Before the Roman annexation of Numidia, the town of Thugga, built on an elevated site overlooking a fertile plain, was the capital of an important Libyco-Punic state. It flourished under Roman and Byzantine rule, but declined in the Islamic period. The impressive ruins that are visible today give some idea of the resources of a small Roman town on the fringes of the empire.
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Outstanding Universal Value
The archaeological site of Thugga/Dougga is located in the North-west region of Tunisia, perched on the summit of a hill at an altitude of 571 m, dominating the fertile valley of Oued Khalled. Before the Roman annexation of Numidia, Thugga had existed for more than six centuries and was, probably, the first capital of the Numidian kingdom. It flourished under Roman rule but declined during the Byzantine and Islamic periods. The impressive ruins which are visible today give an idea of the resources of a Romanised Numidian town.
The archaeological site covers an area of approximately 75 ha. These ruins of a complete city with all its components are a testimony to more than 17 centuries of history. They are an outstanding example illustrating the synthesis between different cultures: Numidian, Punic, Hellenistic, and Roman. The Roman monuments were integrated within the urban fabric, essentially Numidian. Despite its relative unimportance in the administrative structure of the Roman province of Africa, Dougga possesses a remarkable group of public buildings, dating for the most part from the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. Dougga is considered the best preserved example of an Africo-Roman town in North Africa. As such, it is an exceptional illustration of what daily life was like in Antiquity.
Criterion (ii): The site of Dougga is an outstanding example of the birth, development and history of an indigenous city since the second millennium BC. The site of Dougga conserves the complete ruins of an antique city with all its components and provides the best known example of town layout of an indigenous foundation, adapted to town planning on the Roman model.
Criterion (iii): The important epigraphic collection (over 2000 Libyan, Punic, bilingual, Greek and above all Latin inscriptions) has made a decisive contribution to the decipherment of the Libyan language and knowledge of the social and municipal life of the Numidians, testifying to the level of development attained by the city during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC.
Over approximately two and a half centuries, two legally distinct communities, one comprising an indigenous population and the other a community of settlers who were Roman citizens, coexisted in the same town and on the same territory. They both equally participated in the development and flourishing of the city.
Whilst retaining its largely Numidian urban fabric, Thugga therefore took on the aspect of a Roman monumental city. In this respect, it constitutes a representative example of a Maghreb city under the Numidian kings and during the first centuries of the Roman Empire.
In comparison to similar sites in North Africa, the ruins of the Roman and pre-Roman city of Thugga are surprisingly complete and well preserved. Consequently, they illustrate in an exceptional manner what daily life was like in a small provincial town during the Roman period.
Within its boundaries, the archaeological site of Dougga conserves, in its entirety, the vestiges of the different periods of the Antique city with all its components: the monumental centre (capitol, forum, market, Rose of the winds square, etc.), entertainment buildings (theatre, circus) and public baths, clearly reflecting the way an indigenous foundation evolved during the Roman period
The state of conservation of these monuments is also exceptional. The level of authenticity of the archaeological remains is very high and has not been affected by restoration activities and conservation interventions over the past century because they have been minimal and were carried out in conformity with the principles of the 1964 Venice Charter. However, there are some exceptions. The authenticity of the Libyco-Punic mausoleum reconstructed between 1908 and 1910 has long remained subject of debate (although it might be argued that this monument has retained its own historicity).
Protection and management requirements (2009)
In addition to the many monuments benefiting from a specific listing as historic monuments, the archaeological site of Dougga is protected by Law 35-1994 of 24 February 1994 concerning the protection of archaeological and historical heritage and traditional arts (Heritage Code), as well as by Law 83-87 of 11 November 1983 concerning the protection of agricultural land, modified and completed by Law 90-45 of 23 April 1990 and by Law 96-104 of 25 November 1996.
A proposal for the boundary of the site of Dougga was submitted to the National Heritage Commission for the creation of the Cultural site of Dougga and its landscape. The study for the development of the Protection and Enhancement Plan (PPMV) for the site, as defined by the Heritage Code, was completed. This legal tool shall enable the control of all interventions undertaken at the site and in the surrounding buffer zone of 200 m. In addition to prohibited activities or those only authorised under certain conditions, it defines the different implementation mechanisms. The PPMV is the management tool that guarantees the preservation of the archaeological site of Dougga and enables the control of all eventual modifications in its immediate environment.
The archaeological site of Dougga is the best-preserved example in North Africa of the rise, development, and daily life over more than 17 centuries of an indigenous Numidian city. Many of its monuments are unique of their type and bear witness to the harmonious synthesis of several cultures - Numidian, Punic, Hellenistic, and Roman - making it an exceptional site. The important epigraphic collection from Dougga, comprising over 2,000 Libyan, Punic, Greek and Roman inscriptions, has made a decisive contribution to the decipherment of the Libyan language and to knowledge of the social and municipal life of the Numidians and Roman colonial policy and municipal organization in its provinces.
