Beirut recovers its past with the renovated National Museum of Lebanon
The National Museum of Beirut, the most important archaeological museum of the Lebanon, has been shaken by the same ups and downs that have shaken the small Mediterranean country in its short existence.
|Priam kneeling before Achilles, detail of a marble sarcophagus from Tyre, 2nd century AD |
[Credit: Lebanon National Museum]
The building opened its doors for the first time in 1942, hosting valuable prehistoric objects including sarcophagi, mosaics and collections of jewellery, coins and pottery from excavations carried out throughout the country.
With the start of the civil war in 1975, the museum, located in the symbolic "green line" that divided Beirut into two parts, was forced to close. While many antiquities disappeared or were destroyed, many other objects were kept safe in underground storage areas. On the ground floor, mosaics, which had been fitted in the pavement, were covered with a layer of concrete. Other large and heavy objects, such as statues and sarcophagi, were protected by sandbags. When the situation reached its worst in 1982, the sandbags were replaced by concrete cases built around a wooden structure surrounding the monument.
The declaration of ceasefire in 1991 left a devastating spectacle: water flooded basements, columns pierced by shrapnel and walls covered with graffiti left by the militias who used the Museum as a military bunker.
|The tomb of Tyre, with frescoes that survived the war [Credit: Lebanon National Museum]|
This Roman-era tomb, which dates back to the 2nd century AD, was found by chance in 1937 in Burj el-Shemali, about 3 km from the city of Tyre, in the south of the Lebanon. Measuring 6.30m x 5.40m and 3.40m from the floor to the ceiling in its highest part, the tomb is richly decorated with frescoes covering its four sides.
|Anthropoid sarcophagi from Saida, dating back to the fifth century BC [Credit: Lebanon National Museum]|
Under the guidance of restorer and architect Giorgio Capriotti and museographer Antonio Giammarusti, who have designed the wide spaces where the works are exhibited, the National Museum has once again become one of the essential attractions of the Lebanese capital.
|The Ahiram Sarcophagus [Credit: WikiCommons]|
Surprisingly, there are also three naturally preserved mummies dating to the thirteenth century, found in a cave the Qadisha Valley, a mountainous area full of caves and imposing monasteries in northern Lebanon.
Source: ABC [October 11, 2016]