A majority of the archaeological surface finds made
within the borders of Libya stem from the rainy periods
between 500,000 and 35,000 years ago when the region was
populated by paleolithic big game hunters. The latter part
of this period belongs to the North African Athenian culture
(compare the Aterian).
Late Paleolithic in Libya is otherwise dominated by the
local Daban culture, named after the settlement of ad-Dabba
in Cyrenaika, but best known through settlement (about
40,000-12,000 BC) in the cave Haua Fteah. During and after
the most recent ice age (about 15,000-12,000 BC), a number
of fishing cultures were developed, including hunted with
arrow and bow and used microliter.
In northern Libya, approximately 8000 BC occurred.
See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Libya. capsien, a culture that was characterized by the use of
ornamental ostrich eggs and the utilization of marine
nutritional resources. In the mountainous regions of the
inland, some local cultures appear to have introduced
agriculture and ceramics as early as 8000 BC. These southern
catch and agricultural cultures have also left behind a
magnificent art in the form of rock carvings and rock
paintings. The oldest of these, monumental carvings with
animal representations, may have been produced before 9000
BC, while the painting tradition first appeared around 7000
BC. Most of the paintings, with lively scenes with humans
and animals, were created during the Neolithic period, circa
Libyans, Greeks and Romans
The name Libya - ultimately derived from libu,
in Egyptian sources termed a people group in the
neighborhood of Cyrenaika - was used by ancient writers
partly to designate an area roughly equivalent to
present-day Libya, and (more often) to the entire African
continent west of the Nile Valley. Libyan tribes, probably
the forerunners of today's Berber, were in conflict with
Pharaonic Egypt already during the Old Kingdom (c. 2700–2270
BC). From the 1100s BC the Libyans controlled the Nile Delta
from time to time, and with Scheschonk I (ruled around
945–924 BC) a Libyan ruler of Egypt ascended.
At least from the 6th century BC the coast of Libya was
colonized by Phoenicians and Greeks, the former especially
in the west (Tripolitania), the latter in the east
(Cyrenaika). Of particular significance was the 631 BC.
created Greek colony Kyrene. During the centuries
immediately before Kr.f. Libyan mercenaries played a
significant role in both Carthaginian and Roman armies.
Cyrenaika became Roman province 74 BC, while Tripolitania
after 46 BC incorporated with the province of Africa Nova
The Arab-Islamic conquest of Libya, which, after the
division of the Roman Empire, belonged to the Byzantine
Empire, was completed in the 660s. Formally, all of Libya
was included in the Umayyad Caliphate, but in reality it was
mainly the coastal areas controlled by the Arabs. The Berber
tribes in the interior sought to assert their independence
even after switching to Islam by largely choosing other
directions of Islam than the Sunni Muslim, and establishing
a range of theocratic tribal kingdoms. During the 800s, the
formal influence of the Baghdad Caliphate again increased,
since the Sunni Muslim Aghlabad dynasty was established with
its seat in Kairouan in present-day Tunisia. The era was
marked by economic upswing and a fruitful coexistence
between Muslims, Christians and Jews.
The Shiite Fatimid dynasty, which came to power 909,
developed Tripoli into a prosperous and powerful city with
control over major markets in Africa and the Mediterranean.
The Fatimids moved their headquarters to Cairo 969 and
handed over control of the Maghreb to their vassals, the
Barbican Zirids, under which the economic status of the
region was undermined, partly because of changing trade
patterns. In order to appease the Arab population, the
Ziridian emir in 1049 allowed a return to the Sunni Muslim
direction and thus broke with the Fatimids.
The South Italian Normans, who for a short time
controlled important cities such as Tripoli and Tunis, were
forced by the Moroccan Alamo dynasty about 1160 to give up.
The Almohad empire was divided, and under Muhammad ibn Abi
Hafs 1207 was founded the sea side dynasty with its seat in
Tunis. The epoch of the seaside was a cultural and
scientific heyday. Politically, however, there was a gradual
dissolution of the power in theocracy, piracy and city
states, including Tripoli from 1460.
