LIBYA'S WORLD RENOWNED ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES ARE IN DANGER
The revolution in Libya four years ago toppled Muammar Qaddafi. It also led to hopes for a cultural revolution. But violence has increased, any cultural revolution is on hold, and Libya’s world-renowned archaeological sites—as well as its scientists—need protection. That’s the conclusion of Savino di Lernia, director of the Archaeological Mission in the Sahara at the Sapienza University of Rome. He made his points in a commentary in the journal Nature. [Savino di Lernia, Cultural heritage: Save Libyan archaeology]
Di Lernia has worked in Libya since 1990, studying, for example, 9,000-year-old wall art that depicts crocodiles and cattle. In addition to the activities of indigenous people, the country’s archaeological sites hold artifacts from ancient Greek and Phoenician cultures.
But the unrest has stopped work on these archaeological treasures. The fighting has damaged historic mosques and tombs, and relics are being trafficked out of the country, both for profit and to support radical groups.
Di Lernia argues that international groups should fund local research and continue training Libyan scientists in the hopes of a resumption of the cross-cultural exchanges and scientific training that had been going before the violence. Allowing Libyan archaeology to die would be, he says, quote, “a missed opportunity for a generation of young Libyan archaeologists — and a tragedy for the safeguarding of monuments and sites of universal and outstanding value.”