The Cyrenaica Coastal Survey Project: documenting endangered maritime heritage in Libya

Julia Nikolaus, Mohamed Abdrbba, Ahmed Emrage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper introduces the Cyrenaica Coastal Survey (CCS), a collaborative project between the Maritime Endangered Archaeology project and the Department of Antiquities (DoA) Cyrenaica in partnership with the Universities of Al Bayda and Benghazi in Libya. Since the Arab Spring in 2011 and the subsequent civil unrest in Libya the DoA, other heritage professionals, and people interested in heritage have struggled to safeguard heritage sites across the country, as policies and laws that protected archaeological sites were no longer reinforced and adhered to in the wake of the revolution. This lack of finances, capacity, and governmental support led to an unprecedented loss of archaeological sites since 2011.
The CCS survey records the current condition of maritime sites along the Cyrenaican coast. The project focuses on the smaller, lesser known, coastal heritage sites that are not as well studied as the much larger classical period port towns of Apollonia, Tocra, or Ptolemais. This article will focus on the results of the first phase of the project between ancient Phycus (modern Zawiet el-Hamama) and Kainopolis (modern Al-Ogla). The results of the first stage of the Cyrenaica Coastal Survey provides a snapshot of the damages and threats that coastal heritage faces in Libya, most notably (often unregulated) building activities, clearance, sand mining, and coastal erosion. Furthermore, this article highlights the importance of remote collaboration between UK institutions, in-country partners, and heritage authorities, especially in countries where the discipline of maritime archaeology has been established more recently.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberJMAR-D-21-00041R1
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Maritime Archaeology
Issue number3
Early online date13 Sep 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Sep 2022


  • Maritime archaeology
  • Libya
  • Heritage Management
  • Capacity building
  • collaboration
  • survey
  • Cyrenaica

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