By Tom Westcott.
London, 22 May 2014:
A new book about the . . .[restrict]archaeology of southern Libya, which sheds more light on an ancient people of the Sahara, was launched last week at London’s British Museum.
Volume Four of The Archaeology of Fazz?n (it uses the academic rather than the standard anglicised spelling of the name) gives a detailed account of an oasis centre, Old Jarma, some 1,000 kilometres m south of Tripoli. The town was the capital of the Garamantes, an early Saharan civilisation, of which little was previously known. Discovering more about this ancient Libyan people was one of the principal focuses of the “Fazz?n Project” – a joint venture between Libya’s Department of Antiquities and the London-based Society for Libyan Studies, established in 1996.
“Part of our fascination with this site stems from the fact that it is one of the earliest urban centres in Libya and, unlike the early coastal towns, its foundation was not the result of trading posts or colonial initiatives of external Mediterranean peoples,” the book’s editor David Mattingly said in his introduction to the work. The story of Jarma extended over more than two millennia, before the town fell into decline in the 19th and 20th centuries, he added.
Mattingly, from the UK’s University of Leicester, described the book as a “huge collaborative work.” Volume Four of is the final part of a series charting archaeological discoveries made during digs carried out By C. M Daniels from 1962-1969 and the “Fazz?n Project” between 1997 and 2001.
Mattingly has worked in Libya for over 30 years, with 18 of those spent examining sites in the Sahara Desert.
“Libya has been a passion for me from my first visit in 1979,” Mattingly told the Libya Herald. He admitted, however, that for many years working in the country was a challenge because, he said, the former regime had little interest in archaeological or heritage projects. Although the security situation has so far prevented many archaeologists from returning to work in Libya, Mattingly said he hoped the revolution heralded a very promising future for the country’s heritage, which held international as well as regional significance.
“Many important developments happened in Libya before the Mediterranean colonialism of the ancient Greeks and Romans,” he said. “This heritage should be a focus of national pride for Libyans.”
The Archaeology of Fazz?n Volume Four is a joint publication by the Department of Antiquities in Tripoli and the Society for Libyan Studies in London, with the financial assistance of BP Exploration Libya Limited.
“BP is proud to support this work, which we hope will help illuminate the rich heritage of Libya in an international dimension,” said President and General Manager of BP Exploration Libya, Roger Nunn.
“We aim to stage a similar launch in Tripoli later in the year for the benefit of the Libyan public, as well as local academics and historians.” [/restrict]