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Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna (UNESCO/NHK)

Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna (UNESCO/NHK)


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Leptis Magna was enlarged and embellished by Septimius Severus, who was born there and later became emperor. It was one of the most beautiful cities of the Roman Empire, with its imposing public monuments, harbour, market-place, storehouses, shops and residential districts.

Source: UNESCO TV / © NHK Nippon Hoso Kyokai
URL: http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/183/


Leptis Magna

Leptis or Lepcis Magna, also known by other names in antiquity, was a prominent city of the Carthaginian Empire and Roman Libya at the mouth of the Wadi Lebda in the Mediterranean.

Originally a 7th-century BC Phoenician foundation, it was greatly expanded under Roman Emperor Septimius Severus ( r . 193–211 ), who was born in the city. The 3rd Augustan Legion was stationed here to defend the city against Berber incursions. After the legion's dissolution under Gordian III in 238, the city was increasingly open to raids in the later part of the 3rd century. Diocletian reinstated the city as provincial capital, and it grew again in prosperity until it fell to the Vandals in 439. It was reincorporated into the Eastern Empire in 533 but continued to be plagued by Berber raids and never recovered its former importance. It fell to the Muslim invasion in c. 647 and was subsequently abandoned.

Its ruins are within present-day Khoms, Libya, 130 km (81 mi) east of Tripoli. They are among the best-preserved Roman sites in the Mediterranean.


What did the Romans ever do for us? Well, there are some beautifully preserved Public Toilets at Leptis Magna (see photo) which show a degree of civilisation unmatched in many places around the world today!

Letpis Magna also has its fair share of triumphal arches, temples, baths, theatres, mosaics etc but it is perhaps the “ordinary” things of life which bring home most what life was like and the continuity until today.

Apart from Pompeii I do not know of any ruined roman city which is as “complete” as Leptis Magna. You are going to get your fill of “Roman ruins” in Libya – The others each have their “gems” but Leptis as a whole is unmatched and should not be missed.


PHOTO: The Ruins of Leptis Magna

This photo depicts the ruins of Leptis Magna, one of the most prominent cities of the Roman Empire. The ruins are located in what is now the city of Khums, Libya, some 130 km east of Tripoli. “Leptis Magna” means Great Leptis in Latin – the apellation “Magna” was added to distinguish the city from Leptis Parva (“Little Leptis”) in what is now Tunisia. The city was originally founded by Berbers and Phoenicians, later becoming a major port of the Carthaginian Empire. The city continued to prosper after Carthage fell under Roman rule, especially under Emperor Septimius Severus who was of Berber origin, when it rivalled even Carthage and Alexandria. However, its fortunes began to decline in the 3rd century and it suffered greatly from a tsunami after a devastating earthquake in 365. Climate change also began to negatively impact the city, reducing its food supply. The city continued to struggle on under Vandal, Berber, and Byzantine rule until it was conquered by Arabs around 640. By the 10th century, the city had been abandoned. Today the ruins are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Leptis Magna

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Leptis Magna, also spelled Lepcis Magna, Punic transliteration Labqior Lpqi, modern Labdah, largest city of the ancient region of Tripolitania. It is located 62 miles (100 km) southeast of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast of Libya. Lying 2 miles (3 km) east of what is now Al-Khums (Homs), Leptis contains some of the world’s finest remains of Roman architecture. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982.

Founded as early as the 7th century bce by Phoenicians of Tyre or Sidon, it was later settled by Carthaginians, probably at the end of the 6th century bce . Its natural harbour at the mouth of the Wadi Labdah facilitated the city’s growth as a major Mediterranean and trans-Saharan trade centre, and it also became a market for agricultural production in the fertile coastland region. Near the conclusion of the Second Punic War, it passed in 202 bce to Masinissa’s Numidian kingdom, from which it broke away in 111 bce to become an ally of Rome. Through the 1st century ce , however, it retained several of its Punic legal and cultural traditions, including its municipal constitution and the official use of the Punic language. The Roman emperor Trajan (reigned 98–117 ce ) designated Leptis a colonia (community with full rights of citizenship). The emperor Septimius Severus (193–211 ce ), who was born at Leptis, conferred upon it the jus Italicum (legal freedom from property and land taxes) and became a great patron of the city. Under his direction an ambitious building program was initiated, and the harbour, which had been artificially enlarged in the 1st century ce , was improved again. Over the following centuries, however, Leptis began to decline because of the increasing insecurity of the frontiers, culminating in a disastrous incursion in 363, and the growing economic difficulties of the Roman Empire. After the Arab conquest of 642, the status of Leptis as an urban centre effectively ceased, and it fell into ruin.

