Abthugnos has previously been known primarily for its extensively preserved ruins of a Capitoline forum from the 2nd century CE. The city will be studied in relationship to its function as well as its characteristics as a rural town in the hinterland of Carthage on the basis of building analysis and settlement archaeological methods as part of a cooperation with the L'Institut National du Patrimoine De Tunisie.
The Roman city of Abthugnos is located approximately 90 km south of Tunis in the interior of the country in the modern village of Henchir es-Souar in the province of Zaghouan, Tunesia. The fertile landscape is dominated by the foothills of the Djebel Zaghdoud. Several wadis crisscross the mainly agricultural area surrounding the city. Abthugnos is frequently also referred to as Abthugni/Abthonge/Abthunge/Abthungi in the literature likely belong to the territory of the Carthaginian Pertica. The fossa regia, the border line between the Roman province of Africa and the Numidian Kingdom set up in 146 BCE, passed by to the southwest of the town. In the reign of emperor Hadrian, Abthugnos became a municipium (rural town).
The well-preserved ruins of the temple on the forum of the city as well as the building structures and inscription finds have been described by travelers and scholars since the second half of the 19th century. During a study trip through North Africa René Cagnat, Paul Gaukler, and Eugéne Sadoux surveyed the temple referred to as Capitol and in 1898 published the ground plan, several details of the facade, and a photograph in »Les Monuments Historiques de la Tunisie«. In 1988 as part of rescue excavations of the INP the Tunesian archaeologist N. Ferchiou began large scale excavations and salvage operations in the center of Abthugnos that continued on into the 1990s. A monumental complex was excavated that N. Ferchious identified as central forum of Abthugnos with Capital and civil basilica. Additional structures of the city visible in the modern settlement of the village Henchir es-Souar were documented in a map in 1991. In the 2000s the INP continued its excavations in the area directly to the southwest of the forum and also carried out restoration work on the gate to the forum as well as the south-eastern facade of the basilica.
Building analysis and settlement archaeological studies
The project for the exploration of the city Abthugnos is working in two scales. The excavated building structures of the monumental forum with temple and basilica will for the first time be documented precisely in its current state of preservation with 3D laser scanning and in this way will be analyzed through stone-by-stone plans and mapping regarding its architecture as well as the historical phases of construction and use. Particular attention is given to the underlying plan of the forum that follows the scheme typical of Roman public squares in North Africa and questions relating to its implementation. At the same time, the architectural and historical analysis is the basis for the development of a concept for future conservation of the forum.
Within the city area additional built structures, such as cisterns and retaining walls, are visible as are paving and long sections of ashlar masonry walls visible on the surface. Likewise, there are large numbers of dislocated architectural fragments. Using geophysical prospection methods and GPS survey the urban complex with its structures and architectural finds will be completely documented and analyzed under consideration of additionally available information. The aim is to characterize the ancient and late antique Abthugnos which was a bishop's seat in the early 4th century CE and to illuminate the importance of the city in its rural environment.