Tuareg cross

 

Jamahiriya museum, also known as Assaraya Alhamra (the Red Castle)

Assaraya Alhamra Museum


Tuareg cross
 

The silver writing in Arabic reads: The Museum of Assaraya Alhamra.

The name Assaraya Alhamra means "The Red Castle" or "The Red Fort". It was said that it was painted red after the Spanish invasions in 1510 AD, as still hinted at by its current ochrey colour. The fortified castle was built to defend the capital city and it continued to be the centre of Tripoli's power right down to the 20th century. Recent digging along an adjacent road revealed that the fort was built on top of an ancient Roman fortified camp, but some sources state that the actual building was established by the Phoenicians, who later abandoned the city after they settled in nearby Carthage.

This road once passed through the castle and was adorned with statues on both sides, which gave the museum an outstanding outdoor department. After the Romans' descendants' return with the arrival of the 20th century, the Italians converted a section of the castle that was originally used as an ammunition storehouse into Libya's first museum, in 1919, to house some of the countless archaeological artifacts, scattered across Libya's vast landscape, and spanning from prehistoric times to the present. Many of these treasures are still in the open to this day, slowly degraded by water, wind and the scorching heat of the Libyan sun.

By 1930s, it was re-named the Classical Museum - in reference to the classical Greco-Roman period. After the British occupied Libya during the Second War, the museum grew to occupy the entire complex and became known as The Libyan Museum in 1948; with the following wings:

  • Prehistory.
  • Ancient Libyan Berber Tribes (Berber Garamantes, Berber Tuareg, etc.).
  • Libyan-Punic-Greco-Roman-Byzantine Traditions.
  • Natural History.

After Gaddafi's arrival in 1969, a new wing was added, namely The People's Era Wing, to document the Libyan struggle for independence. It is emerged later that Libya has taken this a step further and began building its war museum, known as The Conflict Museum (see above menu for link). In 1982, in a joint venture with UNISCO, the museum was further developed to its current state and became known as Assaraya Alhmara Museum, which reopened its doors to the public in 1988.

 

the red fort building

Although the actual museum occupies only 10000 square meters, it is widely recognised as one of the most important and richest museums in the world; owing to its unique collection of original items spanning all periods of human history, from the stone age and the prehistoric civilisations of the great Sahara, right down to the  medieval periods and the present time. In fact, Libya is an unprecedented archaeological goldmine, with most of its prehistoric secrets still buried under the desert's sand and beneath the sea's water, for future generations to rediscover and bring to life once more.

In August 2011, after the fighters' push into Tripoli, reports from Russian sources circulated the vandalism of the museum and other sites which said to have been damaged by bombing. Most people dismissed these claims, but the Guardian (http://gu.com/p/3xz76) later confirmed the looting of the museum, with the headline: "In Tripoli's museum of antiquity only Gaddafi is lost in revolution". At 11.30pm on the 20th of August 2011, 20 armed men stormed the museum and broke a window glass, splattered "graffiti in places", and took revenge as they wrecked Gaddafi's vintage cars, smashing windows and headlamps, leaving "thousands of shards of glass" on the floor. Apparently they took a cloak and an antique rifle used against the Italian occupation.

 

 

Assaraya Alhamra info sheet from the museum
An info sheet from the museum about Assaraya Alhamra.

 

The above sheet provides some basic information about the Red Fort, including  its total area (about 13000 square meters), and a view of Tripoli from the sea as it appeared in 1645 AD (bottom drawings). The sheet also states that Assaraya  Alhamra was built on the remains of  either a Roman temple or a Roman bath dating from the first and second centuries AD. The museum is also known as Tripoli, al-Jamahiri, al-Jamahiriya, and the National Museum.

