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Elizabeth Fentress

The Jerba Survey: Settlement in the Punic and Roman Periods

Elizabeth Fentress

Methodology Our evidence for the islands history derives from three principal techniques: field walking, excavation and the study of the archives. As the majority of our time in the field is spent on the former our approach will be discussed in some detail. The methodology of field survey is still the subject of much debate , and there is as yet little consensus on what could be called best practice. Views are strongly held as to the advisability of sampling, or the nature of the collection and documentation of artefacts. The approach followed on Jerba grows out of the experience of the Albegna Valley Survey, as well as two minor projects undertaken in Marsala (Sicily) and Zana (Algeria)!.
. The project is jointly sponsored by the Institut National du Patrimoine, the University of Pennsylvania and the American Academy in Rome, under the direction in the field of Ali Drine, Elizabeth Fentress and Renata Holod. We are extremely grateful to M. Hedi Slim for his constant support, as well as to M. Boubakr Ben Fredj for his interest and encouragement. Besides the sponsoring institutions the project has been generously supported by the '&" Foundation, the Van Berchem Foundation, the Packard Foundation for the Humanities, and the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania. . Most recently in the context of a conference on survey technique at the University of Siena: R. F4) 81+0 and H. P)66-45 (eds.), Extracting Meaning from Ploughsoil Assemblages, Oxford '''. See also C. L. R-, ) , Surface Collection, Sampling and Research Design: a Retrospective, American Antiquity, # , '&%, pp. "'-$#; A. M. S ,/4)55, Survey Archaeology and the Rural Landscape of the Greek City, in O. M744);, S. P41+- (eds.), The Greek City from Homer to Alexander, Oxford, '', pp. !-!$; G. B)4 -4, Approaches to Archaeological Survey, in G. B)4 -4, J. L ;, (eds.), Roman Landscapes: Archaeological Survey in the Mediterranean Region, London '', pp. -'; A. J. S+0 .1- , (ed.), Interpreting Artefact Scatters, Contribution to Ploughzone Archaeology, Oxford '', pp. '!-#. !. I. A66 1 1 et al., Political Geography and Productive Geography between the Valleys of the Albegna and the Fiora in Northern Etruria, in G. B)4 -4, J. L ;, (eds.), Roman Landscapes, cit., '', pp. " -#!. E. F- 64-55 et al., A Sicilian Villa and its Landscape. Contrada Mirabile (Mazara), Opus, 8, '&$, pp. %#-'$. E. F- 64-55, A. A16 K)+1, N.

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The island of Jerba covers 568 square kilometres. Its size is thus such as to rule out a total survey, which would take an unreasonable amount of time if carried out at an acceptable level of intensity. We have thus adopted a systematic sampling strategy in which survey is carried out in stepped north-south transects one kilometre wide spaced at four kilometer intervals. This gives an apparent 20% coverage of the island. However, line-walking at 20 meter intervals gives a visibility of only 50% within those transects, so the real coverage is a more realistic 10%. Additional areas have been added along the densely-settled southeast coast of the island, so as to create a wider block in which to study the progressive displacement of settlement in that area. Other such purposive additions to the background sample will probably be made in the future, as more information about the nature of settlement on the island is gathered. Variation within the boundaries of the island is slight. Of environmental factors the most important is the availability of sweet water at an acceptable depth. There are no springs, so all water for agricultural use is derived from wells, while rain-water for drinking is stored in cisterns. Hydrology charts show that the best water is found in the northeastern quarter of the island, and this is today the area with the highest settlement density. Otherwise, variation in altitude is minimal, while the very uniform ploughed olive and palm groves give an extraordinarily high visibility to pottery and other artefacts. However, agricultural practice, although largely free of the deep-ploughing which characterizes that of Italy, has caused considerable damage to the legibility of the archaeological record. The creation of an olive grove may involve wholescale bulldozing in order to create high earthen walls around the fields. It is not uncommon to find the material from an entire Punic farm packed into one of these walls, while widespread background scatters testify to the destruction of sites in the area. Our collection strategy has been designed to take these factors into account, while striving to maintain an acceptable rate of site-retrieval. A second consideration in our methodology was the necessity to design the survey from the beginning to take into account the technical advances in Geographic Information Systems. Recently, a number of older surveys have been retrofitted to the new analytic tools. At Jerba we had the opportunity to design a system which could be recorded immediately onto a /15 database. It was clear that an efficient use of such a system would require a modular approach to the archaeological and environmental data, as well as an acceptable coverage of settlement
B 7 55)14, Prospections dans le Belezma: Rapport Prliminaire, in Actes du Colloque internationale sur lhistoire de Stif, BAA, Supplemento %, '', pp. %- %.