Thugga is thought on the basis of recent excavations of an early necropolis on the northern edge of the site to have been founded before the 5th century BC. In the early 2nd century BC the Numidian Massimissa made it one of his capitals. In 46 BC Julius Caesar annexed eastern Numidia as the Roman province of Africa Nova, and Thugga became a Roman town. Then during the reign of Augustus the town was formally composed of two legally distinct communities: a shifting indigenous population who were governed according to their traditional systems, and a community of Roman citizens belonging to the Roman colonia of Carthage, who lived according to the Roman way.
Although small, its inhabitants never having exceeded 5,000, it flourished from its rural economy based on its rich and fertile territorium. Its prosperity seems to have continued throughout the 4th century, judging by the considerable amount of restoration and rehabilitation attested by numerous inscriptions, but urban life declined in the 5th century. The re-establishment of Byzantine rule (533-698) saw Thugga assigned a minor role in the political and economic life of the region. Little is known of the town in the Islamic period, beyond the erection of the simple Mosque of Sidi Sahbi.
The original Numidian settlement was built on a steep hillside, in the centre of a very fertile region. Thugga possesses a remarkable assemblage of public buildings - temples and sanctuaries, forum, public baths, theatre, amphitheatre, circus, market, public cisterns and fountains, etc. Private life is also well represented by large and small houses, shops, and mausolea.
The small rectangular forum, which is surrounded by a marble colonnade, is crossed by part of the later Byzantine fortifications. On one side of it is the capitolium, dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, one of the finest buildings of its type in North Africa. The theatre is small and is of standard Roman form. The scenae frons (stage) was originally floored with mosaic. Among the many temples is that dedicated to Juno Caelestis (the Punic goddess Tanit), built around 230. The temple of Saturn, on the edge of the town in the area of the pre-Roman settlement, is located on the site of an older sanctuary dedicated to Baal. There are two triumphal arches: that of Septimius Severus is much degraded, but the Arch of Severus Alexander still stands to a substantial height. The well-preserved 3rd-century Licinian bath is an excellent example of this type of municipal facility.
One of the most significant monuments in Thugga is the Lybico-Punic mausoleum in the southern part of the town, but it was reconstructed in 1908-10. This is the only major monument of Punic architecture still surviving in Tunisia.
In 1961 the Tunisian Government relocated all but two families of the remaining inhabitants of the archaeological site to a new village, Dougga-al-Jadida. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
According to Diodorus Siculus, writing at the end of the 4th century BC, Thugga was a city of a ''fine size." It is thought to have been founded, in the centre of a very fertile region, before the 5th century BC, on the basis of recent excavations of an early necropolis on the northern edge of the site. When he conquered the region in the early 2nd century BC, the Numidian Massinissa made it one of his capitals, and it shared in the expansion and prosperity of the kingdom (and also some of its political tribulations during the Punic Wars) under his successors, becoming the centre of the Libyco-Punic culture.
After his defeat of Juba I at the battle of Thapsus in 46 BC Julius Caesar annexed eastern Numidia as the Roman province of Africa Nova, and Thugga became a Roman town. For two and a half centuries, starting in the reign of Augustus (27-14 BC), the town was formally composed of two legally distinct communities: a shifting indigenous population who were governed according to their traditional systems, and a community of Roman citizens belonging to the Roman colonia of Carthage, who lived according to the Roman way.
The Roman influence was quick to make its impact on the nature of the town. Whilst it retained what was essentially a Numidian urban fabric, Thugga acquired a typically Roman monumental appearance. Although small, its inhabitants never having exceeded five thousand, it flourished from its rural economy based on its rich and fertile territorium, especially in the boom years for the North African economy in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and so the quality of the public buildings was high, as was that of the private houses. It should be emphasized, however, that Thugga was in the Roman period never more than a prosperous country market town.
Under the Severan emperors (193-235) Thugga was raised to the status of municipium, and Gallienus elevated it to the highest level of provincial town, that of colonia in 261. It had also become the seat of a bishopric in the 3rd century. Its prosperity seems to have continued, albeit at a lower level, throughout the 4th century, judging by the considerable amount of restoration and rehabilitation attested by numerous inscriptions, but urban life declined in the 5th century.
The re-establishment of Byzantine rule (533-698) saw Thugga assigned a minor role in the political and economic life of the region. The forum and capitolium were enclosed during his period by a wall, for the building of \\hich some of the important public buildings were robbed of their decorative and structural elements.
Little is known of the town in the Islamic period, beyond the fact that it continued to be inhabited for a considerable period, as demonstrated by the erection of the simple Mosque of Sidi Sahbi, to the east of the capitolium, in the 14th century. It is hoped that further excavations will throw more light on the eventual abandonment of his once thriving city.
Source: Advisory Body Evaluation