Buried by sand until the early 20th century, Leptis still preserves traces of early Punic structures near the excavated shell of its amphitheatre (56 ce ) and its old forum, the heart of the city in early Roman times. From this nucleus, the city spread westward along the coast and inland to the south. Second-century buildings include well-preserved baths erected under the emperor Hadrian (117–138) and a circus (racecourse) some 1,500 feet (460 metres) long. The largest surviving monuments were erected during the reign of Severus. Linking the city centre to the harbour was a colonnaded street roughly 1,350 feet (410 metres) long that terminated in a circular piazza dominated by an intricately designed nymphaeum (ornamental fountain house). Leptis’s two main roads intersected under a massive four-way arch, a tetrapylon, upon which the grandeur of Severus and his family was depicted in a frieze. Among the other structures erected during that period were an aqueduct 12 miles (19 km) long, an elaborate complex of buildings on the left bank of the wadi, and the Hunting Baths, which are extraordinarily well preserved, with colourfully painted scenes of hunting exploits (including a 2nd- or 3rd-century painting of a leopard hunt) and the still-legible names of honoured hunters on the walls.

The basilica, which stood on the western side of the colonnaded street, was dedicated in 216 (five years after Severus’s death). It was one of the grandest buildings constructed at Leptis. Measuring 525 feet (160 metres) long and 225 feet (69 metres) wide, it was a three-aisled, colonnaded hall with an apse at each end. Flanking the apses were ornately sculpted pilasters depicting the Life of Dionysus and the Twelve Labours of Hercules (both favourites of the Severus family). Adjoining the basilica was the new forum, elaborately adorned with imported marble and granite. A central component of the forum was a temple honouring the emperor Severus and the imperial family.

From the early 20th century the Libyan Antiquities Service and groups of Italian archaeologists diligently laboured to preserve and study the site. During World War II the Royal Air Force sought to erect a radar station there, but the intervention of the British art historians and archaeologists Colonel Mortimer Wheeler and Major John Ward-Perkins saved the site. Many of the works of art uncovered there are displayed at the nearby Leptis Magna Museum or at the Al-Saraya Al-Hamra (castle) museum of archaeology and history in Tripoli.

Work in the late 20th century included the uncovering of Roman villas on the outskirts of Leptis. In the 1990s excavations within the city revealed a Roman house with an intact water system, including a well and underground cisterns.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.


Contents

Following the Punic Wars, Sabratha became part of the short-lived Numidian kingdom of Massinissa before this was annexed to the Roman Republic as the province of Africa Nova in the 1st century BC. It was subsequently romanized and rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. The Emperor Septimius Severus was born nearby in Leptis Magna, and Sabratha reached its monumental peak during the rule of the Severans, when it nearly doubled in size. The city was badly damaged by earthquakes during the 4th century, particularly the quake of 365. It fell under control of the Vandal kingdom in the 5th century, with large parts of the city being abandoned. It enjoyed a small revival under Byzantine rule, when multiple churches and a defensive wall (although only enclosing a small portion of the city) were erected. The town was site of a bishopric. [10] Within a hundred years of the Muslim invasion of the Maghreb, trade had shifted to other ports and Sabratha dwindled to a village.

The name "Subrata" appears in Vedas, as a name of a King in 1210-1150BCE.

Archaeological site Edit

Sabratha has been the place of several excavation campaigns from 1921 onwards, mainly by Italian archaeologists. It was also excavated by a British team directed by Kathleen Kenyon and John Ward-Perkins between 1948 and 1951. [11] Besides its Theater at Sabratha [fr] that retains its three-storey architectural backdrop, Sabratha has temples dedicated to Liber Pater, Serapis and Isis. There is a Christian basilica of the time of Justinian and also remnants of some of the mosaic floors that enriched elite dwellings of Roman North Africa (for example, at the Villa Sileen, near Khoms). However, these are most clearly preserved in the colored patterns of the seaward (or Forum) baths, directly overlooking the shore, and in the black and white floors of the theater baths.

There is an adjacent museum containing some treasures from Sabratha, but others can be seen in the national museum in Tripoli.

