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Survey and Excavation at Utica 2010 - Report Final

Survey and Excavation at Utica 2010 - Report Final

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Published by UticaProject
The report for the 2010 field season at Utica, Tunisia.
The report for the 2010 field season at Utica, Tunisia.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: UticaProject on Feb 25, 2011
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Survey and Excavation at Utica 2010
 By Nabil Kallala, Elizabeth Fentress, Josephine Quinn, Andrew Wilson With contributions by Wafa Ben Slimane, Dirk Booms, Hannah Friedman, Faouzi Ghozzi, Sophie Hay,Elyssa Jerray, Moufida Jenène, Emanuele Mariotti, Ben Russell, and Yamen Sghaïer
 Introduction
 The Utica project is run jointly by the Tunisian Institut National du Patrimoine and the University of Oxford, in collaboration with the British School at Rome as a participant in the BSR Ports Project, andis co-directed by Nabil Kallala, Elizabeth Fentress,  Josephine Quinn and Andrew Wilson. We are
investigating the city’s urban de
velopment and economy through a combination of topographicsurvey, geophysics, coring, excavation, pottery studies and structural survey. 
Utica, which stood in ancient times near the estuary of Tunisia’s only perennial river, was
traditionally supposed to be the third Phoenician colony in the west (founded in 1101 BC, shortlyafter Gadir and Lixus). For most of the period for which we have archaeological evidence (from theeighth century BC to the eighth century AD) Utica was second in importance in this region only toCarthage, and flourished as a relatively free city under both Carthaginian and Roman hegemony. Itssituation at the head of the Medjerda valley, the corridor to the rich imperial estates and the fertilegrain-producing uplands of the Tunisian Tell, made it one of the most important ports of RomanNorth Africa. The site now lies 10 km from the sea and the most recent geological studies suggestthat the port had already begun to silt up by the late antique period, as a result of the riverMedjerda changing course from its older bed to the east of Qalaat al-Andalous.
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 After poorly documented excavations in the nineteenth century, twentieth-century excavationfocused on tombs in the Phoenician and Punic cemeteries, and then, in the 1950s, on the urbancentre: a few rich houses with elaborate mosaics, courtyard fountains and architectural decoration.
 
1
 
Paskoff and Trousset 1992; Chelbi
et al.
1995.
 
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These excavations were poorly controlled and incompletely published, with little reporting of finds,and insecure chronological foundations.
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In response to this situation, the Tunisian Institut Nationaldu Patrimoine has instigated an international collaborative project to undertake the investigationand conservation of Utica, involving teams from Britain, Spain and France.The Tunisian-British Project carried out a two-week pilot season in April 2010,  funded  withthe generous help of Lorne Thyssen, the Society of Antiquaries of London, the John Fell OxfordUniversity Press (OUP) Research Fund, All Souls College, and Oxford Uni
versity’s Institute of 
Archaeology. The team carried out an extensive program of magnetometry, established a DigitalElevation Model by DGPS, tested the northern margins of the site close to the ancient shoreline withlimited sondages, excavated in the area of the basilica  and forum in the town centre, and cleaned
and carried out limited excavation in the ‘House of the Grand Oecus’.
 
 Topography and the city plan
 Although the basic outlines of some elements of the city plan are clear, the urban topography of Utica as a whole is poorly understood. The silting of the Medjerda river estuary and the consequentprogradation of the coastline mean that the former port city now lies 10 km from the nearest pointon the coastline, 11 km from the edge of Lac Ichkeul, and 17.3 km from the point at which LacIchkeul communicates with the sea.
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In antiquity the Medjerda reached the sea to the east of thenext promontory to the east, Qalaat al-Andalous, and seems only to have broken through to itspresent course between Utica and Qalaat al-Andalous in late antiquity (Fig. 1).
4
 
 
 
 
2
 
For summaries of earlier work on the site, see Cintas 1951; Lezine 1970.
 
3
Measurements taken from Google Earth.
4
Paskoff and Trousset 1992; Chelbi
et al.
1995.Fig. 1: Location of Utica, showing present and former coastlines and the earlier courses of the river Medjerda.
 
 
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 The precise line of the Roman coastline and the location of the port remain unclear. Even thelimits of the site
the city walls, and the extent of occupation
are not fully certain. Extensivestone-robbing operations and early, poorly documented excavations have turned over large parts of the site, leaving robber trenches, excavation trenches and spoil heaps (e.g. those by Comte CamilloBorgio in 1853, unpublished owing to his death from a fever caught during the excavations; AdolpheDaux in 1860, Nathan Davis in 1860, B. Smith in 1878 and Comte Maurice Irisso
n d’H
érisson in 1881).Many of these operations were on a considerable scale, at times employing substantial labourforces:
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Davis used marines from the ship
Harpy 
,
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Irisson d’
Hérisson engaged 100 workmen initially,supplemented a month later by a further 30,
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and the excavations of the large baths by FrançoisReyniers in 1949-1951 used a detachment of 
tirailleurs
.
8
 Of the existing plans of the site, that by Daux published in the account of the Irisson
d’
Hérisson expedition appears remarkably detailed (Fig. 2),
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and the general topographical outlinesare well delineated, but much of it is sheer fantasy. Like a number of others, he misinterpreted thelarge Roman baths in the north-
west part of the site as a Punic port with an admiral’s headquarters
on an island in the middle of it,
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and invented other port basins around the headland in the north-
east part of the site. Although his plan does also show structures excavated by Irisson d’Hérisson and
others, and many of these are at least on the correct alignment of the Roman insulae blocks, it is
 
5
 
Irisson d’Hérisson 1881, 275
-9; Lézine 1970, 35-6.
6
Davis 1861, 409.
7
 
Irisson d’Hérisson 1881, 104
-5, 153-4.
8
Picard 1946-49, 623.
9
 
Irisson d’Hériss
on 1881; also in Reinach 1888, fig. 6. Cf. Daux 1869.
10
Beulé 1861, 111; Daux 1869, 160-219; Reyniers 1952. First correctly identified as baths by Torr (1894a, 46-7and 1894b, 306-7); cf. Gsell 1920, 145-6; Cintas 1951; Picard 1953. Martin (1915, xcviii) realised it was Roman,but could not identify its function. The port idea had its supporters until 1953 (Reyniers 1952; refuted byPicard 1953). See Lézine 1970, 66.Fig. 2: Plan of Utica by Adolphe Daux (
Irisson d’Hérisson 1881)
; large spoil heaps have obscured the ancienttopography of the coastal zone.

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