Heritage Sites in Eastern Libya

2nd Mission to Benghazi, Cyrene, Ptolemais, Apollonia

Published on 17 November 2011

Author(s): ANCBS/IMCuRWG

Type:  Media release

The recent conflict in Libya called for emergency assessment missions to determine the cultural heritage situation. Since independent confirmation about damage and looting had been rarely available thus far, two organizations involved in international protection of cultural heritage, Blue Shield and the International Military Cultural Resources Work Group, organized two missions to meet with Libyan officials and obtain a first hand impression of the situation.

The first mission (September 28 – 30) to Tripoli, Leptis Magna and Sabratha had been very successful and highly welcomed by Libyan heritage professionals; see the detailed report: http://www.blueshield.at. Therefore the same team decided to travel a second time to Libya, focusing now on Eastern Libya.

The second mission (November 12 – 16) started in Benghazi and took the eastward road along the Mediterranean coast for about 250 km until Tokra. The team visited sites, monuments, museums, libraries, and archives in 10 towns, among them the famous UNESCO World heritage site in Cyrene

Major cases of damage:

  • Benghazi: inspection of the bank vault (see left picture below), from which the most valuable coin treasure had been stolen; only 8 coins have been recovered so far.
  • Cyrene: Only minor damage to the site; no damage to report on the ethnographic collection, the library and the archives.
  • Darnah: The museum (see right picture below) was vandalized, but there were few thefts. The palace of King Idris is suffering from the activity of the squatting.
  • Susa (Apollonia): Break in at the museum and the theft of 4 important vases. The site and the storehouses remain unharmed.
  • Umm al Shuga: Severe damage from illegal digging.

Reports from other places in Libya were mainly positive, e.g. the site and the museum of embattled Sirte was not harmed.

Missionb report 2.jpg

Missionb report 1.jpg

Overall it has to be stated that in this part of Libya there had been taken good precautionary measures by local authorities in mid February. The team encountered many good examples of protecting the sites by guards and hiding valuable items by antiquity staff and local civilians.

The final detailed report and the photo galleries will be online available on the web site of Blue Shield Austria: http://www.blueshield.at/

About the mission

Planning this mission began immediately after returning from the first mission. There were a number of obstacles as the logistical problems of travel and the weak communication infrastructure. The team flew via Istanbul to Benghazi, on Saturday, 12 November. Yesterday, November 16, the team has returned by the same route.

The team:

  • Karl von Habsburg, President, Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield (ANCBS)
  • Dr. Joris Kila, Chairman, International Military Cultural Resources Work Group (IMCuRWG); University of Amsterdam
  • Dr. Hafed Walda (Research Fellow at Kings College in London, former director of excavation in Leptis Magna)

Home base (background research, coordination, communication):

  • Dr. Thomas Schuler, President, Disaster Relief Task Force (DRTF) of International Council of Museums (ICOM)

Media contact:
Dr. Thomas Schuler
Tel: +49 371 2601007
Fax: +49 371 2600743
Skype: drthschuler
Email: th.schuler@t-online.de

This Media Release is authorized by the team members.

Photo credits and Copyright: Karl von Habsburg – free use for journalists reporting on this Libyan mission.

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