The ancient hydraulic complex of Zaghouan in present-day Tunisia was built from the 2nd century to the beginning of the 3rd century and is one of the most impressive testimonies to Roman hydraulic engineering. From several springs on Mount Zaghouan (Djebel Zaghouan) and a subsequently connected spring in the region Jouggar the water was fed into the pipeline and transported to Carthage via a pipeline system of about 132 km length in total.

The Zaghouan–Carthage hydraulic complex included, in addition to the structures for the pipeline (at ground level as well as elevated on arcades), several nymphaea or spring sanctuaries in Zaghouan and Jouggar as well as the large cistern of La Maalga and the cistern of Bordj Djedid. Starting from the cisterns, the water was distributed within Carthage. Famous supply points in the city were the Antoninus Pius Baths, which required a constant water supply. Starting in late antiquity, sections of the aqueduct were destroyed and rebuilt for several times. From the 16th century onwards, it also served as a quarry. Nevertheless, in the second half of the 19th century the water supply system was successfully restored. Since its re-commissioning in 1862, it still supplies Tunis with water.

In 2012, the entire Zaghouan–Carthage hydraulic complex, which significantly shapes the archaeological landscape in the rural area between Tunis and the source areas, was included in the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The project aims to develop important scientific basics for the exploration and preservation of the hydraulic complex Zaghouan–Carthage within the framework of a research cooperation between the OeAI and the Tunisian National Heritage Institute (INP). With targeted scientific investigations, the existing research on selected elements of the entire complex is to be continued and an expanded knowledge base for the historical classification of the ancient structures is to be created. Specifically, the large cistern of La Maalga and two selected sections of the aqueduct at Oued Miliane and at the level of the Bardo will be investigated. Here, the project focuses on three important construction and utilization phases of the hydraulic complex: Antiquity and Late Antiquity (2nd–7th century), Middle Ages (12th century) and Modern Times (with emphasis on the 19th century).

The results will also serve to develop strategies for the preservation and future use of this extraordinary historical building ensemble. Furthermore, the project contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

Principal Investigator

in cooperation with Hamden Ben Romdhane (INP)