Alexandria's founded by Alexander

Alexandria's founded by Alexander the Great (by year BC): 334 Alexandria in Troia (Turkey) - 333 Alexandria at Issus/Alexandrette (Iskenderun, Turkey) - 332 Alexandria of Caria/by the Latmos (Alinda, Turkey) - 331 Alexandria Mygdoniae - 331 Alexandria (Egypt) - 330 Alexandria in Areia (Herat, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria of the Prophthasia/in Drangiana/Phrada (Farah, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Arachosia (Kandahar, Afghanistan) - 330 Alexandria in Caucasus (Begram, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria of the Paropanisades (Ghazni, Afghanistan) - 329 Alexandria Eschate or Ultima (Khodjend, Tajikistan) - 329 Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum OR Termez, Afghanistan) - 328 Alexandria in Margiana (Merv, Turkmenistan) - 326 Alexandria Nicaea (on the Hydaspes, India) - 326 Alexandria Bucephala (on the Hydaspes, India) - 325 Alexandria Sogdia - 325 Alexandria Rambacia (Bela, Pakistan) - 325 Alexandria Oreitide - 325 Alexandria in Opiene (confluence of Indus & Acesines, India) - 325 Alexandria on the Indus - 325 Alexandria Xylinepolis (Patala, India) - 325 Alexandria in Carminia (Gulashkird, Iran) - 324 Alexandria-on-the-Tigris/Antiochia-in-Susiana/Charax (Spasinou Charax on the Tigris, Iraq) - ?Alexandria of Carmahle? (Kahnu)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Still hope, though scant, for Libya’s cultural heritage

We have nearly forgotten about the war that raged through Libya to free the country of Kaddafi’s iron rule. Eventually Kaddafi was killed, the regime overthrown and what is left today is a rather lawless country without central authority. It does no longer make the headlines in the news bulletins and we can only guess about the fate of its unique and rich archeological patrimony.

Libya has many more historic treasures than we would expect at first sight. UNESCO has listed at least six of them on their World Heritage List: Cyrene, the Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone at Cyrene, Leptis Magna, Sabratha, Ghadames (an oasis in the Tripolitania on the Algerian border) and Tadrart Acacus in the Acacus Mountains (prehistoric rock art).

During the uprising, the main fear was about allegations of pro-Kaddafi’s troops operating from the ancient cities of Leptis Magna and Sabratha, using the ruins as a shield to hide their explosives. It seems they have not suffered major damages, but on the other hand since in the aftermath the country has been left more or less lawless, treasure hunters, criminals and opportunists were able to steal nearly 8,000 artifacts from a Benghazi bank vault among which a substantial number of ancient gold, silver and bronze coins that were easy to negotiate on the black market. As so often in the Near and Middle East, archiving and cataloguing was never carried out making it difficult to trace and estimate the loss of Libya’s cultural heritage. Damage however is considered to be less significant than the looting and vandalism that occurred in Iraq for instance, but then we have nothing to prove otherwise.

It has to be said that NATO’s airstrikes at the time of the revolt were well-directed and avoided sites like Leptis Magna and Cyrene. Museums are easier to protect from treasure seekers than the open antique sites of Sabratha, Leptis Magna or Cyrene, for instance. The biggest problem with cultural sites in Libya is the lack of training and resources of their safe-keepers. They often don’t even have the simplest and basic know-how. Smaller or lesser known sites are situated in isolated areas that can easily escape to any control. Those in the Cyrenaica like Ptolemais, Apollonia, and Qasr Libya falling more or less under the authority of Benghazi may be worse of than the cities of the Tripolitania.

I often wonder what is really happening to those historic places where archeologists have invested so many loving hours of their life. Each of the sites is absolutely unique and certainly deserves to be opened up to a broader public. Let’s hope for a better future, rather sooner than later.

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