 

A line of statues on disply at the Jamahiriya Museum, Tripoli, Libya

The museum houses some of the best of Libya's archaeological and historical heritage, including a spectacular collection of   Neolithic, prehistoric, Berber, Garamantian, Phoenician, Punic, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Christian, Islamic and Turkish treasures, such as marble and stone statues and busts, columns, grave covers, tombs, pottery, oil lamps, mosaic panels, coins, glass, funerary monuments, colour photos of the various archaeological sites, fossilised and stuffed animals, dinosaur bones, and a model of the Red Castle itself (the Assaraya Alhamra).

The contents of   Assaraya Alhamra Museum are housed in 47 galleries, distributed across 4 levels. Some of the floors and wings are closed to the public, some are undergoing current renovation, while other sections of the complex are always closed to the public - probably serving as storage areas for unsorted items and for reconstruction, research and renovation works.

 

gallery view of assaraya alhamra museum

 

fossilised skeleton of sperm whale found in Libya

Fossilised Skeleton of  a Sperm Whale (h'out albal) From Ajdabya, Eastern Libya.

 

Ground Floor (Galleries 1 - 9)

Entrance Hall (Gallery 1: Garamantes & Ghirza) : a map of Libya showing the main archaeological and historical sites; Gaddafi's volkswagen beetle (which he used leading up to the 1st of September); the statue of the goddess Venus; gladiatorial mosaics from Leptis Magna; stone Mausoleum from Ghirza.

 

Mausoleum from Ghirza

An impressive Stone Mausoleum From Ghirza: a Berber farming community from the Roman period, located in Wadi Ghirza, about 156 miles south-south-east of Tripoli. The Ghirza mausoleum tombs are well known for being advanced, of high standard, and built with rare imagination and craftsmanship. The chief Sun-God of Ghirza was Ghurza, also mentioned as Gurzil by Corippus, and identified with ancient Libyan Amon (or Amen) of Berber Siwa.

 

Mosaic scenes from Tripoli's Museum the Red Fort or Jamahiriya Museum

Also there are a number of interesting mosaic panels collected from the main archaeological sites in Tripolitania, depicting various mythical themes and geometrical patters, fishing scenes, goddesses & gods, nymphs & cherubs, animals & beasts. Also a complete mosaic floor is on display. (See Villa Silene, and Qasr Libya Museum (above).)

 

 
 




Mosaics from Tripoli Museum

The Goddess Venus (Ground Floor, Gallery 1).




 
 

 

Immediately inside is a fine statue of the goddess Venus, originally found at the Hadrianic Baths at Leptis Magna. The statue was stolen during the colonial period, and it was not returned until the year 2000. This second century BC statue is apparently a copy of an earlier statue by Praxiteles (4th century BC). There are other copies of the statue, the most famous of which is the Capitoline Venus in Rome's Musei Capitolini.

 

the holy grail from assaraya alhamra museum
Is this the Libyan Holy Grail?

 

Galleries 2, 3, 4: Stone Age, Prehistoric Periods & Rock Art : fossilised tree, stone tools, stone arrows from the Sahara, hand-axes (300,000 years old), pottery & ceramics (some of which are 8000 years old), rock art reproductions, and Tashwinat mummy of a child found by Professor Mori.

 

a mummy of a child found in Wadi Tashwinat  Acacus by Mori


The Tashwinat Mummy of a child found in Wan Muhuggiag (or Uan Mughjaj), Tadrart Acacus, Fezzan, southern Libya, by Professor Mori in 1958. The mummy was thought to be at least 5400 years old and therefore it is much older than any of the mummies found in Egypt. The child is thought to have been 3 years old at the time of death. The mummy was found wrapped in an animal skin and covered with herbs and plants, probably to aid preservation and to ward off decay.

rock art reproduction from Tripoli Museum

Rock Art Reproduction.

 

Gallery 5 : Libyan Period: Berber Civilisations: Slontah (Slonta), Zinchera, Garama, Ghirza: temple relieves from Slonta; royal Garamantian tombs, stone altars, stone hands, stone offering tablets and pottery from Fezzan; and stone carvings from Ghirza.