Cyrenaika and Fezzan during the Middle Ages
Cyrenaika had a formal connection to Egypt, where the
fatimid caliphate in 1171 was replaced by the Seljuq sultan
Saladin's regime. The regional control in Cyrenaika was
tribal based, and there the position of the Barqa tribe was
particularly strong. In Fezzan, the Bani Khattab tribe ruled
with shorter interruptions until the 16th century.
In 1551, the Ottomans conquered Tripoli, ruled by an
Ottoman pasha with the support of elite soldiers from the
Ottoman army. A local officer, Ahmad Qaramanli, took power
in 1711 and laid the foundation for a local dynasty, which
was formally subordinate to the Sultan of Istanbul.
Trade in parallel with extensive piracy provided good
income for Tripoli from the 17th century to the beginning of
the 19th century. Comprehensive payments were made, as was
the case with the other Barbarian states, for free passage
under the bilateral agreements signed with several Western
powers (including Sweden). However, retaliatory actions were
also taken by the French, Dutch, British and later US fleet
towards Tripoli and other pirate ports.
The Ottomans regained direct control of Tripoli in 1835.
In the latter part of the 19th century, an Ottoman reform
program, Tanzimat, was introduced, with private
land ownership, administrative reforms and modernized
economic legislation. At the same time, permanent settlement
was sought for the Bedouins, and the slave trade was banned.
Tripolitania was thus integrated into the
Ottoman-Arab-Muslim community. At the same time, Cyrenaika
deepened its special position through the spread of the
Muslim Sanusi word in the region. The words pleaded for a
return to original Islam, and a series of zawaya,
religious centers, was founded in Cyrenaika. The community
organized caravan trade, education and health care. The
Sanusi Order organization also demonstrated its strength in
resisting French military expansion north of Chad and
against Italian conquest companies.
After the Berlin Congress in 1878, Italy regarded
Tripolitania as part of its area of interest and invaded
the region in 1911. The Turks withdrew their troops in 1912
after a peace treaty was signed under which the local people
would gain administrative autonomy, which was never
realized. It was not until the 1920s that Italy gained
control of Tripolitania, and the resistance in Cyrenaika was
first crushed in the 1930s. The indigenous population was
expelled from their land, which was colonized by the
Italians. A modern infrastructure, schools and hospitals
were built for the Italian colonizers, while the indigenous
population was excluded from the modernization process.
During World War II, when Libya was an important scene of
war, a Libyan resistance movement emerged in collaboration
with, among other things, the United Kingdom, which promised
to work for an independent Libya, which became the UN
decision in 1949. Under the German government in Libya,
labor and internment camps were set up in the country in
which Jews were predominantly sitting. Idris I, regent of
the new state, proclaimed Libya's independence on December
Independent Libya (1951)
Libya signed twenty-year friendship pacts with the United
Kingdom and the United States in 1953 and 1954,
respectively. Land areas for western military bases would be
granted by Libya in exchange for financial assistance. Libya
joined the Arab League in 1953 and collaborated with other
Western-friendly conservative states within the League,
primarily Saudi Arabia.
In 1959, huge oil deposits were discovered in Libya.
Gradually, government revenue grew, but as the regime failed
to bring about economic development - despite some reform
measures - domestic criticism grew. In 1969, a coup was
carried out by a group of young officers, with the most
prominent, Muammar al-Khadaffi and Abd as-Salam Jallud,
becoming Libya's leaders, with slogans on freedom, unity and
social justice and with Nasser in Egypt as the obvious
After the 1969 coup, the Revolutionary Leadership Council
(RCC) was established. The foreign bases were returned to
Libya, foreign banks and companies were nationalized.
Political parties and trade unions were banned. During the
years 1971-72, a large wave of arrests was made against high
bureaucrats, relatives of King Idris and former ministers.
