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Destruction of Libya’s Cultural Heritage

Posted on Jan, 11, 2016
Contributed to WCHV by Danielle

LibyaAs reported earlier this week by the Guardian newspaper, Greek and Roman antiquities and prehistoric artwork are under threat from Islamic State extremists in Libya. The leading world museums experts and the UN have warned that the Islamists terrorist ISIS, have made major inroads across Libya which is split between rival governments and plagued by weapons smuggling and people smuggling. These terrorists have also destroyed temples and ancient sites in Iraq and Syria, and experts believe they are also selling plundered antiquities on the illegal market as reported in the past.
The International Council of Museums has already released a list of cultural treasures in peril and appealed to Interpol, customs officers and art traders to watch out for looted Libyan goods. Among the threatened artwork are sculptures and mausoleum carvings in Cyrene, a one-time Greek colony, the Roman-era trading centre of Sabratha, and a desert region that is home to stone paintings or carvings dating back 12,000 years. It has been extremely difficult to keep track of Libya’s treasures because it has become so dangerous there since the 2011 fall of the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The UNESCO’s red list of threatened sites also includes sculptures, mausoleum busts and medieval artefacts, including coins decorated with a flower that is now extinct. The head of UNESCO, says the destruction and looting of archaeological sites in the Middle East should be considered a war crime.
It is also believed that these terrorists finance themselves (in addition to other means) by selling artifacts directly and by taxing criminal gangs that dig up archaeological sites in its territory.

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