Ancient Libyan necropolis bulldozed
|An excavator at work in late July [Credit: Areej Khattab]|
Even though the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, local farmers have laid claim to certain parts of the necropolis and recently destroyed a section with the help of excavators in order to make way for new houses.
|Sections of the demolished viaduct [Credit: Areej Khattab]|
This ancient necropolis is one of the most important in the world. Its burial vaults and sarcophagi were built in about 600 B.C. These tombs are spread out on each side of a road that leads to the centre of the ancient city of Cyrene. The site was damaged along about two kilometres. About 200 vaults and tombs were destroyed, as well as a section of a viaduct that dates back to approximately 200 A.D. Ancient artefacts were thrown into a nearby river as if they were mere rubbish.
In Libya, customs and practices tend to carry more weight than the written law. This land traditionally belongs to families who live in nearby farms. They have no official documents that prove that they own the land, yet their claims are not contested. Under Muammar Gaddafi, these families did not dare try to act on these claims. But now, they have transformed the archaeological site into a construction zone.
|Ahmed Hussein surveying the tombs destroyed in July 2013 [Credit: Areej Khattab]|
I have been trying everything to stop this disaster. I appealed, in vain, to the archaeological authorities as well as the local authorities. I contacted one of the brigades in charge of the city’s security, who informed me that they could intervene only if the authorities made an official request, but they haven’t made the slightest move to get involved… I even called the Culture Minister on his mobile phone. I left a message but I haven’t heard anything yet.
|The circular cemeteries, built in approximately 600 B.C., are some of the oldest|
of the necropolis [Credit: Areej Khattab]
Now, part of this ancient necropolis is forever lost. And the situation is likely to get worse if the government continues to do nothing, because it will encourage other families to destroy cemeteries located on their land.
Source: The Observer/France 24 [August 23, 2013]
Labels Ancient, ArchaeoHeritage, Archaeology, Breakingnews, Greater Middle East, Heritage, Libya, More Stuff, Near East