Archaeological Site of Volubilis

Archaeological Site of Volubilis

The Mauritanian capital, founded in the 3rd century B.C., became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and was graced with many fine buildings. Extensive remains of these survive in the archaeological site, located in a fertile agricultural area. Volubilis was later briefly to become the capital of Idris I, founder of the Idrisid dynasty, who is buried at nearby Moulay Idris.

Site archéologique de Volubilis

La capitale de la Maurétanie, fondée au IIIe siècle av. J.-C., fut un avant-poste important de l'Empire romain et a été ornée de nombreux beaux monuments. Il en subsiste d'importants vestiges dans le site archéologique, situé dans une région agricole fertile. La ville devait devenir plus tard, pendant une brève période, la capitale d'Idriss Ie r , fondateur de la dynastie des Idrissides, enterré non loin de là, à Moulay Idriss.

موقع وليلي الاثري

تأسَّست العاصمة الموريسكية في القرن الثالث ق.م. وقد أعطتها الامبراطورية الرومانية أهميةً كبيرةً وخصّصتها بآثارٍ جميلةٍ عدة. ولا تزال آثارٌ عديدةٌ منها صامدةً في الموقع الاثري الذي يقع في منطقةٍ زراعيّةٍ خصبة. ثم أصبحت هذه المنطقة فيما بعد ولفترةٍ قصيرةٍ جداً عاصمة ادريس الاول وهو مؤسس حكم الأدارسة وقد تمّ دفنه في مكانٍ غير بعيد عنها، في مولاي ادريس.

source: UNESCO/ERI

瓦卢比利斯考古遗址

古城建于公元前3世纪,曾是北非古国毛里塔尼亚的首都,是罗马帝国的一个重要前哨,有着许多优雅精致的建筑物。该考古遗址是一个富饶的农业区,在这里挖掘出土过许多重要遗迹和文物。瓦卢比利斯后来曾有一段时期成了伊德里斯王朝的首都,王朝的创立者伊德里斯一世就葬在附近的穆莱伊德里斯。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Археологические памятники Волюбилиса

Волюбилис - столица Мавритании, основанная в III в. до н. э., - стал важным форпостом Римской империи и был украшен многими прекрасными зданиями. Их внушительные руины сохраняются в археологической зоне, расположенной в плодородной сельскохозяйственной местности. Позднее Волюбилис ненадолго стал столицей Идриса I, основателя династии Идрисидов, который похоронен в соседнем городе Мулай-Идрис.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Sitio arqueológico de Volubilis

Fundada en el siglo III a.C., la ciudad de Volubilis, capital de la Mauritania Tingitana, fue un importante puesto de avanzada militar del Imperio Romano en el que se erigieron múltiples monumentos de gran belleza. El sitio arqueológico, ubicado en una fértil región agrícola, conserva importantes vestigios de muchos de ellos. La ciudad sería más tarde la efímera capital de Idris I, fundador de la dinastía de los idrisidas, que está sepultado en el lugar próximo de Muley Idris.

source: UNESCO/ERI

ヴォルビリスの古代遺跡
先史時代からの集落があり、マウレターニアの首都として整備された前3世紀末頃からの建造物が知られている。1世紀にローマ植民市となり、3世紀にはローマ量から除外された。3世紀を中心とするフォルムやバシリカなどの公共建造物や、「柱の家」「ゴルディアーヌスの宮殿」「野獣の家」「ウェヌスの家」などと呼ばれる広壮な邸宅が多く残っている。8世紀末イドリース朝が再びこの地を首都とした。

source: NFUAJ

Archeologische site van Volubilis

De archeologische omgeving van Volubilis vormt een grote getuigenis van stedelijke ontwikkeling en romanisering aan de grenzen van het Romeinse Rijk. De Mauritaanse hoofdstad werd gesticht in de 3e eeuw voor Christus. De stad ontwikkelde zich tot een belangrijke buitenpost van het Romeinse Rijk en werd opgeluisterd met veel mooie gebouwen. Volubilis werd later kort de hoofdstad onder het regime van Idris I, stichter van de Idrisid dynastie en begraven in het nabijgelegen Moulay Idris . De archeologische overblijfselen getuigen van verschillende beschavingen uit de tien eeuwen van bezetting, van de prehistorie tot de islamitische periode.

