Among the missing treasures, clockwise from top: an embossed thin gold plate depicting a battle, golden and wrought silver foils with human heads in profile, and a figure of Nikai
Among the missing treasures, clockwise from top: an embossed thin gold plate
depicting a battle, golden and wrought silver foils with human heads in profile,
and a figure of Nikai

By Martin Bailey. From News, Issue 229, November 2011
Published online: 31 October 2011 (theartnewspaper.com)

The largely forgotten cache of thousands of antiquities was taken by thieves months after the city was seized by rebel forces

Among the missing treasures, clockwise from top: an embossed thin gold plate depicting a battle, golden and wrought silver foils with human heads in profile, and a figure of Nikai

Benghazi. Interpol has alerted police forces to the theft of the so-called “Benghazi Trea­s­ure”, which was stolen from a bank vault in the city on 25 May. The theft of thousands of antiquities went unpublicised at the time, some three months after rebel forces had seized Benghazi from troops loyal to the late Muammar Gaddafi.

The looted treasure, which includes Greek and Roman gold, had been stored in two padlocked second world war military chests and a safe. It has never been displayed in Libya and its existence had been virtually forgotten, except by specialist archaeologists.

Francesco Bandarin, Unesco’s head of culture, working with Libyan archaeologists, is ­det­ermined to hunt down the treasure; Interpol has alerted 188 national police forces. Inform­ation about the loss is scarce, but there is some new evidence, based on research by Italian archaeologist Serenella Ensoli, the Naples-based director of the Italian Arch­aeological Mission to Cyrene.

The antiquities had been deposited for safekeeping in the vaults of the National Com­mercial Bank in Omar al-Mukhtar Street, in the centre of Benghazi. The city was the main base of anti-Gaddafi rebels, who seized power there last February.

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