Thursday, September 12, 2013


Serenella Ensoli (ed.), For the Preservation of the Cultural Heritage in Libya: A Dialogue among Institutions. Proceedings of conference, 1–2 July 2011, Monumental complex of Belvedere, San Leucio, Caserta. Kypana. Libya in the ancient world, 1. Pisa; Roma: Fabrizio Serra editore, 2012. Pp. 324; 33 p. of plates. ISBN 9788862275040. €145.00 (pb).

Reviewed by Arthur Thourson Jones, Temple University (

Version at BMCR home site

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

There has been much recent concern the about fate of cultural heritage as war, natural disasters, and other disturbances have threatened archaeological sites and cultural institutions, not to mention the inhabitants of many countries around the globe. In the summer of 2011, during the revolution that would eventually lead to the overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi, Serenella Ensoli organized a conference to hear about the present state of research in Libya and begin a discussion about the preservation of cultural heritage, not just in Libya, but in conflict zones around the world. The volume under consideration, the proceedings from this conference, is a welcome contribution to the field of North African archaeology. The volume is divided into three parts: the first gives reports of recent research, the second concerns itself with the issue of safeguarding cultural heritage, and the third is an "Appendix" with a variety of narrowly focused site reports and other items that are, as the book puts it, "of specific interest." A number of pieces throughout the volume retain the feel of the original conference papers and others are brief reports that require fuller treatment in journal articles; some contributions are thus more outstanding than others.

The papers of the first part give the reader a summary of the latest research from a variety of archaeological projects across Libya. The 15 papers (8 in Italian, 6 in English, and 1 in French) move geographically roughly from west to east. The majority of these reports concern excavations of Greek and Roman sites from northern Libya. In general, the papers present the reader with succinct glimpses at the activity of excavations in the second half of the last decade. As noted, most of these concern Greek and Roman sites, although three contributions standout for examining eras beyond those periods. The contributions of Michel and of Tusa both report finds dating back to the Neolithic and the third, that of Hunt, focuses solely on the Neolithic. These three reports embody one of the larger messages of the conference, that Libya's cultural heritage comprises more than just Roman and Greek ruins. Neolithic materials can shed light on the early domestication of animals in North Africa and this heritage is easily lost or damaged because it lacks recognizable architecture. A number of other contributions focus less on recent excavation work and instead on issues of safeguarding material. Mattingly and Abdulkariem highlight issues of conservation within the landscape, the former in the Fezzan and the latter in Cyrene. Both examine natural and human threats to excavated and unexcavated material, such as the destruction of Garamantian irrigation systems (foggaras) or cemeteries due to expanded farming and construction in the Fezzan (29). A new Libya has the chance to embrace its cultural heritage and it must work to prevent that patrimony from being lost through lax regulations and oversight and through lack of concern.

Of considerable note among the archaeological reports is Ensoli's contribution concerning excavations in 2009 and 2010 in Cyrene. This, the longest of the archaeological reports, provides a well-illustrated and comprehensive look at recent excavations, especially the work done on a number of structures in and around the sanctuary of Apollo, which had originally been excavated in the first half of the 20th century. Ensoli provides detailed plans and new hypotheses for the structures, placement, and/or roles of some of the buildings associated with the sanctuary.

The papers of the second part (11 in English and 2 in Italian) all stress that potential loss of cultural heritage is both a national and international issue. Although outside organizations and institutions can help, Libyans from all levels of society need to be involved with preserving their patrimony. Kenrick reminds his audience that one of the key issues is "how Libyans—of all kinds—view the visible antiquities of their country; for it is ultimately this, rather than any foreign pressure or technical assistance, which will determine their fate" (145). Büchel, Deregibus, and Rush present several different approaches to this issue taken by Switzerland, the Italian Carabinieri, and the US Army respectively. These papers demonstrate successful programs of cultural property protection that are organized through the authority of the central government and require its continuous backing.

