Press Release – Vienna, September 4, 2019

ARCHAEOLOGY CONNECTS TUNISIA AND AUSTRIA

Researchers of the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences are starting a new project in Tunisia. In collaboration with Tunisian colleagues they will study the fairly unexplored Roman town of Abthugnos in the hinterland of Carthage. The aim is to better understand the urban complex, its function and importance.

In the Tunesian interior on the edge of a mountain range in the middle of fertile agricultural land and olive groves a team of archaeologists, a topographer, and an architect of the Austrian Archaeological Institute (OeAI) are working in the ruins of the ancient city of Abthugnos. They will be accompanied by Tunisian colleagues of the monument preservation office L‘Institut National Du Patrimoine de Tunisie. The well-preserved remains of the Roman city center are visible on the surface. These encompass a large square (forum) from the 2nd century CE which is surrounded by among other things a temple and a market and court hall (basilica).

 

Townscape, function, and importance of Abthugnos

But how does the central square fit into the rest of the townscape of Abthugnos? What functions did the city fulfill? How was it supplied? Who were its inhabitants and what was its relationship to the neighboring metropolis of Carthage?

These are all questions that the interdisciplinary team would like to address in the next three years. The necessary documentation, such as city plan and layout of the buildings, will be prepared using state-of-the-art documentation methods. This spring the entire city center was documented with a 3D laser scanner for the first time since its excavation. Further research, such as drone fly overs, will follow. By 2020 the team will have conducted detailed studies on the structure of the monuments, identified the various building phases, and created exhaustive plans and 3D reconstructions. Based on the analyses of already discovered objects and contexts and through comparisons with other rural cities of this time period it will be possible to learn more about the expansion and the function of the ancient urban space as well as its importance in the region. The work of the OeAI-team is supported on site by the Austrian Embassy in Tunisia.

 

Small town in the border region

In antiquity the border between the Roman provinceAfrica established in 146 BCE and the Kingdom of Numidia ran close to Abthugnos. During the reign of emperor Hadrian, Abthugnos became a municipium, later it was also an episcopal seat.