Libyan Bits and Pieces

11 November 2009
Photo Marco Prins

Mausoleum F from Ghirza; museum of Bani Walid

Over the years, my friend Marco and I made some 40,000 photos, which we have arranged geographically: there’s a directory for country X, which is subdivided into directories for towns A, B, and C. The names of the photos are usually sufficient to find back what we were looking for. That is to say, over the past two years, I have made it a habit to give them names immediately: usually, that means that during a foreign trip, when we are at our hotel, I spend some time transferring the photos to my laptop computer, and renaming them.

There used to be a time when I renamed the photos after our return to Amsterdam. Sometimes, I was unable to remember what I had seen, or was too occupied with other things. That meant that the photos got names like “toponym_01”, “toponym_02”, and so on. This was less than perfect, and over the past months I have used the late hours of the evening to check the photos again and see if I could be more precise.

Often, I could, and I made some nice discoveries. I now know that we own a photo of a bust of the Greek philosopher Carneades from Munich, plus a photo of its original pedestal, in the Agora Museum in Athens. I like that; maybe, I will put it online, when I feel like it.

Today I put online photos of this funeral monument from Ghirza, which is in the museum of Bani Walid. I had not realized what it was, and I am glad that the photos are now available, next to the photos of the other mausoleums of Ghirza. I also put online the text and translations of three inscriptions from Bu Njem -nothing special. Finally, one photo of the temple of Dolichenus in Lepcis Magna. Not terribly important, but a reminder to myself that I should continue with putting online the Lepcis stuff.

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Fort Gholaia (Bu Njem)

16 May 2009
The Roman fort at Bu Njem; oasis in the distance

The Roman fort at Bu Njem; oasis in the distance

My favorite site in Libya is Bu Njem, ancient Gholaia: a well-preserved fort of the Limes Tripolitanus. Today, this area is arid, but it has not always been that way. By building all kinds of dams, the emperor Septimius Severus changed the entire ecosystem and converted this area into a fertile zone, where sufficient food was produced to feed the soldiers in the fort.

The French archaeologists who excavated the site, first had to remove all the sand, but the rewards were great: besides the remains of the ancient buildings, there were several interesting inscriptions and dozens of ostraca, which document daily life in Gholaia.

My photos have been online since 2006, but I revisited the site last year. The new photos and an improved text are now available here. The satellite photo is also worth looking at: here.