throughout the island. The recording of background pottery scatters would have to be included in this program. In seeking to resolve the apparent contrast between efficient recovery of our major source of data, the evidence for settlements, and the necessity to record as carefully as possible the pottery distribution on the landscape as a whole, we have adopted an approach which is qualitative rather than quantitative in nature. In other words, we are attempting to identify the nature of the sporadic pottery observed in the field rather than to achieve a spurious exactitude about its quantity, whose highly stochastic nature precludes any confidence in its statistical analysis". The recording system is based on blocks of 100 square meters, each of which occupies a single cell in the /15 map of the island. Each kilometre walked is recorded on graph paper prepared with two 1:10.000 sketches of the principal landscape features: roads, ridges and minarets which can serve as useful position checks. The five-person team then walks a block in lines 20 meters apart, collecting any feature sherds present along the line. At the end of the block the team leader identifies the pottery present, and if no evidence for in situ settlement debris has been found, colors the relevant block on the first map according to a key which indicates the presence of protohistoric, Punic, early imperial, late imperial, medieval and/or early-modern debris. Any problematic or particularly interesting material is saved. On the second map the nature of the vegetation is indicated, along with water features such as wells. This information is also recorded in a journal entry, with any other observations about the block walked. A /25 reading is taken every five blocks, as a necessary position check in the rather featureless landscape of the island. The identification of sites is again based on qualitative rather than quantitative information. Our experience has shown that concentrations of pottery from the historic periods are regularly associated with building materials - tiles, stone, traces of plaster flooring or wall plaster. These are often accompanied by perceptible changes in soil color. Rather than rely on pottery density alone we have chosen to use the presence of some or all of these criteria in the identification of individual habitation sites. The exceptions to this policy are periods in which the pottery itself is so rare as to constitute a significant indicator on its own. This is particularly true for
". On the qualitative approach to field survey information see E. F- 64-55, What are we Counting For?, in F4) + 81+0, P)66-45 (eds.), Extracting Meaning from Ploughsoil Assemblages, cit.



the early medieval and protohistoric periods, whose pottery has proved particularly elusive#. When a site is identified it is thoroughly examined by close line-walking, in which all pottery is collected. Feature sherds, and any fabrics not represented among the feature sherds are then saved. A context-sheet is filled in with the appropriate detail, including a /25 reading with the estimated position error. A sketch map is drawn on the back of the sheet, and the site is located on the kilometer map, with a rough sketch of its form and size. In cases where in situ structures are present the site is revisited for planning and, in some cases, for future low-level aerial photography. In the case of the two known towns on the island these extensive survey techniques were modified to give us more precise coverage of the variation within the towns themselves. At the Punic and early Roman town of Bourgou a 50 meter grid was laid over the 15 hectares covered by the town. An abrupt scarp clearly indicated the limits of the town, so it was possible to make a good estimate of the amount of time which would be required to cover it. Within each 50 meter square a team collected feature sherds over a period of twenty minutes, while a total collection was carried out on a 5 x 5 meter sample at the northwest corner of the square. From this total collection a count was made of the number of amphorae, wheel and handmade coarsewares, and fineware sherds, as well as of any building material recovered. This has allowed us to study the variation in pottery density across the site, as well as the occurrence of pottery of different periods. A sketch was also made of the 50 meter sample, from which a sketch plan of the site was constructed. In the case of the town of Meninx, surveyed in 1997, the huge size of the site (42 ha.) and the bulldozing of much of its area seemed to preclude a quantitative approach to the pottery. However, numerous traces of walls suggested that the site as a whole should be mapped with a total station. A 50 meter grid was again laid out, and feature sherds collected within it. Again, the teams made sketch-maps of visible walls, and flagged these on the ground to aid the survey team to recover their positions. Intensive survey of the murex-shell heaps inland from the town allowed us to recover large quantities of almost intact amphorae. The extensive coverage of the transects, based on units of 100 meters, and the more intensive coverage within the cities, based on units of 50 meters, allow us two separate levels of /15 mapping. On the first, vegetation, hydrology and datable pottery scatters are recorded over the island
#. M. M1 -6, Pottery Population or Supply Patterns? The Ager Tarraconensis Approach, in G. B)4 -4, J. L ;, (eds.), Roman Landscapes, Archaeological Survey in the Mediterranean Region (*54 Archaeological Monographs ), '', pp. &- $.



