Illicit trade of antiquities in Libya

“London (CNN) — The looting of a large collection of priceless coins, statues and jewelry from a bank vault during Libya’s recent civil war has highlighted the risk of looting during times of conflict.
Interpol is hunting for the hoard of Roman and Hellenistic objects — dubbed the “Benghazi Treasure” –stolen from the city’s Commercial Bank in May 2011.
But the theft is not an isolated incident.
According to UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Culture Francesco Bandarin, the looting of antiquities and archaeological sites occurs regularly during times of conflict and even during peacetime.
It is a problem that the UN agency is constantly battling.
“In the present moment it is difficult for us to do much because the situation is still very precarious, there is no administration in place in [Libya], there are difficulties in communicating,” said Bandarin.
It is difficult for us to do much because the situation is still very precarious
Francesco Bandarin, Assistant Director-General for Culture, UNESCO
Bandarin’s main fear is that the “Benghazi Treasure” will be dispersed or, worse, in the case of the coins, melted down and sold.
The thieves reportedly drilled through the concrete ceiling of the bank vault to reach the coins and took only the most valuable items.
“It looks targeted and well-planned, they knew what they were doing,” said Dr. Hafed Walda, a Libyan-born archaeologist and research fellow at King’s College, London.
Few records of the treasure survive, making it even more difficult to locate, though experts believe the collection contained ancient coins excavated from Cyrenaica in Eastern Libya, as well as statues and some jewelry dating from later periods.
Rumors that artifacts from the collection have surfaced in Egypt and in Tripoli are unconfirmed, and the race to find the treasure is ongoing.”

From CNN

Economic historian and numismatic consultant

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