Source: unesco.nl

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Basilica and Capitol © Barbara Blanchard
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Volubilis contains essentially Roman vestiges of a fortified municipium built on a commanding site at the foot of the Jebel Zerhoun. Covering an area of 42 hectares, it is of outstanding importance demonstrating urban development and Romanisation at the frontiers of the Roman Empire and the graphic illustration of the interface between the Roman and indigenous cultures. Because of its isolation and the fact that it had not been occupied for nearly a thousand years, it presents an important level of authenticity. It is one of the richest sites of this period in North Africa, not only for its ruins but also for the great wealth of its epigraphic evidence.

The archaeological vestiges of this site bear witness to several civilizations. All the phases of its ten centuries of occupation, from prehistory to the Islamic period are represented. The site has produced a substantial amount of artistic material, including mosaics, marble and bronze statuary, and hundreds of inscriptions. This documentation and that which remains to be discovered, is representative of a creative spirit of the human beings who lived there over the ages. The limit of the site is represented by the Roman rampart constructed in 168-169 AD. The features of the site reveal two topographic forms: a relatively flat sloping area in the North-Eastern part, the monumental sector and a part of the sector of the triumphal arch, where the Romans employed an urban hypodamian system, and a rougher hilly area covering the South and Western parts where a terraced plan was adopted. The vestiges bear testimony to diverse periods, from Mauritanian times when it was part of an independent kingdom, to the Roman period when it was a metropolis of the Roman province of Mauritania Tingitana, a period called the « dark ages » with towards the end a Christian era, and finally an Islamic period characterised by the founding of the dynasty of the Idrissids.

Criterion (ii): The archaeological site of Volubilis is an outstanding example of a town bearing witness to an exchange of influences since High Antiquity until Islamic times. These interchanges took place in a town environment corresponding to the boundary of the site, and in a rural area extending between the prerif ridges from Zerhoun and the Gharb Plain. These influences testify to Mediterranean, Libyan and Moor, Punic, Roman and Arab-Islamic cultures as well as African and Christian cultures. They are evident in the urban evolution of the town, the construction styles and architectural decorations and landscape creation.

Criterion (iii): This site is an outstanding example of an archaeological and architectural complex and of a cultural landscape bearing witness to many cultures (Libyco-Berber and Mauritanian, Roman, Christian and Arabo-Islamic) of which several have disappeared.

Criterion (iv): The archaeological site of Volubilis is an outstanding example of a focus for the different kinds of immigration, cultural traditions and lost cultures (Libyco-Berber and Mauritanian, Roman, Christian and Arabo-Islamic) since High Antiquity until the Islamic period.

Criterion (vi): The archaeological site of Volubilis is rich in history, events, ideas, beliefs and artistic works of universal significance, notably as a place that, for a brief period, became the capital of the Muslim dynasty of the Idrissids. The town of Moulay Idriss Zerhoun adjacent to the site houses the tomb of this founder and is the subject of an annual pilgrimage.

Integrity (2009)

The buffer zone (Decision 32 COM 8B.55) and the boundaries of the site (Decision 32 COM 8D) were clarified and approved by the World Heritage Committee in 2008. The boundaries of the property include all the preserved elements that belonged to the fortified town and its outer buildings.

The abandonment of the town for many centuries ensured that its ruins remained in an excellent state of conservation. The ruins should be the subject of long-term conservation programmes to preserve their authenticity.

Authenticity (2009)

Volubilis is remarkable for its urban conception (hypodamian plan and terraced plan), its execution according to well-defined architectural and defensive standards, its construction materials representing various geological aspects, its components reflecting a wealth of town facilities; all these features are still visible today.  It is also characterised by its integration into a natural intact landscape and an original cultural environment.

