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Cyrenaica (Libya Archaeological Guides) Paperback – 1 May 2013
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Cyrenaica's beautiful landscape is studded with prehistoric, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Early Islamic archaeological sites. Although a handful of these Cyrene, Apollonia, Ptolemais are well known for their spectacular Classical ruins, there is also a rich array of little-known settlements, churches and forts, often amazingly well preserved and some with extraordinary mosaics or sculptures, but rarely visited. Based on a long and deep personal knowledge of the region, and drawing on a vast array of archaeological scholarship, Philip Kenrick's Cyrenaica is the first and only guidebook to bring these sites together in an accessible format, clearly described and illustrated, with information on how to find them. The illustrations are a particular delight the plans have all been specially drawn for this volume, and indeed for many sites they are the only plans available. This is an indispensable guide for any visitor to Libya, and also an impressive and highly readable work of scholarship which any student of Cyrenaica's extraordinary archaeological heritage must have. --Prof. Andrew Wilson, University of Oxford
About the Author
Dr Philip Kenrick is a classical archaeologist who has worked extensively in Libya, both on excavations (at Benghazi, Cyrene, Sabratha and Lepcis Magna) and on field survey in the Jabal Nafusah and in the pre-desert of Tripolitania. He is an Honorary Research Associate of the Institute of Archaeology at Oxford University and is Treasurer of the Society for Libyan Studies. In recent years he has also led cultural tours of Libya and other Mediterranean countries.
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Philip Kenrick, the author of the first two volumens, is a classical archaeologist, who has worked extensively in Libya, both on excavations and on field surveys.
His book comes highly recommended: on the flap of the back cover there is a statement by Andrew Wilson, Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire, University of Oxford. His statement concludes with these words:
"This is an indispensable guide for any visitor to Libya, and also an impressive and highly readable work of scholarship which any student of Cyrenaica's extraordinary archaeological heritage must have."
Can the book live up to this praise? If you ask me, the answer is yes. The material is well-organised, and the text is written by an author who knows his topic very well.
The section about Tokra (Teuchira) is written by Ahmed Buzaian, who has been involved in excavations there.
The book begins with an introduction, that provides the historical background, and concludes with a glossary, a chronological table, a bibliography and an index.
The main part of the book (the gazetteer) is divided into nine chapters, which cover more than sixty ancient sites or monuments.
There are 222 illustrations including colour photos and drawings, i.e. maps and plans, which show the layout of an ancient town or of an ancient building.
The large and famous sites - such as Cyrene and Apollonia (Sousa) - are easy to find. Smaller and less famous sites - such as Suluntah (Slonta) - may be more difficult to find. Perhaps they are located in a remote area. Perhaps there is not a good road leading to the entrance. For these cases, the author gives detailed driving instructions. In addition, he gives the GPS coordinates (latitude and longitude). You cannot be more precise than that.
Kenrick uses a star-system to rate the sites and - within larger sites - the individual monuments and museums (the highest, 3 stars; the lowest, no stars). This is a good idea. Most travellers do not have the time or indeed the desire to see everything. They just want to see the most important attractions.
Some sites get more space than others. In order to illustrate this point I will mention eight examples. I will use a sliding scale, beginning with a small and not so famous site (Sulunta / Slonta) and ending with the largest and most famous site (Cyrene):
* SULUNTA (SLONTA) gets 3 pages (137-140), including 3 illustrations
* AJDABIYA gets 4 pages (21-25), including 4 illustrations
* QASR LIBYA (OLBIA) gets 6 pages (129-136), including 5 illustrations
* EUESPERIDES (BERENICE) gets 10 pages (38-47), including 6 illustrations
* TOKRA (TEUCHIRA) gets 15 pages (49-63), including 9 illustrations
* APOLLONIA (SOUSA) gets 30 pages (255-285), including 14 illustrations
* PTOLEMAIS (TOLMEITA) gets 40 pages (66-106), including 35 illustrations
* CYRENE gets 106 pages (148-254), including 65 illustrations. The chapter about this ancient town is divided into seven sections, which cover six geographical areas plus the local museum.
[To compare: in Lonely Planet's guidebook to Libya (second edition, 2007) Cyrene gets only seven pages including only two illustrations!]
Philip Kenrick and Ahmed Buzaian are careful with the details. If they wish you to notice a specific detail, they will tell you where you can find it. To illustrate this point I will mention a few examples:
** In the section about Tokra (Teuchira), item # 11, the Gymnasium: the author mentions some Greek inscriptions on the wall (pp. 58-59).
** In chapter 3 about Ptolemais (Tolmeita), the section about the local museum: the author mentions three polychrome mosaics discovered in the town: item # 24 the head of Medusa; item # 28 the mosaic which shows the four seasons; item # 55 the mosaic of Orpheus (pp. 103-105).
** In chapter 6 about Cyrene, item # 30, the House of Hesychios: the author discusses the identity of this person. Is it a friend of Synesius and one of his correspondents? Is it the father of Synesius? Or a third person, who just happens to have the same name as the other two? (pp. 167-168).
** In chapter 7 about Apollonia (Sousa), the section about the local museum: item # 6 fragments of an edict issued by emperor Anastasius (491-518). A copy of this edict (issued around AD 500) was also discovered in Ptolemais (Tolmeita) (page 285, see also pp. 80, 255 and 268).
The volume about Cyrenaica is longer than the volume about Tripolitania (353 against 232 pages) and has more illustrations (222 against 113). Volume 1 has some minor flaws, as I mention in my review. Perhaps the proofreader was less than perfect. Fortunately, I have not noticed similar flaws in volume 2. This time, it seems, the proofreader was more efficient.
Research for this book was carried out in November 2010 and in April 2012, i.e. shortly before and shortly after the downfall of Muammar Qadhafi. As Kenrick says in his preface:
"During the compilation of this work, Libya has passed through [a difficult] upheaval and, at the time of writing, the future is still far from clear. It is greatly to be hoped however, that a new stability will lend itself to a return to tourism and to greater opportunities for both Libyans and foreign visitors to appreciate the cultural heritage which belongs to everyone."
As mentioned above, this book is recommended by Professor Andrew Wilson. I am happy to confirm his recommendation. I wish this book had been available, when I was in Libya in 2004.