History, Libya

Lost civilization of the Garamantes discovered in Libya’s Sahara desert

More than 100 fortified structures dating back nearly 2,000 years have been located in the Sahara desert in southern Libya, offering the prospect of a tantalizing glimpse of a hitherto little understood civilization. The buildings are believed to have belonged to the Garamantes, about whom very little is currently known.

The fall of the Gaddafi regime has long been expected to trigger a rush to evaluate previously unseen treasures and sites of interest in Libya. A team from the University of Leicester have now used aerial photos to identify the ruins of villages and towns with walls up to 4ft high. Cemeteries, farming settlements, wells and irrigation systems show that despite the almost complete lack of rainfall in the area (the climate is not believed to have changed much in the past couple of thousand year), the Garamantes had a thriving civilization in the area.

Before this discovery, most of our knowledge of the Garamantes came from ancient Roman and Greek sources. In recent years, it has become evident that their civilization was considerably more advanced than had previously been believed. In particular, their complex underground irrigation system was revolutionary and was key to their survival in such an inhospitable climate.

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