know,' he said from his London base.

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