Following the Egyptian model, the Libyan Arab Socialist
Union was established as the only permissible political
organization. This was later disbanded and replaced by a
system of people committees and as the parent body a general
people congress in accordance with the leader Khadaffi's
philosophy "the third international theory" presented in his
"green" books. However, the People's Congress never
developed into a representative, democratic body. All power
was gathered in practice at Khadaffi and a small circle
around him and his family.
During Khadaffi's more than forty years of power, Libya
sought a more leading role in the Arab world and Africa.
After 2001, Khadaffi sought to take a leading position in
the African Union, and he also sought to establish unions
with one or more neighboring states, mainly Egypt, Syria,
Sudan, Tunisia and Algeria. Most failed, but in 1989 the
Maghreb Union was established, which includes Libya,
Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia.
So far, not much has been done in the Union, which is
partly due to the sanctions imposed by the UN Security
Council against Libya in 1992–2003. The sanctions were
introduced when Libya refused to extradite two citizens
suspected of being responsible for the 1988 Lockerbie attack
and the country's possible involvement in a terrorist attack
targeting a French DC-10 that toppled in Niger in Sahara the
following year. The sanctions included, among other things,
a ban on flights, freezing of foreign assets, restrictions
on diplomatic representation and a ban on selling weapons
and spare parts to the oil and gas industry in Libya.
After a lengthy trial, a compromise was reached, which
meant that the two suspects of the Lockerbie assault were
extradited to the Netherlands, where they were sentenced
under Scottish law in 2001. One was acquitted, while the
former agent Abd al-Masit al-Magrahi was sentenced to life
imprisonment. Libya had previously started a collaboration
with France on the terrorist campaign in Niger. Since six
Libyans were sentenced in France in their absence, Libya
agreed to pay damages to the victims' relatives.
The UN sanctions were abolished in April 1999, but the
United States retained its. In addition to the Lockerbie
attack, the US sanctions were motivated by the program of
weapons of mass destruction developed by Khadaffi since he
seized power. Negotiations for a settlement of this were
initiated in 1999, and in March 2003, just before the US and
its allies invaded Iraq, the Libyans announced that they
agreed to the complete liquidation of all weapons of mass
destruction. These were biological and chemical weapons as
well as nuclear weapons, which the Libyans had developed
with the help of components acquired in the black market and
technical support from a number of countries.
Libya also promised to pay damages to the Lockerbie
victim's survivors. The United States canceled its
sanctions, removed Libya from its list of countries that
support terrorism, and restored normal diplomatic relations
in 2006. Contacts with the EU also improved. Libya was
included in the so-called Barcelona Process, based on the
1995 Barcelona Declaration on enhanced cooperation between
the EU and Mediterranean countries.
Despite Libya's return to the international community,
the country's relations with the outside world were not
trouble-free. The death sentences in 2004 against five
Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, accused of having
infected over 400 children with HIV at a hospital in
Benghazi, caused outrage.
At the orders of the Supreme Court, the trial was
reasserted but the penalty remained the same. All were
released and deported in 2007, after Libya made EU promises
on comprehensive humanitarian aid. Police arrest in
Switzerland in 2008 by Hannibal al-Khadaffi, one of the
leader's sons accused of abuse by hotel staff, triggered a
diplomatic and economic conflict with Switzerland that had
repercussions on Libya's relations with the EU.
Civil war and political chaos
In February 2011, shortly after popular revolts overthrew
the dictatorial regimes in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt,
protests erupted against Khadaffi in Benghazi in eastern
Libya. The shootings of protesters led to an armed revolt
and the opposition in Benghazi, along with defectors from
the regime, formed a national transitional council, the
National Transitional Council (NTC), which shortly
thereafter declared itself the Libyan people's only legal
representative. The revolt spread west along the coastal
area, before the government troops went on counter-offensive
in early March.
Fearing that the government soldiers would massacre
civilians in Benghazi, the United Nations Security Council
on March 17 adopted a resolution banning aviation in Libya's
airspace. At the same time, the member states were given the
right "by all means" to ensure that the flight ban was
complied with. The days following, French, British and
American planes began to bomb Libyan military installations.
