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African Archaeological Review

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 5–25 | Cite as

Protecting Libya's Archaeological Heritage

  • Paul Bennett
  • Graeme Barker
Original Article

Abstract

Libya's archaeological heritage is truly spectacular, comparatively little studied and hugely under threat. Following an extended period of isolation, improvement in Libya's relations with the rest of the world and a rise in the price of oil have stimulated a huge amount of development in the country, especially in the hydrocarbon and infrastructure sectors of the economy. With a rapidly growing population, and expanding youth unemployment, the Libyan government is attempting to develop a new way forward for its society and economy. Archaeology and heritage have not traditionally been high on Libya's agenda. The custodian of Libyan heritage, the Department of Antiquities, has been poorly supported by the state (perhaps in part relating to postcolonial Libya's ambivalent feelings towards its past) and is now badly positioned to deal with the nature and scale of development threats in the cities, the agricultural zone, and especially the desert where the greatest number of heritage assets are located. Most major development projects in these areas and elsewhere have been undertaken with little or no archaeological impact assessment, monitoring or mitigation activities, with unfortunate consequences for buried and standing archaeological remains. There are some encouraging signs of a sea change in the state's attitude to archaeology, heritage, conservation and tourism.

Keywords

Archaeology Libya Heritage Development Italian colonial rule Department of Antiquities 

Résumé

Le patrimoine archéologique libyen est absolument extraordinaire, relativement peu étudié et gravement menacé. Après une période prolongée d’isolement, l’amélioration des relations entre la Libye et les autres pays du monde ainsi que l’augmentation du prix du pétrole ont stimulé un haut niveau de développement dans le pays, en particulier dans les secteurs économiques des hydrocarbures et des infrastructures. Compte tenu de l’accroissement rapide de sa population et de l’augmentation du chômage parmi les jeunes, le gouvernement libyen essaye à présent de trouver de nouveaux modes de développement social et économique. L’archéologie et le patrimoine n’ont traditionnellement pas fait partie des priorités du gouvernement libyen. Le Département des Antiquités, chargé de la conservation du patrimoine libyen, a reçu peu d’aide de l’État (peut-être en raison, du moins partiellement, des sentiments ambivalents de Libye postcoloniale envers son passé) de sorte qu’il se trouve actuellement incapable de gérer la nature et l’ampleur des menaces liées au développement, dans les villes, les zones agricoles et particulièrement dans le désert, où se trouvent la plupart des richesses patrimoniales. Dans ces régions et ailleurs, la plupart des projets de développement ont été entrepris avec peu ou sans mesures d’évaluation de l’impact archéologique, de surveillance ou d’atténuation, ce qui a eu un effet dévastateur sur les vestiges archéologiques enfouis ou hors sol. Toutefois, des signes encourageants annoncent un profond changement dans l’attitude de l’État envers l’archéologie, le patrimoine, la conservation et le tourisme.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Society for Libyan Studies and Canterbury Archaeological TrustLondonUK
  2. 2.McDonald Institute for Archaeological ResearchUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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