Deprived of the discussion that accompanied these papers, the second part is far weaker than the first part of the volume. A number of the papers in this section are disappointing in that they take the focus away from the more scholarly contributions or those detailing in concrete terms what some institutions have tried when attempting to preserve cultural heritage. The papers from the Global Heritage Fund and Carrington, for example, read more like advertisements for cultural heritage preservation than scholarly papers; the contribution from the World Bank is so succinct that it provides the reader little useful information. The weakness of this section could have been ameliorated by including some of the subsequent discussion of these papers to illustrate the reaction to the facts, ideas, and services the speakers presented.

Nevertheless, a number of papers from the first part address concerns raised by authors in the second part. As Kane stresses, researchers working in Libya need to dedicate resources both to recording and sharing the data of current archaeological projects and to mending the large gaps in the Libyan Department of Antiquity's legacy records (78). Others, like Muso and Ensoli, briefly mention how their projects are working with the local directorate of the Department of Antiquity to develop exhibits in local museums. Such cooperation will protect excavated material from some of the threats outlined by Mattingly and Abdulkariem and attempt to build the idea within Libya that the heritage of all past peoples is part of the modern country's cultural patrimony.

Authors throughout the volume note that all such work requires the willingness and resources of the central government and the citizens of Libya in addition to the international community. An initial step in a global response the to concerns raised at the conference occurred several months later when UNESCO sponsored further talks about the preservation of cultural heritage in Libya. The recommendations from that meeting are included as a conclusion to the second part.1

The third part, the "Appendix: Articles of Specific Interest," consists of short site reports expanding on Ensoli's paper about excavations at Cyrene, and other papers that do not fit neatly into the first two sections. Hidden away in this part is a book review for Leptis Magna. Una città e le sue iscrizioni in epoca tardoromana, a 2010 corpus of inscriptions edited by Ignazio Tantillo and Francesca Bigi. Pesce's and Ensoli's intriguing papers on the Treasure of Benghazi provide the story behind this remarkable collection of material from northeastern Libya and the efforts of an Italian-Libyan team to assemble records, photographs, and other information for this collection after it was reported stolen in 2011. The reader is left with a clear picture of why protecting cultural heritage is a problem that must be solved by the collaboration of local governments, the international community, academics, and NGOs.

A few issues detract a little from the important message of the volume. English contributions could have been better edited. Although there is a combined bibliography at the end of the volume, some contributors provide no indication for sources. A list of contributors and their institutional affiliation would have been helpful.


Part 1: The Archaeological Missions in Libya
From Fezzan to Jebel Gharbi and to Tripolitania
Attilio Mastino, Introduction: "Tripolitania e Cirenaica: un futuro per il patrimonio," (25–26)
David Mattingly, "Conservation Issues in the Libyan Oasis Belts," (27–32)
Barbara E. Barich, Elena A. A. Garcea, Cecilia Conati-Barbaro, "Missione Congiunta Italo-Libica nel Jebel Gharbi (Università Sapienza e Università di Cassino). Culture e ambiente della Libia nord-occidentale," (33–36)
Francesco Tomasello, "Studi e ricerche della Missione Archeologica dell'Università di Catania a Leptis Magna," (37–42)
Anna Maria Dolciotti, "Il Tempio della 'Gens Flavia' a Leptis Magna (Libia)," (43–47)
Karl-Uwe Mahler, "The Church in the Old Forum of Leptis Magna. A Preliminary Report," (49–53)

From Tripolitania to Cyrenaica
Luisa Musso, "Missione Archeologica dell'Università Roma Tre: ricerca, cooperazione, prospettive" (57–62)
Sebastiano Tusa, "Archeologia Costiera e Subacquea in Cirenaica (2003–2008)," (64–75)
Susan Kane, Sam C. Carrier, "Towards a Strategy for Cultural Heritage Management for the Department of Antiquities at Shahat (Cyrene), Libya," (77–79)
Leszek Kuk, "Missione Archeologica Polacca a Ptolemais," (81–84)