as a whole, allowing us to analyse the interaction of environmental and positional factors with settlement density and historical demography. The intensive coverage of the towns allows /15 maps of the distribution of pottery by type and period, significance tests of that distribution, as well as more traditional Auto+), plans of the structures visible in the town. Settlement in the Punic Period The lack of prehistoric finds from the island is striking, especially when compared to the abundant material from the area of Gafsa. We must conclude that the total absence of surface water made the island an inhospitable site before well-digging became common. The earliest material recovered consists of Attic pottery of the early fifth century, found on four sites: the port at Ghizen to the north of the island$, the town site at Bourgou, and, on the southern side of the island, the port at Hares (Guellala) and the town of Meninx. Here excavations have revealed occupation levels under the forum, with evidence for murex production which confirms Plinys comment that Meninx was an important centre for this commodity, a second Tyre (nat. 1:, 60). Inland from this site, along a ridge running parallel to the coast, was found a large scatter of black glaze running in a band between two and three hundred meters in width. At the extreme eastern end of the site was found a rectangular structure that might possibly be interpreted as a sanctuary on the western periphery of the site. Next to the structure were found three neo-punic stele. It seems possible to interpret this scatter as the agricoltural support for the settlement on the coast at Meninx, and it seems to show a precocious development of the agricoltural hinterland of that settlement. However, the central town of Bourgou was clearly the most important site on the island in the Punic period. On the periphery of the site is found the tomb excavated by Mme Wereimmi Akkari, which yielded a monumental statue%. Although typologically the tomb fits easily into the series of Numidian royal tombs, we are a long way from being sure exactly who founded the city, who ruled it at any given period, or who lived in it. However, the fact that this area of Tripolitania was effectively included in Massinissas kingdom from the end of the third century makes
$. J. A )41-W-4-1 1, La ncropole libyco-punique de Ghizne (Djerba, Tunisie), Africa, !, ''#, pp. #-%". %. J. W-4-1 1-A )41, Un tmoignage spectaculaire sur la prsence libyco-punique dans lle de Jerba. Le mausole de Henchir Bourgou, REPPAL, , '&#, pp. &'-'#.



it plausible that it became the local administrative town for that kingdom, perhaps ruled by one of his relatives&. For the population, we are left with Diodorus Siculus vague designation, Libyphoenicians. The remains of the town suggest that it was irregular in plan, with a large amount of domestic structures. These were decorated with some luxury, with signinum floors, white and black mosaics, and painted wall plaster. Fragments of stucco capitals are found, although there is little trace of architecture in stone. There was equally little trace of industrial activity on the site: slag was very rare, as was kiln debris. The clear scarp around the town suggests the possibility that it was surrounded by a rampart, but excavation of a trench at one edge of the site proved inconclusive. On the north coast, the site of Ghizen, covering over four hectares stretching inland from the shore. It seems plausible to suggest that Ghizen represents the port for Bourgou in the Punic period. Another early port probably existed on the east cost, near Sidi Garouss, but here the archaeological evidence has been completely eradicated by hotel development. By the late third century B.C. the hinterlands of Bourgou and Meninx 1 were occupied by large villas (.1/. 1). These are found as large mounds of material, rising at least a meter above the surrounding countryside, and covered by a rich assortment of pottery, wall plaster and small architectural fragments. The mounds occupy around a hectare, and are sometimes associated with mausolea. At some distance from the villas are found amphora kilns, which produced neo-Punic amphorae of the forms van der Werff 2 a, b and c, dated to the second and first centuries B.C. These have been identified from a number of sites in Tripolitania, and although there is not yet proof what they contained, the inland locations of the kilns seem to rule out garum, and leave us with the choice of wine or olive oil. In the first century A.D. the same kilns began to produce amphorae of the type Mau :::8. The shape of these, which derives from that of the Dressel 2-4 type, suggest that they were wine amphorae, which may suggest that their predecessors were as well. Around the villas, and throughout much of the area surveyed, are found small farms. These are difficult to date with precision, but almost all of them have yielded black-glazed sherds. The settlement hierarchy at the beginning of the Roman period was thus highly articulated, comprising at least two major towns (settlements at Ajim and Guellala have yet to be investigated, and we have not found a convincing iden&. Masinissas control of the region of the Emporia was not officially recognized until $ -$ B.C.: A22., Lib. $'; D. J. M)661 / ;, Tripolitania, London ''#, pp. #f.



