Islamic Tourism Mr Paul Bennett, Chairman of the Society for Libyan Studies, said that the ongoing improvements in Libya’s relations with Britain and rest of the world have made the country more accessible and facilitated the development of new archaeological fieldwork.
He was speaking at his presentation of the chairman’s report to the society’s 36th annual general meeting held in London recently at the British Academy.
Mr Bennett pointed out that it is clear that increased economic pressures for urban growth and infrastructural development of roads, water and oil pipelines pose severe threats to the country’s archaeological heritage which remains ineffectively protected by planning legislation.
In March three representatives of the Department of Antiquities of Libya came to Cambridge to discuss with Professor Graeme Barker the return to Libya of material from Professor McBurney’s excavations at Haua Fteah which had been held in Cambridge for the past 50 years. It was agreed that all the material would be returned to Libya once it had been fully catalogued.
The first season of a new project to study rock art in Wadi al-Hayat, Fazzan took place at the end of 2004. It was directed by Dr Tertia Barnett and funded by the Society for Libyan Studies. The aims of the project were to extend the preliminary rock art survey work carried out under the aegis of the Fazzan Project by means of further survey; to construct a digital database of rock art sites; to pilot the use of 3-D laser scanning in the recording of rock art and to explore approaches to rock art conservation, in particular by training members of the Department of Antiquities in rock art recording techniques and by raising local awareness of rock art in the region.
Post excavation work on the Fazzan Project has continued, in particular on the preparation of specialist reports on figurines, architectural elements, glass and other small finds.
The society awarded grants to Mr Luca Cherstich to complete a survey of the southern Necropolis of Cyrene and to Mr Philip Ciantar to continuer his research on music, meaning and change in the Libyan Ma’luf musical tradition.
The society has published Travellers in Libya. The book, selected and edited by Dr John Wright is aimed at the non-specialist reader. It contains colourful accounts from almost fifty contributors of their travels in Libya between 1550 and 1911.
Mr Bennett’s talk was followed by a lecture on the society’s excavations at the Greek city of Euesperides by Professor Andrew Wilson.
Euesperides lies on a silted salt-marsh on the outskirts of Libya’s second largest city Benghazi, the ancient Berenice. The ancient cemeteries of the city were explored by George Dennis ('Dennis of Etruria') in the nineteenth century. Modern exploration of the site took place after the Second World War following a brief survey. The initial excavations (1952-54) were sponsored by the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford. The Society for Libyan Studies sponsored a short exploration (1968-69). It has worked in partnership with colleagues from Libya to in a more substantial exploration of the city in the face of the expansion of the modern city of Benghazi and will be completing its fieldwork next year.
The Society for Libyan Studies, founded in 1969, is established as a British Institute Abroad, sponsored by The British Academy. Its aims are to encourage and co-ordinate the activities of scholars working on Libya, in Britain and elsewhere, covering as wide a range of interests as possible including archaeology, history, linguistics and the natural sciences, and to foster and develop relations between Libyan scholars and those working outside Libya on Libyan subjects.
Since its foundation the Society has sponsored many differing projects in Libya within the subject areas of archaeology, education, geography, geology, history and Islamic law. Its resources to date have been concentrated on supporting long-term archaeological projects and their subsequent publication, including excavations and surveys in Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan, notably at present Euesperides, Cyrene, Lepcis Magna and Fezzan.
In recent years projects have included (among many others) the multi-disciplinary survey in the pre-desert valleys of Tripolitania, the Islamic excavations at Barca (El Merj) and Medinet Sultan, and the preparation for publication of the post-war excavations at Sabratha and Lepcis Magna.