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Conference on protecting and promoting Libya’s archaeological treasures

A part of this week’s festival on Libyan culture and civil life, “Min Ajl Libya” (For Libya) being organised by the French embassies to Libya and Tunisia, the head of the Louvre museum in Paris, Jean-Luc Martinez, is host a roundtable on the country’s classical period heritage this Saturday.

The event, entitled “A Journey Across Time” and which will take place on Saturday morning at the French Institute in Tunis, seeks to discover ancient Libya as well as look at conservation issues. It is being organised by the French Archaeological Mission to Libya.

Speakers will include a number of archaeologists and historians, including the head of the mission, Vincent Michel, professor of archaeology at the university of Poitiers, plus Ahmed Hossein Abdulkarim, head of the department of antiquities to Beida-Cyrene since 2014. Also attending is Mustafa Turjman, director of archaeological research at the department of antiquities in Tripoli. He has a particular focus on education, protecting historical sites and promoting Libyan heritage.

Continuing the theme of preservation is Chiara Dezzi Bardeschi, who supervised and coordinated the cultural programme of UNESCO in Libya in both 2011 and 2013-2014. Among others speaking is Khaled Elhaddar, assistant professor in classical archaeology at the University of Benghazi and a doctoral student at the University of Poitiers.

Libya’s archaeological treasures are seen as under threat, not least due to a complete lack of funding. But there have also been unscrupulous developers encroaching on archaeological sites plus there is the fear that although the so-called Islamic State has been defeated in Sirte, Islamists might still try and destroy them, as has been the case in Syria and Iraq. One of the biggest threats, though, comes from petty criminals looking to make a quick profit and potentially causing devastating damage to sites in the process.

The Min Ajl Libya festival is on 11 and 12 March at the French Institute and in addition to the antiquities roundtable will include another on contemporary Libya as well as an exhibition of works by Libyan artists, meetings with Libyan writers and poets, concerts and Libyan food.

The Louvre is expected to hold an exhibition of Libyan antiquities next year.

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