In 1943, during the Second World War, archaeologist Max Mallowan, husband of novelist Agatha Christie, was based at Sabratha as an assistant to the Senior Civil Affairs Officer of the Western Province of Tripolitania. His main task was to oversee the allocation of grain rations, but it was, in the words of Christie's biographer, a "glorious attachment", during which Mallowan lived in an Italian villa with a patio overlooking the sea and dined on fresh tunny fish and olives. [12]

Erosion and weathering damage [ April 2016 report ] Edit

According to an April, 2016 report, due to soft soil composition and the nature of the coast of Sabratha, which is mostly made up of soft rock and sand, the Ruins of Sabratha are undergoing dangerous periods of coastal erosion. The public baths, olive press building and 'harbor' can be observed as being most damaged as the buildings have crumbled due to storms and unsettled seas. As the most common building material in Sabratah, calcarenite, is highly susceptible to physical, chemical and biological weathering (particularly marine spray), the long-term conservation of the monuments is endangered. [13] Rising sea levels can also compromise the integrity of the site. [14]

This erosion of the coast of Ancient Sabratha can be seen yearly with significant differences in beach layout and recent crumbled buildings. Breakwaters set in the vicinity of the harbor and olive press are inadequate and too small to efficiently protect the Ancient City of Sabratha.

The city is home to Sabratha University. Wefaq Sabratha is the football club, playing at Sabratha Stadium.


Endangering Facts

Why is it on the list?

Leptis Magna was put on the List of World Heritage list because it fit under at least one out of the ten selected criteria. The criteria that the site fit under included:

  1. To represent a masterpiece of human creative genius
  2. To exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design
  3. To bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared

Leptis Magna fits under criteria 1 because it is an ancient Roman civilization site. It contains extraordinary building and inner city workings throughout the site the showcases the human creative genius. It fits under criteria 2 because it contains many advanced architectural feats such as columns, arch, as well as sculptures (see Medusa below). It also has many large structures that shows off human values like the theatre and temples (shown below). Leptis Magna also fits criteria 3 because it shows the remains of a civilization that has disappeared.

In 2016, it was determined that this site should be moved to the List of World Heritage In Danger because it fit under the criteria that it had “conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which the property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and to encourage corrective action” (UNESCO: 2016).

Factors

According to the most recent mission report, the most endangering factors affecting the site are as followed (Baccar and Souq, 2007):

  • The delineation of boundaries of the World Heritage property and of the related buffer zone should be undertaken as quickly as possible. It must include the coastal villas of Wadi Tala, which are indissociable from the site.
  • Inadequate restoration methods cause saline efflorescence on surface of remains.
  • Flooding regularly affects the site
  • Uncontrolled growth of vegetation in the private housing sectors of the ancient city and in the outlying sectors

Environment Threats

Temple of Iris, erosion of structure by the sea (Image Source: Baccar and Souq, 2007: Figure 3)

Vegetation in housing area (Image Source: Baccar and Souq, 2007: Figure 14)

Of these factors, the primary endangering factor of Leptis Magna is the threat of the environment. Over the course of time, flooding has eroded many of the coastal buildings. The erosion of the building caused a want to restore those ancient buildings so that they can last longer for future generations to see. However, according to Baccar and Souq (2007), the restoration processes had been inadequate and potentially caused more damage to the building than there was previously. This is mainly due to the fact that the restoration used sea sand in the mortars, causing the salt to crystalize in the mortar. According to Baccar and Souq (2007), the latest restoration operations carried out on some of the monuments have been successful and and avoided the previous error of using sea sand. Plants and other vegetation growing in the site is also troublesome. The uncontrolled growth of vegetation is taking over the ancient housing sectors of the city and slowly overtaking the ruins (see the photo below). The plan to control the vegetation is to not completely eliminate it, but to maintain it at a safe level so it does not overtake the ruins (Baccar and Souq: 2007)

Warfare and Tourism

Conflict in Libya today is affecting many cultural sites across the country. The country has been in a state of anarchy sin 2011, when rebels ended Col Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year reign (Sherlock, 2015: Libya slipping). Many people who fought side by side, turned their guns on each other. Battles between different towns broke out, resulting in destruction. The battle between the government and it’s citizens is turning into a scramble for power and resources.

As political instability threatens Libya, tourism to most sites have decreased. “We haven’t had any tourists since the fall of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011,” said Osama Krema, a Libyan tour guide working at the site (Sherlock, 2015: Leptis Magna). Sherlock describes this city as being the “best preserved” Roman city in the world. The people that do visit the site typically only factor in half an hour. But when they enter the site, they can’t believe what they see and cancel their work meetings and stay the rest of the day. Without tourism into the ancient site, it will be difficult to keep the city as pristine as it is now.

