Tripoli, 25 August 2013:
Libyan property speculators are sacrificing a two thousand year old necropolis at Cyrene to make way for new building development.
Cyrene’s ten-square-kilometre necropolis has been badly damaged by local residents claiming ownership of the land. Despite it being one of the country’s five UNESCO World Heritage sites, local farmers have reportedly brought in excavators and diggers to clear and flatten those areas they plan to sell to developers for future building projects.
Plans for the 500-square-metre plots are understood to include houses and shops.
“The site was damaged along about two kilometres,” Archaeology Professor at Bayda University, Ahmed Hussein, told France 24. “About 200 vaults and tombs were destroyed, as well as a section of a viaduct that dates back to approximately 200 AD.”
He added that ancient artefacts were thrown into a nearby river as if they were rubbish.
Hussein has been campaigning to put a stop to this cultural catastrophe but says his pleas have got him nowhere. “I have been trying everything to stop this disaster. I appealed, in vain, to the archaeological authorities as well as the local authorities,” said Hussein, “I even called the Culture Minister on his mobile phone. I left a message but I haven’t heard anything yet.”
He added that he had contacted the head of a local brigade in charge of security in the area. He said the brigade could apparently only intervene if instructed by the authorities.
Locals who claim the land is theirs have no official documents pertaining to ownership. They do say, however, that they would abandon the Cyrene project if given compensation or new plots of land by the government.
Cyrene was one of the largest Greek cities in the Classical period and continued to be an important city under the Romans until it was badly damaged during an earthquake in AD 365. UNESCO has described Cyrene as “one of the most impressive complexes of ruins in the entire world.”
The Libya Herald was not able to contact UNESCO today.