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Msletten (2)


Msletten ('needles'): name of a pair of obelisk-shaped tombs along the Wadi Nefud in Libya.

There are many places in Tripolitana that are called Msletten, which means 'needles'. The place to which this page is dedicated is not the famous one east of Banu Walid, but another one, situated along the desert road from Bani Walid to Qasr Banat and Ghirza

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It is in the Wadi Nefud, in an area where dromedaries roam almost in the wild. The needles are two mausoleums from the third or fourth century, in typical Tripolitanian style. This is the best preserved one; in the distance, to the left, you can see the other one.
There are many needles like this, e.g. in the Wadi El-Amud (along the road from Gheriat esh-Shergia to Mizda) and at the South Cemetery of Ghirza. Another well-known 'needle' is at Sabratha.

The upper tier of the tomb that is locally known as Umm el-Omad ("mother of all needles") and Shapet el-Amud ("needle of the brook"), and is called Nf30 (=Wadi Nefud, monument #30) in the catalogue by Graeme Barker e.a., Farming the Desert. The UNESCO Libyan Valleys Archaeological Survey (1996).

The little white note to the top of the monument says that the Libyan leader Khadaffi visited the place after it had been reconstructed.
The false door faces the southeast, and not -as one would have expected- the west, the realm of the dead. Perhaps the person who lies buried here, a man named Ben Hamdan, wanted to connect his tomb to the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus), which in December rises in the southeast.

The Corinthian columns are completely Roman, but the shape of the monument is fully native. False doors, for example, have their closest parallel in the art of ancient Egypt.
The lower tier, with square columns on the edges. There are about seven tombs in the neighborhood.
Also in the neigborhood: this ancient farm.
The second mausoleum, standing an a hill across the wadi. It is known as Shapet el-Amut or Nf31 (=Wadi Nefud, monument #31).

A satellite photo can be found here.

© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2006
Revision: 10 February 2008
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