In 2011, representatives from different organizations completed two cultural heritage inspections in a mission to save Libya’s heritage (Rush, 2016). These groups found that throughout the main sites in Libya, there was evidence of local people protecting sites and objects in museums. “At Leptis Magna, Ghaddifi forces had attempted to occupy the site, but had been repulsed without damage to the archaeological deposits” (Rush, 2016).


Leptis Magna ancient site report - History bibliographies - in Harvard style

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The ruins of Virginia water past and present

2008 - The royal estate

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Leptis Magna excavations

2015 - Kings college London - London

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Your Bibliography: 2015. Leptis Magna excavations. 1st ed. [ebook] London: Kings college London. Available at: <http://www.alnpete.co.uk/lepcis/library/Report97.pdf> [Accessed 30 June 2015].

Almahjub, O.

Villa Silin

2005 - Dar Al-Anies - Misratah. Libya

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Lepcis Magna

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A tale of two deserts: contrasting desertifcation histories on Rome’s desert frontiers

2015 - Taylor and Francis Ltd - Online

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Butler, D.

Revolution offers chance for Libyan archaeology

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Degremont, C.

In Pictures: Libya's Roman ruins

In-text: (Degremont, 2013)

Your Bibliography: Degremont, C., 2013. In Pictures: Libya's Roman ruins. [online] Aljazeera.com. Available at: <http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2013/06/2013619141153737358.html> [Accessed 30 June 2015].

Leptis Magna | ancient city, Libya

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Fergiani, D.

Leptis Magna

Tripoli

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Isis vandalism has Libya fearing for its cultural treasures

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Your Bibliography: Kingsley, P., 2015. Isis vandalism has Libya fearing for its cultural treasures. [online] the Guardian. Available at: <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/07/isis-destroy-libya-cultural-treasures> [Accessed 30 June 2015].

Lortie, M.

Architecture + Branding: Imprinting the Imperium Romanum wherever thy may ROME

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MULTIDISCIPLINARY APPROACH TO THE COASTAL PROTECTION OF TWO ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES IN LYBIA

2015 - The international archives of photogrammetry - Piano de Sorrento. Italy

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Nabil, A.

DEGRADATION AND CONSERVATION OF MARBLE IN THE GREEK ROMAN HADRIANIC BATHS IN LEPTIS MAGNA, LIBYA

2012 - Conservation Deptartment, Faculty of Archaeology, South Valley University, Qena, Egypt.

In-text: (Nabil, 2012)

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Nabil, A.

HONEYCOMB WEATHERING OF LIMESTONE BUILDINGS IN THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES OF LEPTIS MAGNA (LIBYA): CAUSES, PROCESSES AND DAMAGES

2015 - Conservation department, South Valley University, Qena, Egypt

In-text: (Nabil, 2015)

Your Bibliography: Nabil, A., 2015. HONEYCOMB WEATHERING OF LIMESTONE BUILDINGS IN THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES OF LEPTIS MAGNA (LIBYA): CAUSES, PROCESSES AND DAMAGES. 1st ed. [ebook] Conservation department, South Valley University, Qena, Egypt. Available at: <http://www.ijcs.uaic.ro/public/IJCS-14-18-Tawab.pdf> [Accessed 30 June 2015].

Leptis Magna Archaeological Museum:

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Leptis Magna: Libyan Lepcis Magna, Lebda or Lubdah:

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Archaeology and Cultural Heritage in the New Libya

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Libya's new centurions protecting a Roman city from Isis's cultural jihad

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Leptis Magna Libia

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Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna - UNESCO World Heritage Centre

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UNESCO World Heritage Center - State of Conservation (SOC 1990) Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna (Libya)

In-text: (UNESCO World Heritage Center - State of Conservation (SOC 1990) Archaeological Site of Leptis Magna (Libya), 2015)


10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Ancient Roman City of Leptis Magna

The massive theatre of Leptis Magna. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Leptis Magna is one of the few completely preserved Roman cities in the world. Located in modern-day Libya, this is an ancient city with over 3000 years of history. Over the centuries, it was part of several empires and grew to one of the largest port cities in the world until the decline of the Roman Empire led to the complete abandonment by its citizens.

1. The exact foundation date of Leptis Magna is unknown. Historians debate on dates from as early as the 7th century BC to around 1100 BC.

2. The original purpose of the city was to serve as a Phoenician colony and a massive port. Over the centuries, it grew and fell under the protectorate of Carthage although the Carthaginian Empire never claimed it as an official territory.