Protection and management requirements (2009)

Protection measures principally concern the different laws for listing historic monuments and sites, in particular Law 22-80 (1981) regarding the conservation of Moroccan heritage.  The management of the site is based on an Action Plan, which refers to a national and international legal statute as well as to the strategy of the Ministry of Culture and decisions of the World Heritage Committee.  The management concerns conservation, preventive conservation, excavations, maintenance, security, restoration, presentation of the site and preservation of its protection area. The management plan is under preparation by the Conservation departement of Volubilis, the body responsible for the management of the site. Adoption of the protection zone, the establishment of land ownership of the property, the preparation of the cadastral plan and the development project being established by the Ministry of Culture, all constitute the basic elements of this document.  The management plan should treat all new interventions at the site.

Long Description

Volubilis is an exceptionally well-preserved example of a large Roman colonial town on the fringes of the empire. The archaeological remains of several civilizations are to be found there, representing all the phases of its 10 centuries of occupation, from prehistory continuously through to the Islamic period. Volubilis has produced a substantial amount of artistic material, including mosaics, marble and bronze statuary, and hundreds of inscriptions in situ .

The name of Volubilis is known both from ancient texts and from the abundant epigraphic material from the site itself. Its origin is unknown but may be a Latinized version of the Berber name for the oleander oualilt , which grows in profusion on the banks of Wadi Khoumane that runs round part of the site.

Its easily defensible location at the foot of the Jbel Zerhoun and the good soils of the plain, suitable for agriculture and the cultivation of fruit trees (especially olives), attracted settlers to the site of Volubilis at least as early as the 3rd century BC, as shown by a Punic inscription found in the town. By the time of the Mauritanian kingdom, whose capital was here from the 3rd century BC until AD 40, Volubilis already had a defensive wall. The town appears to have been laid out on a regular plan on the Punic-Hellenistic model.

The town developed along Roman lines during the reigns of Juba II and Ptolemy, when it may have been the capital. The Roman annexation of the Mauritanian kingdom in AD 40 led to the creation of two provinces; Volubilis was given the status of a municipium in one of these. It rapidly expanded to its maximum extent, with the construction of many public and private buildings, the latter associated with craft and industrial installations, most notably for the production of olive oil, the main product of the region. Epigraphic evidence points to the fact that the inhabitants of Volubilis during the Roman period were ethnically mixed, with Jews, Syrians and Spaniards living alongside the indigenous African population.

During the reigns of Roman emperors a town wall, with eight monumental gates, and a new monumental centre including a capitol and basilica, were constructed. The triumphal arch of Caracalla, which spans the decumanus maximus , is the point of articulation between the Punic-Hellenistic town and the extension in the Roman period to the north-east. At the beginning of the reign of Diocletian, in 285, the Romans abruptly abandoned southern Tingitana, for reasons that remain obscure, and Volubilis entered its 'dark age'. The aqueduct that brought water to the town having been broken, the inhabitants moved to the west of the triumphal arch, where they built a new residential area near Wadi Khoumane. This was separated from the upper part of the town by a new defensive wall, which came down to the river bank. The area of the triumphal arch became the cemetery of this community. Four inscriptions dated to between 599 and 655 reveal that this was a Christian community with civic institutions still in place.

Documents and coins show that Volubilis had converted to Islam before the arrival of Idris. His son favoured Fez over Volubilis, but the latter was not completely abandoned, although there must have been substantial movements of its inhabitants to the new town of Moulay Idris nearby. Almoravid raids later in the 11th century spelt the end of many centuries of continuous occupation.