 

8000 year old pottery from south Libya (Garamentian)

8000 years old pottery from Fezzan

 

 

funerary door from Ghirza at Tripoli Museum
A funerary door with a lock from Ghirza.


These doors were found in tombs, and thought to help the souls enter the tomb to visit the body of the deceased. A central pillar of the religion of the ancient Libyans, likewise of their cousins and neighbours the Egyptians, was the worship of the dead, and as such the soul was seen as part of everyday life (of the dead) in the same way it was for the living before   death. Such doors therefore would seem to keep unwanted stray souls away from the sacred body of the deceased; which speculatively were decorated or marked with special symbols or objects only the deceased soul would recognise and thus obtain access to the holy tomb. The lock seems to have been secured with a chain (below).

 

funerary door from a tomb in Ghirza

 

 

Gallery 6 : Libyan-Phoenician Period: tablets of the Punic alphabet; the sign of the Libyan Goddess Tannit (Ta-Neith), adopted by the Phoenicians as Tanit after they arrived in North Africa.

 

 

The Libyan Goddess Tannit at Tripoli Museum
The Libyan Goddess Tannit (Libyan Neith)


Description of the Goddess Tannit in Arabic

 

Temehu.com's translation of the Arabic text at the Museum: " The Goddess Tannit. Tannit is regarded as one of the most famous and important Punic goddesses in Tripolitania. She is the wife of the Punic god Bal Hamon. She was the goddess of sowing, harvest and fertility, and a sky goddess essentially associated with the moon. Her symbol, known as the symbol of Tannit, is a triangle representing the human body, surmounted by a circle representing the head, and separated by a horizontal line which represents the hands (or the arms). The worship of the goddess Tannit emerged after the 5th century BC. She appears to be of Libyan origin. This piece is from the 2nd century BC. "   [End of translation.]

 

The Goddess Tannit

The worship of the Goddess Tannit
among the Libyans of the ancient Delta (in present day Egypt)
goes back to predynastic times.

 

The goddess Minerva at the Assaraya Alhamra museum in Tripoli

The Goddess Minerva (Athena): the goddess of wisdom.
Found in the Theater, Leptis Magna, dating to the first century AD.

 

Galleries 7 & 8 : Greek Period:   statues of Athena, Apollo, Dionysus, Serapis and two busts of Persephone, the Death-goddess and the queen of Hades; a model of the temple of Zeus from Cyrene; decorative Greek pottery.

 

Statue from Assaraya Alhamra Museum in Tripoli

 

 

Gallery 8: The Three Graces : the intimate mates of Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty.

 

 
 

The three graces statue

 

 
 


The Three Graces

The three sister goddesses of beauty, elegance and magic. The statue was found, among other similar works of art, in the city of Cyrene, in Eastern Libya. The realistic finish and the fine elegance with which the statues were crafted clearly reflect the qualities they supposed to represent: elegance and beauty. One can only wonder at the stunning effect they once had on viewers when they were in their original and perfect state.

 

 
 

 

Gallery 9: Roman Period: This gallery houses a large collection of Roman artifacts from the cities of Leptis Magna and Sabratha, like statues and busts, including those of   the emperors Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus and their wives, and Venus, Roma, Mercury, Diana, Hercules, Calliope and Artemis; columns and column bases; mosaic scenes, including the following one; a model of Leptis Magna; a model of Sabratha; glassware and other artifacts from the Roman period.

Roman mosaic scene of the four seasons from Assaraya Alhamra museum in tripoli

The Mosaic of The Four Seasons. This floor piece was originally found in Dar Bouk A'meer, in Zliten.



more statutes from Jamahiriya Museum

The All-Commanding Roman God of War: Mars (centre).

 

First Floor (Galleries 10 - 14):

Gallery 10: Roman period : a collection of miniature pots, plates, bowels, small statues & heads, bronze items, coins, oil lamps and clay drinking jars from the Roman period found in various sites around the country, including Sabratha, Leptis Magna.

