Libyan Archaeology Scandals

Just to pre-empt, since there will probably be press stories and blog posts about Libya and the miss-management of the country's archaeological heritage sooner or later. And just as with Egypt and Tunisia, coverage will eventually focus on various abuses of archaeological sites under Colonel Gaddaffi ... So yes, it's been bad there, and far worse than anything Ben Ali's in-laws did in Tunisia.

I know one archaeologist who was rather shocked to find a rare set of statues of Roman deities he'd excavated from a temple not in the local museum, where he had left them, but being offered for sale in London. Was this illegal looting? Well, no, since they were taken out of Libya and shipped off to be sold with Gaddafi's full permission. And since the Colonel's word was law, so was this transaction.

Before the raprochement with the US and UK, Libya needed hard currency and selling antiquities which they had in abundance served this purpose. They were traded as goods, commodities, and brought good priced. So finer busts on the market of Septimius Severus and his family tended to originate from Lepcis Magna his ancestral home.

Exporting antiquities was for a long tie a cash cow bringing in much needed hard currencies.

For now though we must concentrate our prayers on the many that have given their lives in this revolution, and those in Tunisia and Egypt. And place our hopes that out of these revolutions will be created a fairer and better Democratic society which finds space at the table for those of all points of view.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Dorothy, prayer and hope are always good. Isn't it sad that the oppressed in these countries are giving their lives to be rid of regimes that western diplomats and academics treat with great servility? Next, I expect we'll be hearing a call from the loyalists for import restrictions on artifacts from Libya. It's a tired refrain, but pretty much what we can expect these days from those who are blinded by the light.


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