Cyrene’s Sanctuary of Apollo, constructed by Greek explorers in the 6th century BC, is a paragon of Classical style and emblematic of the pioneering spirit of the early Greek settlers.
Where We Work
The Cyrene Amphitheatre, erected in the Sanctuary of Apollo by Greek settlers in the 6th Century B.C., is located in Africa’s largest ancient Greek site. Cyrene is considered one of the most important Classical Greek sites outside of Greece, yet the site is one of the most neglected and endangered UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Mediterranean Basin.
Cyrene, a colony of the Greeks of Thera founded in 631 BC, was one of the principal cities in the ancient Greek world. Its temples, tombs, agora, gymnasium and theater are allegedly inspired by those originally built at Delphi, home to the famous Oracle of Apollo in the ancient world. Romanized in 74 BC, Cyrene remained a great city, with over 1000 years of rich history. However, the earthquake of AD 365 and, in particular, the growing aridity of the region brought about a partial decline. Cyrene is considered one of the most important Classical Greek sites outside of Greece as well as in Libya. Yet today, Cyrene is one of the most neglected and endangered UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Mediterranean Basin.
Prior to GHF’s involvement, the site received improper restoration and suffered extensive looting of Greek artifacts. Furthermore, the site has not received formal protection or security due to a lack of funding and expertise.
What We Do
The GHF program at Cyrene is focused in the area of the Sanctuary of Apollo and is being developed and implemented through a GHF-led partnership between the Second University of Naples (Italy), the Libyan Department of Antiquities and the Libyan Ministry of Culture. This program is the first integrated project involving Libyans, Italians and Americans working together and aims to implement the conservation work within a structured training program for site conservators, archaeologists, and site maintenance and park services personnel of the Libyan Department of Antiquities in Cyrenaica.
GHF has drawn together a team of renowned experts in conservation and heritage management to work with the Libyan Department of Antiquities and observers from the World Heritage Centre of UNESCO in order to prepare a management plan for the World Heritage Site of Cyrene. There is presently a need for Classical sites in North Africa to develop good management plans, and it is hoped that this document, when completed, will provide an exemplar for the creation of management plans for heritage sites across the region.
The study, documentation and field research investigations carried out have completed Stage One of the Project – the graphic, photographic and photogrammetric documentation of the monument and preliminary surveys for the restorations and anastylosis plan.
Research in the Archive of the Department of Antiquities of Cyrene made it possible to know the various stages of the excavations and the restorations of the Theatre-Amphitheatre carried out by the historical Italian Missions in the 1930s, which had never been documented up until the present, thus providing data of fundamental importance for the project of the restoration of the monument.
The Cyrene Amphitheatre is one of the most significant monuments on the site of Cyrene that has not been conserved. Past conservation of other monuments at Cyrene has utilized concrete and steel as materials for conservation – techniques that are practically irreversible and unethical according to international scientific conservation standards. GHF is working with the University of Naples to carry out urgent conservation of the theatre.
The GHF project extends to deal with many aspects of the preservation of the Sanctuary of Apollo, including archaeological cleaning and investigation in parts of the sanctuary, training and capacity building for local site staff and locally sourced project workers, visitor access and didactic interpretation and signage. Using the highest standards of technical and exploratory expertise and equipment, the project team has successfully carried out the investigatory, feasibility and documentation phases for the restoration and conservation by anastylosis of the exceptional amphitheatre in the heart of the World Heritage Site.
GHF is working with the Italian Archaeological Mission to Cyrene (MAIC) of Second University of Naples (SUN) to carry out emergency conservation of the Greek/Roman Theatre within the ancient centre of Cyrene, the Sanctuary of Apollo. Using the highest standards of technical and exploratory expertise and equipment, this team has successfully carried out the investigatory, feasibility and documentation phases for the restoration of this exceptional structure.
In many areas of the world, including Libya, cultural heritage and natural assets offer one of the best models for long-term sustainable development. While the conservation of cultural assets is the primary focus of heritage programs, this project is dedicated to using heritage assets to stimulate local economies and business development. Through responsible development of its cultural resources, specifically Leptis Magna and Cyrene, Libya has the potential to become one of the most prominent destinations for Greek-based cultural tourism in the Mediterranean.
GHF’s partnership with the Libyan Department of Antiquities and the University of Naples creates a 20-30 person Conservation Team comprising Libyan and Italian conservators, architects, planners, engineers and archaeologists to bring Cyrene World Heritage Site up to international standards in conservation, staffing, funding and park services. During the course of the project, Libyan nationals from Cyrene’s surrounding area have been employed as both skilled and unskilled labor on site, while university groups from Benghazi and Baida will study the project as a unique case study in both African archaeology and heritage management. Authentic conservation of this monument will facilitate significant education transfer and capacity building to Libyan partners on international standards of conservation, including an integrated program of excavation, restoration and anastylosis of the monument.
- AG Leventis Foundation
- The Second University of Naples
- The US Department of State
Why It's Important
Due to the conflict and ongoing political turmoil in Libya, the GHF Cyrene Project has been on hold since 2011. Below are a collection articles detailing how the political turmoil in Libya has effected the country’s cultural heritage:
- Direct and indirect surveying using GPS, total station and laser scanning is being conducted to complete the first phase of the Theatre-Amphitheatre restoration program
- These data will help to create a 3D model of the structure, and removal and cataloging of unsafe, collapsed elements of the cavea
- Cleaning of the Theatre-Amphitheatre and the surrounding area is underway to prepare for conservation of the monument
- Topographic analysis has been conducted to identify the main entry to the original Greek Theatre
- Training of local staff in conservation and restoration techniques continues with the support and guidance of Italian engineers and archaeologists
- GHF enabled the first Conservation Program budget at the site, over $300,000 in total
- GHF funding also helped the project secure equal matching funding from in-country corporate and foundation donors of over $800,000 since 2004
Professor Serenella Ensoli, Second University of Naples
“We are grateful for the vision and support from GHF in our work to preserve Cyrene. Private sector investment, technical and scientific assistances, and international partnerships are critical to our efforts to protect and successfully preserve Cyrene, one of Africa’s finest archaeological jewels.”
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