Since the United States was unwilling to formally lead
the military operation, NATO took command of the
international operations in which 18 nations participated,
including four Muslim-dominated countries. Sweden
contributed, among other things, five fighter jets of the
type JAS 39 Gripen which performed reconnaissance missions.
In a new resolution, the UN Security Council adopted an
arms embargo on Libya on March 26 and introduced a travel
ban for 16 named persons from the Libyan leadership. Libyan
economic assets abroad were frozen. In addition, the
Security Council called on the prosecutors of the
International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate possible
war crimes in Libya since February 15. The next day, the NTC
formed an "Executive Council", in effect an alternative
government, led by the former Minister Mahmoud Jibril
Chairman of the NTC was Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who was
Minister of Justice of Khadaffi's government until February
21. A large number of countries soon recognized the NTC as
Libya's legal government. At the end of June, the ICC in The
Hague issued an international arrest warrant for Muammar
al-Khadaffi, his son Saif al-Islam al-Khadaffi and his
brother-in-law and close associate Abdullah al-Senussi.
During the early summer, a new front against the regime
was opened by rebels in the western parts of the country.
For a number of weeks, however, there was a relatively
deadlock in the war, with front lines constantly shifting.
Following intensified NATO efforts, the rebels' forces
approached Tripoli from two directions and, with extensive
air support, were able to enter the capital on 20 August.
Three days later, NTC's troops were largely in control of
Tripoli and the regime was basically dissolved. Parts of
Khadaffi's family, including his wife, daughter and two
sons, fled to Algeria. Saif al-Islam al-Khadaffi was
arrested in November 2011, but has not been extradited to
While the NTC continued to consolidate its control over
the country, the United Nations formed on September 16 a new
organization, the United Nation Support Mission in Libya
(UNSMIL), with the aim of supporting the country's
reconstruction. The Security Council also partially
suspended the freezing of Libyan economic assets abroad.
Intelligence personnel from the United States, France and
the United Kingdom were reported to be in Libya to assist
After a time of fighting, on October 20, the NTC entered
the coastal city of Surt, the last stronghold of the old
regime, killing Muammar al-Khadaffi in unclear circumstances
in an attempt to flee the city. Three days later, NTC
declared Libya liberated and said the war was over. NATO
decided to discontinue its flight operations.
In July 2012 elections were held for a provisional
parliament. The largest party became the Liberal National
Forces Alliance, then led by Mahmoud Jibril, former Prime
Minister of the NTC. Two in the election became the Justice
and Construction Party, the political branch of the Muslim
However, most of the 200 seats in the National Congress
went to independent candidates. In August of that year, the
NTC formally handed over power to the National Congress, the
General National Congress (GNC). On the other hand, before
the election, the NTC decided that, as previously stated,
the National Congress would not draft a new constitution.
This task would instead go to another elected assembly which
was first voted in February 2014.
Just a month after GNC was established, September 11,
2012, Ansar al-Sharia, an al Qaeda affiliated group, carried
out an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. Four
Americans, including the US ambassador to Tripoli,
Christopher Stevens (1960–2012), were killed.
In the spring of 2014, GNC had split into different
factions and in May Khalifa Haftar (born 1943), a former
general who then led an independent force under the name
Libyan National Army (LNA), conducted an offensive against
Islamist groups, including GNC.
The parliament that was elected in the 2014 elections and
the government that subsequently formed received
international recognition. But a group of militiamen took
control of Tripoli with armed force, formed their own
parliament and government, and forced the internationally
recognized rivals to flee to the city of Tobruk.
In April 2016, a UN-supported unitary government set up a
naval base in Tripoli. This presidency, led by Fayez
al-Sarraj, was internationally recognized as Libya's legal
government, but the previously established governments in
Tobruk and Tripoli remain and continue to claim power in the
Even in the fall of 2019, the political process had
hardly brought the country closer to a functioning
democracy, but rather led to increasing disintegration and