The ruins of Volubilis, which consist of no more than half of the original town, are located on a commanding site at the foot of the Jbel Zerhoun, bordered by the two wadis , Khoumane and Ferdassa. The ancient town is well defined by the remains of its walls. They had about 40 interval towers and were entered through eight gates. The buildings of Volubilis are for the most part constructed using the grey-blue limestone quarried nearby on the Zerhoun massif. They are notable for the large number of mosaic floors still in situ . Although they do not attain the artistic level of other North African mosaics, they are lively and varied in form and subject matter. The capitolium abuts on the south end of the basilica. Its cella (sanctuary) is reached by means of a wide flight of steps. Adjoining the capitolium are the contemporary baths, which show evidence of having been reconstructed more than once.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

The name of Volubilis is known both from ancient texts and from the abundant epigraphic material from the site itself Its origin is unknown but may be a Latinized version of the Berber name for the oleander, oualili, which grows in profusion on the banks of the wadi Khoumane that runs round part of the site.

The Roman geographer Pomponius Mela, writing in the 1st century AD, described Volubilis as modestly sized, though he had never visited it. References by Pliny the Elder and in the 2nd century AD Antonine Itinerary, while describing its location, make no comments on its size.

Its easily defensible location at the foot of the Jbel Zerhoun and the good soils of the plain, suitable for agriculture and the cultivation of fruit trees (especially olives), attracted settlers to the site of Volubilis at least as early as the 3rd century BC, as shown by a Punic inscription found in the town. By the time of the Mauritanian kingdom, whose capital was here from the 3rd century BC until AD 40, Volubilis already had a defensive wall, enclosing about a dozen hectares. The town appears to have been laid out on a regular plan on the Punic-Hellenistic model.

The town developed along Roman lines during the reigns of Juba II and Ptolemy (25 BC to AD 40), when it may have been the capital. The Roman annexation of the Mauritanian kingdom in AD 40 led to the creation of two provinces, Mauretania Caesarensis in the east and Mauretania Tingitana in the west; Volubilis was given the status of a municipium in the latter. It rapidly expanded to its maximum extent, with the construction of many public and private buildings, the latter associated with craft and industrial installations, most notably for the production of olive oil, the main product of the region. Epigraphic evidence points to the fact that the inhabitants of Volubilis during the Roman period were ethnically mixed, with Jews, Syrians, and Spaniards living alongside the indigenous African population.

During the reign of Marcus Aurelius a town wall, with eight monumental gates, was constructed in 168- 9, and the Severan emperors provided the to\\11 with a new monumental centre, including a capitol and basilica. This was made possible by Caracalla's remission of taxes, an event commemorated by the construction of a triumphal arch dedicated to him.

At the beginning of the reign of Diocletian, in 285, the Romans abruptly abandoned southern Tingitana, for reasons that remain obscure, and Volubilis entered its "dark age." This was to last until the until the accession of ldris I. The aqueduct that brought water to the town having been broken, the inhabitants of Volubilis, who were by now probably for the most part members of the Berber Baquates tribe, moved to the west of the triumphal arch, where they built a new residential area near the wadi Khoumane. This was separated from the upper part of the town by a new defensive wall, which came down to the river bank.

The area of the triumphal arch became the cemetery of this community. Four inscriptions dated to between 599 and 655 reveal that this was a Christian community with civic institutions still in place.

It is not certain what influence the raids of Oqba ben Nafi (681) or Moussa ben Nossair (710) had on Volubilis. However, documents and coins show that it had converted to Islam before the arrival ofldris. A descendant of the Caliph Ali, Idris was driven during the struggles between the Abbassids and the Shiites to seek refuge in Morocco, where he was well received by the chief of the Aomaba tribe living around Volubilis. He established himself in "Walila," from where he quickly took over the reins of power, creating a new city at Fez. His son Idris II (803-29) favomed Fez over Volubilis, but the latter was not completely abandoned, although there must have been a substantial movement of its inhabitants to the new town of Moulay ldris nearby, founded after the assassination of the founder of the ldrissid dynasty in 791. It was still occupied when El Bekri wrote about it in 1068. However, it is probably that the Almoravid raids later in the 11th century spelt the end of many centuries of continuous occupation.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
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