Research Trip in Tripolitania, Libya (December 2008)

Noboru Ogata (Kyoto University)

LANDSAT image of Tripolitania, Libya (four scenes joined).

In this webpage, we offer the records taken during our research trip in Tripolitania, Libya in December 2008. The research trip was made as a part of our research project headed by Professor Takura Izumi of Kyoto University. The important archaeological sites visited are Sabratha and Leptis Magna, which are registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These two sites are city ruins, which began as Phoenician trading posts in the early period of the first millenium B.C. The sites grew into Punic cities under the influence of Carthage. After Carthage was defeated in the Punic War, Sabratha and Leptis Magna became controlled by the Roman Empire in the first century B.C. Under the Roman rule, these cities grew remarkably and their urban areas expanded. Leptis Magna was, in particular, provided with magnificent public buildings by the Empire because Emperor Septimius Severus (r. 193-211 A.D.) was grown up in the city. As the Roman Empire declined, the two cities faded away and buried in sand. As Roman cities, Sabratha and Leptis Magna had precisely planned layouts with main streets (cardo) as their central axes. They also had public buildings such as theaters and amphitheaters in common with other Roman cities. On the other hand, as Phoenician and Punic settlements, we suppose that they were much smaller and had no planned layouts.


December 22 : Arrived in Tripoli via Dubai. Stayed in Tripoli.

December 23 : Visited Japahiriya Museum in the morning. Walked around in the old town of Tripoli in the afternoon.

Souk in the old town of Tripoli.
Souk in the old town of Tripoli

We found relics from the Roman era at an entrance of a souk.
Monumental Arch of Marcus Aurelius from the Roman era in the old town of Tripoli

December 24 : Visited the city ruins of Sabratha. Sabratha was a port city of Punic and Roman periods.

«Tower of Bes», a Punic monument.
Street in the city ruins of Sabratha

The East Forun Temple by the sea.
Columns of the East Forum Temple

Mosaic pattern on the floor of a house.
Colored mosaic pattern on the floor of a bath by the sea

Theater of Sabratha.
Theater of Sabratha, view from outside

December 25 : Traveled around in the Nafusa Highland, southwest from Tripoli. Visited native people’s settlements, which have curiously structured buildings and storehouses.

Olive grove in the suburbs of Tripoli.
Nafusa Highlands

Storage building at Qusar Al-Haj, a settlement in Nafusa HIghlands.
Inside of the Qusar Al-Haj’s storeage building

Pastured camels roaming.
View from top of a cliff

Stone-built residential complex at Kabau.
Ceramic container inside the house

Storehouse at the top of the residential complex.
Olive press inside the house

Street market of chinaware on the way back to Tripoli.
Semi-underground residential complex

December 26 : Traveled from Tripoli to Leptis Magna. Visited the city ruins of Leptis Magna. Stayed in Al-Khoms.

Monumental Arch of Septimius Severus and the cardo (main street) running through the city.
Hadrianic Bath

Severan Forum.
Severan Basilica

Market complex.
Theater of Leptis Magna

December 27 : Visited the eastern suburbs of Leptis Magna where the amphitheater and the circus are located. Then we walked westward along the beach to see remains of the harbor. In the evening we traveled back to Tripoli.

Amphitheater located in the eastern suburbs of Leptis Magna.
Entrance to the arena

Gigantic arch leading to top of the amphitheater.
The circus next to the amphitheater

Walking westward along the beach.
Remains of a fish preserve on the beach

QuickBird satellite image over the the remains of the harbor of Leptis Magna, which is located at the mouth of Wadi Lebda (acquired on August 7, 2008 : © DigitalGlobe). Brakewaters separating the harbor from the open sea can be observed on the image. On each breakwater, you can also see storehouses regularly lined up and a lighthouse at the tip. The remains of the harbor of Leptis Magna is situated at the eastern end of the city ruins of Leptis Magna. It is filled up with sand, and we walked along the beach between eastern and western lighthouses.

Entrance of the harbor. Eastern lighthouse on this side.
Remains of the lighthouse at the tip of the western breakwater


Remains of storehouses regularly lined up on the eastern breakwater. Stone walls separate the partitions.

Remains of the wharf on the eastern breakwater with stairs and mooring stones

After coming back to Tripoli, we shopped around in the old town.

Souk in the old town of Tripoli. It was more crowded and lively than the main streets.
Spice shop along the souk

December 28 : Visited Japahiriya Museum in the morning.

«Sign of Tanit», a Punic goddes.
Images of people in Punic style

Statue of Annobal Rufus, who donated large public buildings to Leptis Magna.
Masaic picture depicting fishing people

In the evening, we left Tripoli and flew to Dubai. But because of the flight’s delay, we had to stay in Dubai.

December 30 : Left Dubai and traveled back to Osaka.

Created by Noboru Ogata
Since 30/Jul/2009