Sunday, November 06, 2011

Article: Revolution in Libya spared nation's Roman ruins | - Nation/World

Revolution in Libya spared nation's Roman ruins | - Nation/World

ROME — Libya's famed ancient Roman sites, including the sprawling seaside ruins of Leptis Magna, were spared damage by NATO during the recent airstrikes, says a London-based Libyan archaeologist .

Hafed Walda, a research fellow at Kings College, said Friday that he wants to "say thank you to NATO for achieving precision strikes" during its campaign to protect civilians from late dictator Moammar Gadhafi's regime

Libya boasts many ancient Roman structures, along with a wealth of ancient artifacts in its major museum in the capital Tripoli and in other museums countrywide.

Walda, speaking in Rome said he had visited sites in the country's west in late September, and all had "so far seen no visible loss."

He warned, however, that "only time will tell" if any damage surfaces.

NATO launched a bombing campaign over Libya in March and carried out more than 9,300 airstrikes. The campaign ended in October after Gadhafi's death.

Among the sites Walda declared unscathed by the bombing — or in the fighting between Gadhafi's forces and rebels — were the port city of Leptis Magna, around 50 miles west of Tripoli and one of the best preserved cities of ancient Roman glories. It was originally founded by seafaring Phoenicians from Carthage as a trading post in the first millennium B.C.

Walda also inspected Rasaimergib Fort, near Leptis, where he said NATO took out several radars but an ancient arch at the site "didn't move at all," and Sabratha — another renowned ancient city — which also showed no damage.

Although the north African nation's Roman sites appeared to have survived unscathed, Walda confirmed reports that 6,600 bronze, silver and gold ancient coins stolen from a Benghazi bank vault earlier in the revolt were still missing. Benghazi served as a base for rebel leaders.

"It appeared to be an inside job," he said, adding that the thieves had apparently drilled into the vault.

He said that hundreds of the coins were recovered from a man caught crossing into Egypt.