Fig. 1: Settlement in the third and second centuries B.C. (Michael Frachetti).

tification for the towns known in our sources as Girba and Hares'), ports at Ghizen and, probably, on the east coast at Sidi Garouss, villas, kilns and farms. Agricultural production was clearly an important component of the economy of the island, although trade must have played a part, and we know from Plinys comparison of Meninx with Tyre that murex must have been produced by the first century A.D. Indeed, the find of significant deposits of murex waste mixed with amphorae of type Mau :::8 and some black glazed pottery under the forum suggest that this was already a production site.
'. Sites on Jerba known from the Peutinger Table include Girba, Meninx, Tipasa, Hares (8111, 1). . See the contribution by A. D41 -, in this volume.



The pattern this seems to indicate is one which is reminiscent of other areas of the Western Mediterranean in the Hellenistic period. I think particularly of the settlement pattern of the hinterland of Marsala, Punic Lilybaeum, where large villas occupied the countryside from the end of the third century B.C.. On the Tyrrhenian coast of Italy, numerous surveys have shown similarly articulate patterns, associated with the first major boom in Italian wine production . What the pattern does not resemble is any of the results of the growing number of surveys on the mainland, with the possible exception of the as-yet unpublished material from around Carthage. In none of these areas is black-glazed pottery present on rural sites: indeed, only 18 sherds were found in the whole of the Segermes Survey!: sherds from the Jerba survey already number well over 100. We seem to be looking at a relatively precocious agricultural production, closely linked with other Mediterranean sites such as Sicily. Trade may have included other invisible items, such as the slaves traded from south of the Sahara by the Garamantes of Fezzan, or cloth dyed with the murex produced at Meninx. What is evident, however, is the great prosperity of the island in this period, particularly when compared to the rest of rural North Africa. There is no evidence for any significant change in the settlement patterns of the island after it was included in the Roman Province of Africa Proconsularis. Occupation continued at all sites, as can be demonstrated by the fact that the Punic cemetery on the coast at Souk el Ghibli was replaced by an inhumation cemetery just below the same ridge: both were probably related to a major villa nearby (.1/. 2). It is not until the beginning of the second century A.D. that we begin to see major changes taking place in the settlement patterns of the island. The most significant of these was the expansion and reconstruction of Meninx. This important Roman site has received very little previous attention, and the only buildings known from it are two churches recorded by Gauckler". The urban survey, which took the best part of three weeks, revealed an orthogonally-planned central nucleus, with, to the north, a few buildings on a slightly different orientation. A large number of public buildF- 64-55 et al., A Sicilian Villa and its Landscape, cit. . A. C)4) ,1 1, Il vigneto e la villa del fondo di Settefinestre nel cosano. Un caso di produzione agricola per il mercato trasmarino, MAAR !$, '&, -. I,. '&', La villa romana e la piantagione schiavistica in Italia (11 secolo a.C.-11 d.C.), Storia di Roma, 18, '&'. !. S. D1-6 , L. S-*) , H. B- H)55- (eds.), Africa Proconsularis, 11, Copenhagen ''# , p. "%!. They note that no black glaze was not recorded on the Kasserine survey, while " sherds were found at Leptiminus (ibid., p. "$ .). ". P. G)7+ -4, Les Basiliques de la Tunisie, Paris '%, pl. :::1, :::11.



Fig. 2: A Punic villa and its necropolis at Souk el Ghibli (Michael Frachetti).

ings were identified. Besides the forum, whose position has been known since the 1930s, there were at least two bath complexes, one of which appears to have a circular palestra, a circus, an amphitheatre, a theater, and one substantial church. Gauklers second church was found to the outskirts of town, 300 m southwest of the amphitheatre. Perhaps more importantly, the survey has revealed that the town could accurately be described as an industrial city, for most of the standing structures are related to the fish and shellfish industries fish-salting tanks, garum tanks and murex-extraction tanks. Detailed survey of the distribution of fragments of opus sectile suggests that the residential quarters lay to the northeast of the forum, and the industrial quarter to the southwest (.1/. 3). Huge mounds of murex shells flank the city to the west and south, while traces of amphora kilns are found in the northwest corner of the site, with other kilns to the northeast. The chronology of the settlement is as yet imperfectly understood. It may that a Hadrianic or Antonine refoundation led to the construction of a new town over the murex dumps to the south of the earlier site. Finds of murex dumps, whose latest sherd dates to the first century under the excavated vats, seem to support this suggestion, as do the architectural re-