The Tetrapylon of Leptis Magna. This is a four-sided arch dedicated to Emperor Septimius Severus who brought the Golden Age of the city. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

3. After the conclusion of the Third Punic War which resulted in the decisive victory of Rome over Carthage, Leptis Magna became part of the Kingdom of Numidia for a short period of time before it was absorbed by the Roman Empire and became part of the African province.

4. Historians believe that more than 100,000 people lived in the city during the reign of Julius Caesar. The production and processing of olive oil were so profitable for the population that in 46 BC Caesar imposed on the inhabitants an annual tax of about one and a half million liters of olive oil.

Remains of the Severan basilica. Credit: Wikimedia Commons / SashaCoachman

5. Leptis Magna is well-known as the birthplace of Emperor Septimius Severus. During the time of Severus, the city received the so-called ius italicum, which means a large tax exemption. The place became the endpoint of many trade routes and thrived on agricultural goods such as olives. Over time, he turned his hometown into one of the three most important Roman cities in Africa.


Contents

Etymology Edit

Tadrart is the feminine form of "mountain" in the Berber languages (masculine: adrar).

Rock art Edit

The area is known for its rock art and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985 because of the importance of these paintings and carvings. The paintings date from 12,000 BCE to 100 CE and reflect cultural and natural changes in the area. [1]

There are paintings and carvings of animals such as giraffes, elephants, ostriches and camels, but also of men and horses. People are depicted in various daily life situations, for example while making music and dancing. [2] [3]

Giraffe - rock art in Tadrart Acacus

Elephant - rock art in Tadrart Acacus

Pictograms - rock art in Tadrart Acacus

Pictograms - rock art in Tadrart Acacus

Pictograms - rock art in Tadrart Acacus

Milk lipids Edit

Tadrart Acacus is also the site of the earliest appearance of processed milk lipids on ceramics, which have been radiocarbon-dated to 7,500 BP. [4]

During Muammar Gaddafi’s rule from 1969 through 2011, the Department of Antiquities was badly neglected. Since 2005, the search for petroleum hidden underground has placed the rock art itself in danger. Seismic hammers are used to send shock waves underneath to locate oil deposits, and have noticeable effects on nearby rocks, including the ones that house the Tadrart Acacus rock art. [5]

Looting of ancient artifacts reached a level of crisis. [6] In response UNESCO called for a major awareness campaign, to heighten awareness of Libya's archaeological and cultural heritage and to alert Libyans that their heritage is "being looted by thieves and destroyed by developers." [7]

In 2012 following the murder of Gaddafi, efforts were made to train staff through a $2.26 million UNESCO project, with the Libyan and Italian governments. The project included conservation, protection and education. Along with Tadrart Acacus, Libya has four other UNESCO World Heritage sites: Cyrene, Leptis Magna, Sabratha and Ghadames. [8] UNESCO advised that "a centre should be established at Ghat or Uweynat to train the staff in charge of the protection and management of the property and to host a museum which is expected to play an important [role] in terms of awareness raising." [9]

UNESCO State of Conservation (SOC) reports from 2011, 2012 and 2013 show that at least ten of the rock-art sites have been the object of deliberate and considerable destruction since at least April 2009. [10] The ambiguity surrounding property boundaries of the World Heritage Site and therefore the property management combined with lack of local understanding of its cultural values were contributing factors in the ongoing vandalism. Conflicts in the area since 2011 led to increased vandalism. [9]

In May 2013 UNESCO undertook a technical mission to assess the state of conservation the Tadrart Acacus site and to "build-up a strategic plan to enforce the protection and management of this unique cultural and natural context." [11]

On 14 April 2014 two kinds of vandals were reported, those who thoughtlessly carve their own names and letters in amazight beside the ancient rock art and those who deliberately use chemical products to remove the rock drawings. [12] On April 20, 2014, the French special correspondent Jacques-Marie Bourget [fr] was informed by a local journalist from Ghat, Libya, Aziz Al-Hachi, that the UNESCO Rock-Art World Heritage Site of Tadrart Acacus was being destroyed with sledgehammers and scrub brushes. [13] [14]

The Tadrart Acacus have a large variation of landscapes, from different-coloured dunes to arches, gorges, isolated rocks and deep wadis (ravines). Major landmarks include the arches of Afzejare and Tin Khlega. Although this area is one of the most arid in the Sahara, there is vegetation, such as the medicinal Calotropis procera, and there are a number of springs and wells in the mountains.


Watch the video: Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro UNESCO NHK DbnxPY3D1Pg (May 2022).