Tuesday Jun 28, 201103:16 PM GMT
Archeologists say Libyan sites safe
Tue Mar 1, 2011 6:7PM
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Leptis Magna, Libya
The recent anti-government uprising in Libya has not caused any damage to the African country's rich historical, archeological and cultural sites.

Archaeologists who frequently work in Libya say cultural artifacts have not been looted or ravaged like what happened during Egypt's anti-Mubarak revolution.

“So far there are no records whatsoever of any areas from the cultural heritage of Libya being affected by the troubles,” Reuters quoted Libyan archeology advisor Hafed Walda as saying.

“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,” said the London-based researcher who advises the Libyan department of antiquities and once led an excavation at Leptis Magna.

Anti-government protests in Libya that began early February have been viciously crushed by the ruling government, leaving an estimate of 2,000 people dead so far.

Libya boast a wide range of historical and cultural heritage including Leptis Magna, a coastal city from the Roman empire, whose ruins attract many tourists to east of the capital, Tripoli.

The site which is known as the birthplace of Emperor Septimius Severus includes an amphitheatre, marbled baths, colonnaded streets and a basilica.

An Egyptian crossing into Tunisia told Reuters on Saturday that the ancient Roman town of Sabratha was in the hands of civilians.

“Libya is my second home and all this is the worst nightmare,” said British archaeologist Paul Bennett three weeks ago in the Cyrenaica region where protests began.

“I hear stories of looting from work camps and alike, these are all relatively remote areas and I suspect local militia are keeping control in villages and towns.

"There are roadblocks ... local people are protecting their property and their neighbors and in doing so are looking after the cultural heritage as well,” he added.

Bennett, who is also head of a mission at the Society of Libyan Studies in London, said that a team of archaeologists had been evacuated a few days earlier and that he was in touch with friends and colleagues there.

“All seems to be ok. I don't have particular concerns that museums will in any way be affected by all this,” he said.

“I'm confident local people will protect (them) and the department of antiquity staff will ensure everything is in order and kept safe.”

Both Walda and Bennett hope to return to Libya some day.

“We can only hope the situation will stabilize and we'll be back working together very soon,” Bennett said. “That's my dream anyway.”

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