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The Messak plateau contains remarkable evidence of human occupation during prehistoric and historic times, such as rock art engravings, megalithic monuments, and scatters of stone tools. Since 1980 these remains have been heavily affected by oil extraction-related operations, and it has only been over the last decade that these operations were adequately supported by archaeological mitigation strategies. The ‘Messak Project’ was originally conceived as a three-year programme (2010–2012) focusing on a range of co-ordinated actions to increase the knowledge of the area, to assess any damage and potential risks, and to preserve and manage the cultural heritage. Uprisings in Libya led to the sudden interruption of the project in late February 2011. Nevertheless, major results of the projects include: the compilation of a database of circa 10,000 sites, including hundreds of unpublished sites from previous surveys; the discovery of circa 2500 new archaeological sites; and the drawing of a set of GIS-based maps. In this paper we firstly introduce the materials and methods of the ‘Messak Project’, and secondly, we present an updated overview of the archaeological landscape of the Messak in the light of the project’s recent achievements.

In: Journal of African Archaeology