 

pottery artifacts from Assaraya Alhmara Museum, Tripoli, Libya
Roman collection

Gallery 11: Roman Period: the Arch of Septimius Severus, from Leptis Magna: a marble relief   from the Arch of the Berber-Roman Emperor Septimius Severus, showing the emperor with his wife Julia Domna and sons Geta and Caracalla; some of the pieces and panels are the original ones brought from Leptis Magna.

Gallery 12, 13: Roman Period: Byzantine Period (5th to 6th centuries AD): grave covers, glass bottles, photos.

 

Second Floor (Galleries 15-30): Traditional & Islamic Exhibits:

 

Islamic Berber magic writing or spells

Spells & Amulets Written in Arabic  Script and Berber Symbols


The above magical charts or amulets are used in traditional medicine. Medicinal amulets, which are a kind of "text prescriptions", are widely used in North Africa for all kinds of ailments and illnesses. They are prescribed by "holy men" - people who are highly religious and thought to have some kind of "healing gift " . This practice must have its roots in prehistoric times as Herodotus and the ancient Egyptians have both provided us with similar examples.

Gallery 15-16:   large Green Koran; mud-brick   vernacular arch; a map of the world in 1349; models of sand stone tombs.

Gallery 19 : a map of Oea (old Tripoli); a model of Assaraya Alhamra; an old wooden door; a painting of Ahmed Pasha Karamanli Mosque; a model of a house from Ghadames.

Gallery 20 : a collection of traditional crafts, jewellery, costumes, weaving, and other local artifacts.

 

Tuareg poster from Tripoli museum

 

Galleries 21 - 23 : Tuareg Galleries: Tuareg leather items, metal work, like spears, jewellery, costumes, basketwork using palm leaves, thatched hut, and other traditional Berber Tuareg items.

Galleries 26 - 27 : Libyan Farming & Agriculture:   a stone relief from Ghirza showing farming scene; farming tools, bee-keeping; and an old oil press from the Nafousa Mountain. The press was in use until recently in the mountains. A wooden branch connected to a large stone is attached to an animal, usually a cow or a bull, which goes around the circular wall. The turning of the stone crushes the olives and sends the oil to the bottom of the press where it collects in a specially-made hole.

Galleries 28-30 : Libyan folklore and music, including traditional musical instruments.

 

Third Floor: Libyan Struggle For Independence:

Gallery 31: This section commemorates some of the main figures of the Libyan resistance: personal belongings, photos and writings of Suleiman al-Barouni, a native of Yefren in Nafousa Mountain, and the leader of 1912 rebellion. Photos of Omar al-Mukhtar, including a photo during his trail. Omar al-Mukhtar, the Lion of the Desert, was a native of Cyrenaica. His first campaign was against the Italians between 1911 and 1917, after which he succeeded in uniting the Libyan resistance under one force. He was still fighting at the age of 73 when he was captured and subsequently executed by the Italians in September 1931.

Galleries 32-37: The September 1969 Coup:

English translation of the declaration of the "people's power", photos, images and other related material.

 

a photo of colone Muammar  Gaddafi (Qaddafi) walking in a London street
Gaddafi walking in London, 1969, a few months before his installation.

The Royal Libyan Military Academy, the Sandhurst of the Libyan army, was set up in 1957. Among its early recruits was Gaddafi himself. Ted Lough was quoted as saying 98% of the cadets passed, while 2% failed including Gaddafi. The right specifications for the "job".

 

Galleries 38 - 47: Natural History Museum : stones and rocks from various geological epochs; local plants; stuffed, preserved and fossilised animals; and a massive skeleton of a sperm whale (see photo below).

 

 

ancient clay oil lamps from Jamahiriya Mueum

Clay Oil Lamps

 

 

 
 

 

 


 

 

 
 

The Sun-God Apollo, Mother & Offspring.

 
 

 

a statue of a goddess from Tripoli Museum

 

 

 


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