Archaeology: Bologna Alma Mater at work in Tunisia

Italian-Tunisian group studies ancient Roman city Thuburbo Maius

20 January, 17:36

    The archaeologist site of Thuburbo Maius in Tunisia The archaeologist site of Thuburbo Maius in Tunisia

    TUNIS - A new adventure has started for the archaeologists of Alma Mater Studorium University of Bologna (Unibo), on the other side of the Mediterranean, in Tunisia. In June and September last year, two campaigns of cooperation were organized with Tunisian archaeologists at the site of Thuburbo Maius, an ancient Roman city whose remains are some 60 km south of Tunis. Originally a Punic centre, the city was founded again by the Romans in 27 BC and grew to become an important economic centre for the production of wheat, olives and fruit: its period of utmost expansion, with the construction of the main buildings, was between 150 and 200 AD. The areas on which archaeologists are focusing are the monumental complexes of the winter spa, the summer spa and the Petronii gymnasium.

    The initiative - according to a statement issued by the university - is part of the project "Alibi Archaeologies. Rediscovering Roman Tunisia", co-funded by the Italian foreign ministry and the University of Bologna. The website of Thuburbo Maius is the first case study selected for activities on the ground, under a proposal of the Institut National du Patrimoine (Inp) in Tunis through the official responsible for the site, Hamden Ben Romdhane. The objective is to finalize the research and training for conservation and valorization, in convention with Inp and the Faculté des Lettres de l'Université de la Manouba (Flahm): the initiative is co-directed by Hamden Ben Romdhane (Inp) and Lamia Ben Abid (Flahm), with Antonella Coralini for Alma Mater.

    "For the past few years, the Italian-Tunisian inter-disciplinary and inter-university working group led by the Institut National du Patrimoine and the faculty of Archaeology and Roman art history of Alma Mater has decided to test strategies and methods of intervention devised on the sites and archaeological museums of our peninsula in another region of the Mediterranean", explained professor Coralini. "This new challenge was conceived here, with particular attention on the development of old digs and part of the heritage which, though under the limelight, is still waiting to be documented, studied and fully exploited: both on paper, with publications, and on the ground, with adequate interventions of conservation and presentation".

    On the site of Thubirbo Maius, researchers worked on reliefs with laser scanners and drones, made by Tommaso Empler and Arianna Caldarone, architects of Sapienza University in Rome, as part of the research convention with the Department of history, cultures and civilizations of Alma Mater. The results were then integrated by the analysis of the state of conservation (by Nicola Santopuoli), by stratigraphic reading (directed by Hamden Ben Romdhane, in cooperation with Hajer Krimi, research director at Inp and responsible for the site and the region of Sousse/Hadrumetum) and a systematic sampling campaign of construction material (by Karima Zoghlami, Université de Bizerte). The winter spa area was moreover the location of a lab (coordinated by Salvatore Mancuso and Federica Formisano, students of Archaeology and cultures of the ancient world) which saw students working on a technique allowing archaeologists to quickly obtain high-quality data with three-dimensional models to study in detail the analysed structures and reconstruction hypotheses. Finally, a mission was organized to the Museum of Carthage, directed by Lamia Ben Abid (Flahm) and dedicated to the recovery and documentation of findings from Thuburbo Maius.

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