Buried in the Archives: Multi-period Cemeteries and Ancient Mausolea in Tripolitania, Libya

Activity: Talk or presentation › Oral presentation


Buried in the Archives: multi-period cemeteries and ancient mausolea in Triplitania, Libya.
Julia Nikolaus and Nick Ray

The blurred boundary between the living and the dead that existed in ancient Tripolitania is reflected by the variety of funerary monuments, their positioning in the landscape, and the presence of offering tables. Burials in cemeteries range from pre-Roman to Islamic in date although their relevance to the living is not limited to fixed moments in time. They served (and still serve) as monuments commemorating the deceased, while also acting as social indicators, navigational waypoints, or statements of power relations at local, regional, and wider North African levels. Mausolea, in particular, form notable features in the landscape and, as such, are significant actors in this process.

Much extant research on monumental burial structures considers mausolea in isolation from one another, both spatially and temporally. When they do receive contextual treatment it is in terms of wider North African and Saharan traditions, separated from the more extensive cemeteries that either pre-existed or were built up around them.

This paper will present the preliminary results of an ongoing archive-based project studying Tripolitanian Roman-period funerary landscapes, specifically investigating the relations between mausolea and their adjacent cemeteries. These relations manifest over different periods, revealing individual and collective patterns in the burial traditions of the region, and demonstrate the importance of the ongoing interaction between the living and the monuments of the dead (such as repeated tomb-side offerings). Furthermore, this type of investigation serves to demonstrate the importance of archival research in times of conflict, especially while Libya is not accessible for archaeological investigation.
Period24 Jun 2016
Event titleIn the Midst of Life we are Death’, Death, Burial and the Afterlife in the Arts and Humanities
Event typeConference
LocationDublin, IrelandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Archive
  • Funerary Landscapes
  • Memory
  • Mausolea
  • Burial
  • Libya