Fig. 3: Meninx 11: the dark grey squares are those on which over 30 fragments of opus sectile were found. These correspond well with finds of painted plaster (Shawna Leigh).

mains of the forum itself. Conversely, the rarity of the earliest forms of African Red Slip ()45) ware suggests that occupation was limited in the years between 60 and 100 A.D. We know that neighboring Gigthis was elevated to the rank of municipium under Antoninus Pius, who is referred on to an inscription as conditor municipium#. It may well be that imperial investment in Meninx occurred at about the same time, or slightly earlier. This might have been associated with the building of the causeway linking Meninx to the mainland, a construction which may well have cut Gigthis off from its links to the Syrtis trade, redirecting it towards Meninx. At the same time the town of Bourgou was, if not abandoned, at least substantially depopulated. Finds of late-second century )45 are rare, and there are few of any contemporary amphorae. The small farms seem to

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disappear, although substantial scatters of Roman pottery in the interior suggest that they may have been replaced by new ones. The villas, too, seem to have suffered a major set-back during the second century A.D. None of the kilns continued in production after the disappearance of the amphora type Mau :::8 around the end of the first century A.D.: henceforward all pottery production seems to have been concentrated on the periphery of Meninx. Of the early sites only the port at Ghizen seems to have retained some importance. It may have been occupied by a large villa during this period. Other villae maritimae were built along the coast, although in general their remains are badly preserved, given the intensity of tourist development in the northeast side of the island. Thus on the beach of the Club Mditerrane, at Sidi Garouss, is found a mosaic which slowly crumbles into the sea, while a statue was found at Aghir and another near Mezraya. Figure 4 shows the settlement pattern of the second century A.D. In general, we seem to see a shift from the intensive agricultural production in the interior of the island which was a major feature of the economy of the Punic period to a greater concentration on the wealth produced by Jerbas shallow seas: salted fish, garum and, above all, murex dye. The interior remained occupied, but investment in villas had shifted to the coast. By the fourth and early fifth centuries most of the settlement was concentrated in Meninx, with only a few maritime villas occupied. However, there is every likelihood that Meninx was no longer the most important site on the island. As Azedine Beschaouch has shown, the city of Girba seems to have supplanted Meninx by the third century, giving its name to the island as a whole$. However, we still do not know where this city was located. The only trace of this settlement is the inscription published by Beschaouch which refers to the Respublica Girbitana, and was found built into the fort at Houmt Souk. Now, we know how easily inscriptions travel, especially in an island where good building stone is rare. The account of the early 14 century traveller El Tijani, in which he reports his walk from Ajim to Girba, and from Girba to the Andalusian fort at Houmt Souk, would suggest that Girba and Houmt Souk are separated by some distance. Thus our view of the settlement of the island remains to be confirmed by the evidence from its western half. At Meninx, settlement continued until the beginning of the seventh century, although excavation may suggest some large-scale destruction during the late fifth century%. Some, at least, of the murex tanks were
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A. B-5+0) 7+0, CRAI, '&$, pp. #"-!. AE, '&%, nr. ! . See the contributions of A. Drine and S. Fontana in this volume.



Fig. 4: Settlement in the second century A.D. (Michael Frachetti).

built in the early sixth century, and the Greek ostraka from the excavation suggest that they were still in use during the fifth century. However, only two sherds of Hayes form 91D were recovered from the whole city, which seems to suggest either a lack of occupation on the site or a lack of contact with the outside world. It is at this point that we lose evidence for occupation at all sites, with the single exception of the qasr at Tala, less than a kilometer from Meninx 11, where seventh-century eastern amphorae suggest that there was still some contact with the rest of the Mediterranean. From this period until the eleventh century we have been unable to identify any ceramics which could date a dark-age site. Of course this hardly suggests that these do not exist, but neither is there evidence that they do. The development of settlement on the island thus runs from a very sparse, nucleated pattern in the fourth century B.C., to a highly articulated landscape of towns, ports, villas, farms and kilns in the second centu-



ry B.C., to settlement pattern in which the coast plays an every-increasing role. There is no evidence that the Roman hegemony affected settlement on the island until the second century A.D., when the building of Meninx 11 on the coast seems to have led to the gradual abandonment of Bourgou and Meninx 1.