Christopher Owen Hunt, "Conservation of Prehistoric Archaeology in North-Eastern Libya: implications of the discoveries of the Cyrenaica Prehistory Project," (87–91)
Vincent Michel, "L'activité récente de la Mission Archéologique Française de Libye pour l'Antiquité," (93–103)
Oliva Menozzi, "The Archaeological Mission of Chieti University in Cyrenaica: Aims, Results and Possibilities," (105–108)
Ahmad Abdulkariem, "Factors of Deterioration at the Archaeological Site in Cyrene," (109–110)
Serenella Ensoli, "L'attività della Missione Archeologica Italiana a Cirene (MAIC) della Seconda Università degli Studi di Napoli (SUN). Le ricerche svolte nel 2009 e 2010 in collaborazione con il Dipartimento alle Antichità (DoA) di Cirene: strategie e prospettive future" (111–138)

Part 2: The Preservation of the Cultural Heritage in Libya. A Dialogue among Institutions
The Value of Cultural Heritage
Michael Carrington, "'The Maria Nobrega Foundation': Promotion and Safeguard of Cultural Heritage," (143–144)
Philip Kenrick, "Conservation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage: the Importance of Education," (145–146)
Chantal Reliquet, Denis Lesage, "The World Bank Study on Cultural Heritage in Libya. Rationale and Objectives," (147–148)
Global Heritage Fund, "Sustainable Preservation. Global Heritage Fund's Model for Community. Development-based Conservation," (149–151)

Round Table: Interventions and future prospects
Nout van Woudenberg, "Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict," (155–157)
Rino Büchel, "Cultural Property Protection (PCP) in Switzerland," (159–160)
Alberto Deregibus, "Il ruolo dei Carabinieri nella Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale," (161)
Raymond Bondin, "Future Perspectives for Libyan Heritage," (163–164)
Laurie W. Rush, "Cultural Property Protection: the Critical Role of Partnership between Academia and the Military," (165–169)
Fadel Ali Mohamed, "Threats to the Cultural Heritage of Libya," (171–172)
Abdullah Al Mortady, "Uno sguardo sul Paese durante il conflitto," (173–174)

Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, Paris, (177–178)
"UNESCO International Meeting of Experts on the Cultural Heritage of Libya, Friday 21 October 2011 Recommendations," (179–181)

Part 3 Appendix: articles of specific interest
Ilaria Campagnano, "L'Oikos e l'Altare a est del Teatro-Anfiteatro," (187–188)
Emanuela Palmisano, "Il 'Tempio degli Ortostati Appaiati' nel Santuario di Apollo," (189–192)
Adriano Tedesco, Francesca R. Cappa, "Il Complesso monumentale 'Fontana-Grotta sacra' presso la Casa del Mosaico di Dioniso," (193–195)
Maria Paola Del Moro, "L''Edificio Porticato' del Quartiere Centrale," (197–199)
Massimiliano Campaniolo, "La 'Fabbrica Officinale del Silfio,'" (201–202)
Emanuela Palmisano, Adriano Tedesco, "L'attività di studio della MAIC sulle sculture del Museo di Cirene e sulle opere di provenienza cirenaica custodite nel British Museum di Londra" (203–205)
Leptis Magna
Piergiorgio Floris, "Leptis Magna. Una città e le sue iscrizioni in epoca tardoromana," (209–211)
The Colonial Spaces in the XX Century
Ettore Janulardo, "Ri-costruire la storia: tracce di altri patrimoni," (215–219)
The 'Archaeological Treasure of Libya'
Raffaele Pesce, "Gennaro Pesce in Libia," (223–226)
Serenella Ensoli, "Il 'Tesoro Archeologico della Libia', oggi denominato 'Tesoro di Bengasi', e l'attività svolta nel 2011–2012 dalla MAIC per il suo recupero in collaborazione con i DoA di Tripoli, Bengasi e Cirene, con il Comando Carabinieri Tutela del Patrimonio Culturale (Roma) e Interpol," (227–250)


1.   The URL provided at the end of Francesco Bandarin's statement (178) to a PDF of these recommendations is missing the final .pdf. The correct URL is therefore

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