01 March 2011

Heritage OK in Libya... So Far

Leptis Magna
So far, Libya's rich heritage (especially its famous Roman sites) seem to be unscathed by the ongoing revolution. (Though with the near information blackout, I'm not ready to be too optimistic). Marie-Louise Gumuchan of reports for Reuters:
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.
The theater at Sabratha
 Walda and his colleague Paul Bennett say that local militia, soldiers, and antiquities department staff are protecting sites. The article has an interesting reflection on nationalism and archaeology in Libya:
Libya's archaeological work began in earnest in the 1930s when fascist Italy, the colonial power, hoped to demonstrate the Roman presence and prove Italy's historical dominance of the Mediterranean. That work also led to the discovery of oil. Archaeology took a back seat after Gaddafi's 1969 revolution although some foreign archaeologists continued work, making finds even during the low point of relations with the West.
"It's been neglected by the regime for quite a while. At one time it was seen as not Libyan heritage as such but imperialist," Walda said. The Gaddafi government had sought to improve resources and infrastructure in recent years, he added, amid efforts to develop tourism. "I'm hoping attitudes will change -- we want the department of antiquity to be seen as part of the Libyan identity and the future of Libya," Walda said.

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