THE NATIONAL HERITAGE INSTITUTE (INSTITUT NATIONAL DU PATRIMOINE, INP)/UNIVERSITY OF BARCELONA (UB) ‘ALTHIBUROS PROJECT’
The project of the INP and the UB started in 2006 and is expected to continue until at least 2015. Its main objective was to build solid bases for understanding the formation processes of the Numidian states, whose existence during the third to first centuries bc is known through written sources. With this objective, the two institutions agreed to work at the site of Althiburos, a well-known Roman city with clear indications of a pre-Roman past, and its environs. Althiburos (now El Mede'ina, ‘the small town’) is located in the north-west of Tunisia, in the administrative region (gouvernorat) of El Kef, about 45 kilometres south of this town and 215 kilometres south-west of Tunis (Figure 15.1). This area is part of the Tunisian High Tell, which has always been reputed for its agricultural wealth, especially in Antiquity.
The adopted research strategy combines the excavation of the preRoman levels of Althiburos with the survey of its environs, in order to obtain relevant data on the evolution of the territory’s settlement patterns and exploitation, on demography, on the evolution of material culture, as well as on architecture and urbanism (Kallala and Sanmarti 2011; Sanmarti et al. 2012). The digs at Althiburos showed that it was already occupied in the tenth century cal. bc, and archae- obiological data suggest that population increased consistently during the first millennium bc. From the sixth century bc, there is clear evidence of urban changes, culminating in the fourth century bc with
Figure 15.1. Map of northern Tunisia showing the location of Althiburos. Map by Joan Sanmarti et al.
the erection of a defensive wall. These are the first solid data on settlements, lifestyles and material culture of autochthonous communities in the first millennium bc. In general, these data are consistent with the idea that the development of social complexity was linked to the increase of the population density, a process that was obviously favoured by iron metallurgy, already attested at Althiburos by the end of the ninth century bc. This would eventually lead to situations of scarcity, which, in turn, would have prompted the development of political economy and institutionalization. These results constitute a major advance in the knowledge of pre-Roman societies of eastern Maghreb. Nevertheless, this is still far from adequate, since this contribution is very limited from the geographic point of view, and, regarding the chronological dimension, the second millennium bc still constitutes a large gap between the Neolithic period and the Phoenician colonization.