Treasure of Benghazi bank vault raided

The Telegraph on October 31, 2011 released the following:

“A priceless collection of nearly 8,000 ancient gold, silver and bronze coins was stolen by robbers who broke into a bank vault in the Libyan city of Benghazi.

The theft of the so-called Treasure of Benghazi, much of which dates from the time of Alexander the Great, is believed to have been one of the biggest in archaeological history.

Interpol has been alerted about the theft, which took place in March. Libya’s National Transitional Council is believed to have kept it quiet for fear of tarnishing their image at a time when they were engaged in a desperate battle for survival against the regime of Col Muammar Gaddafi.

Details of the robbery emerged at a conference held by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, held in Paris last week.

Metal storage cupboards at the National Commercial Bank of Benghazi were smashed open and the red wax seals on the wooden trunks housing the collection were broken after the gang drilled through a concrete ceiling.

The gang had concentrated on the ancient treasures, leaving items of lesser value untouched, according to The Sunday Times.

As well as 7,700 coins the haul included jewellery, medallions, bracelets, anklets, necklaces, earrings, precious stones, rings and gold armbands. Small monuments and figurines of bronze, glass and ivory were also stolen.

The treasure was excavated between 1917 and 1922 from the temple of Artemis in an ancient Roman city in Cyrene, near Benghazi.

UNESCO chief Irina Bokova described the theft as a “disaster”.

Hafed Walada, a Libyan archaeologist based at King’s College, London, said: “I have the feeling this must have been an inside job. The treasure was there for many years, not many people knew about it, and the robbers even ignored cash that was in the vault.

“In terms of Libya’s historical heritage, this was a major theft.”

In the months since it happened ancient gold coins have turned up repeatedly in Benghazi’s gold market, and in Egypt a farmer was caught with a three inch high gold figurine and 503 coins which may have come from the collection.

UNESCO has warned art dealers and police forces around the world to look out for pieces from the Treasure of Benghazi.

A fact-finding trip in September by UNESCO experts found that Libya’s rich historical heritage suffered little damage during the nine-month war, in part because Nato worked with experts to avoid bombing archaeological sites.

But with the country awash with guns and armed men, and little sign of authority, they are concerned that Roman, Greek and Phoenician sites on Libyan soil, some of the finest in the ancient world, could now be at risk from looters.”


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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