Active Project

The Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone At Cyrene

Cyrene, Libya

Background

Cyrene was a major Greco-Roman city, often referred to as the Athens of Africa, and one of the most significant archaeological sites on the North African coast. Its temples, sanctuaries, and fountains dedicated to the Greek gods, as well as its large amphitheater and spectacular baths, are among the features that comprise this impressive set of ancient ruins. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1982, Cyrene was an important center of research as well as a major tourism destination in 2011 when political turmoil and armed conflict caused an overthrow of the Qaddafi regime.

How We Helped

In 2012, WMF received a grant from the U.S. State Department’s Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation to undertake conservation activities at the Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone in collaboration with Susan Kane of Oberlin College and the Libyan Department of Antiquities. The Extramural Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone was founded during Greek colonization between the seventh and first centuries B.C., and badly damaged after numerous earthquakes in the region. Preliminary work at the sanctuary includes emergency stabilization of the north retaining wall, consolidation of the most important areas of the site, and research and analysis of the environmental and developmental pressures from the nearby town of Cyrene.

Why It Matters

Cyrene retains its overall layout and many monumental features, providing great insight into the history and evolution of the settlements during the Greco-Roman period. The Extramural Sanctuary site was well documented by Donald White and others during archaeological explorations conducted under the auspices of the University of Pennsylvania from 1969 to 1981. Conservation activities are essential now as lack of attention to the site in recent years combined with expansion of the modern town of Cyrene have put new pressures on the site that affect its ongoing maintenance. The newly launched documentation and conservation activities aim to develop improved presentation and protection of the Extramural Sanctuary.

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