Universiteit van Amsterdam

The team of the Universiteit van Amsterdam excavated parts of the Decumanus 1-South, Cardo IX, and Cardo X. Since the pavements of the 7m wide Roman streets had been robbed already in post-antique times, earlier layers and architecture can be reached easily. A series of six trenches of 100 square meters each (10 x 10 m) has been laid out. Some of these trenches reach out into the adjacent Roman living quarters (insulae), specifically insulae S110 and S111 to the north of Decumanus 1-South and insulae S210 and S211 to the south. The relatively large size of the trenches was chosen, based on the experience of the excavations of the Universit├Ąt Hamburg. The complex urban history of Carthage has left traces in the archaeological record, which can only be understood if viewed on a large scale. To this end, each of the trenches can be extended if necessary. The field campaign had been scheduled between September 18 and November 18, 2000. An additional field campaign took place in May 2001. The costs of excavation and publication (study of material) are completely covered through special funding by a Dutch private foundation (UTOPA).


Research goals

The main focus of the excavation had been one of the crucial formative periods of the city: the 6th and 5th centuries BC.
We hoped
(1) to get a better idea of the appearance of the Punic city and its urban lay-out at this time and (2) to be able to find 6th and 5th century assemblages in connection with contemporary buildings.

(1) The stratigraphical excavations of the Universit├Ąt Hamburg in the north-western part of the site have provided evidence of a Punic road. Running south to north, the road had the same course from the first period (around 760 BC) onwards. It remained unchanged until c. 200 BC when the road started to curve towards the Byrsa hill in the west. A parallel road can be postulated on good grounds approximately 20 m further west, just between the Hamburg excavation and an area investigated by the German Archaeological Institute in Rome in 1983 (the so-called Ben Ayed plot). In between these two streets, a Punic residential quarter with seven houses has been excavated, and shows evidence of no less than eight major building phases dating from c. 760 till 146 BC. The Punic urban structure in this part of the city is completely orthogonal and one would like to know whether this system continues elsewhere. In fact, the Punic road system of Carthage is generally believed to have been a radial one, taking the summit of the Byrsa hill as a starting point. If this system should proof valid indeed, the orthogonal lay-out of the Punic quarter in the Hamburg excavation would be valid for this small part of the city only. To prove or disprove this, a series of six trenches has been laid out approximately 150 m south of the Hamburg plot. Trenches 1 and 2 lie in the continuation of the two Punic roads already mentioned. Trenches 3-4 and 5-6 are laid out at equal distances of c. 20 m and c. 45 m respectively east of the Punic street in the Hamburg excavation in order to see whether the road and insula system continues.

(2) Undisturbed contexts of the 6th and 5th centuries B.C. are not found very often in Carthage. By covering as much ground as is logistically possible, we hope to find some of these in connection with structures dating to the same period.

Being a rescue excavation, a subsidiary goal is the documentation of all Late-Antique, Roman and Punic remains both encountered in the excavated areas and preserved above ground-level elsewhere in the southern half of the terrain. In one case, in trench 4, we will even try to get an idea of the most recent use of the area: the remains of a building dating somewhere between the late Medieval period and the early 20th century. Roman and Punic remains are quite visible in the four test trenches laid out by the Tunisian Archaeological Service of Carthage in the seventies. These trenches will be cleaned and if necessary enlarged.

In July 2000 we prepared the terrain for excavation, which included the positioning of the trenches. Stray finds, which could give clues as to the earlier occupation of this part of the city, were collected on the surface of the site. In particular, in the area of the post-Antique building mentioned above (trench 4) sherds were picked up which may date somewhere between the late Medieval period and the beginning of the 20th century.