Khoms, Libya – Once the third most important city of the Roman empire, Leptis Magna stands today as one of the world’s best preserved archaeological sites.
It is also a surprisingly well-kept secret – while it rivals the likes of Carthage and Palmyra in terms of size and scope, it remains largely unknown to the general public.
However, this could change as post-Gaddafi Libya opens up to the outside world. Since the fall of the former leader, the country’s archaeological community has indicated a willingness to break with its post-colonial heritage, and work with foreign researchers.
During the summer of 2012, in the wake of the Libyan revolution, the French archaeological mission for Libya, led by Vincent Michel, returned to the site. As one of the most important archeological studies taking place in Leptis Magna, Michel’s mission focuses on excavating the Roman baths. Once the study is completed, Leptis Magna will become a reference for the late Antique period of Libya.
However, a lack of conservation measures has led archaeologists to worry about the impact of tourism and vandalism.
Even more so, the archaeologists’ mission itself is suddenly looking fragile. The country’s ongoing turmoil and a recent attack on the French embassy are threatening to put a premature end to their research.