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MACOMADES MINORES later IUNCI (Younga) Tunisia.

Situated 45 km S of Sfax and 10 km SE of Maharès, the site extends for nearly 3 km along the shore, its sandy mounds of ruins dominated by an imposing fortress. Visited by 19th c. travelers, the site remained little explored; only the citadel and a vaulted cistern had been located before the excavation of three Early Christian basilicas. Yet this city had a long history. On the shore of Syrtis Minor, alongside the Carthage-Tacape highway, at the intersection where the major inland route from Sufetula reached the sea, the city owed its importance to its position on a crossroads opening onto a port that was well known and reputable in antiquity.

First noted in the 1st c. B.C., it passed uneventfully through the period of the Empire and was mentioned in the lists of bishops attending the councils of 411 and 523. It played a strategic role when Byzantine emperors gave it a rampart, then a citadel, which provided a refuge for Jean Troglita's defeated troops; and in the Arabian period when the Aghlabite emirs, as part of their policy of defending the African coastline, occupied and reinforced the fortress in the 9th c.

Long believed to be Macomades Minores (in contrast to Macomades Maiores in Sirtus Major), its identification was confirmed by the discovery of a milestone in situ. The name of the site was changed probably in the Late Empire to Iunci, and according to some historians is the Qsar-er-Roum described by El Bekri and El Idrisi.

Excavation has revealed three Early Christian monuments of interest. The first church, 300 m NE of the fortress, is oriented E-NE-W-SW. Rectangular in plan, it measures 55 x 32 m and terminates at either end in an apse. The E apse projects outside the general framework of the building; the W counter-apse is integrated in a rectangular space. The quadratum populi consists of five naves separated by rows of columns and pillars (28.5 x 25.7 m) opening to the S through a triple doorway onto a narthex. Parallel to the latter is another narthex which opens onto three aligned rooms, the middle one (9.8 x 8.8 m) containing the counter-apse at the rear. In front of this apse is the choir; it is raised over a vaulted crypt (2.45 x 1.3 m and 2 m high), in the arcosolium of which was found a small broken reliquary that had held a pyxis of ivory (badly damaged) decorated with religious scenes. The whole complex—the two nartheces and the other rooms—was paved with geometric mosaics. The most noteworthy of these is an emblema 2.8 m square in the second narthex, opposite the room with the counter-apse; the foreground shows a semicircular facade out of which flow the Four Rivers of Paradise.

On the other side, to the E, in front of the apse, was the presbyterium dais. Measuring 6.3 x 5.5 m and raised 0.35 m, it was paved with a geometric mosaic (double axes) with the epitaph (1 x 0.4 m) of Bishop Quodbuldeus inscribed in black characters on a white ground above his tomb. The epitaph is now preserved at the Bardo Museum in Tunis.

Scattered fragments of a mensa of the Coptic type were found, probably in this same basilica. A number of fragments of painted or architectural stucco have been found on the floor of this monument.

The second church is situated 300 m from the shore, 450 m from the fort to the W. With its annexes it measures 78 x 35 m and is 1.5 m below ground. Oriented NW-SE, it consists of a central nave 8 m wide flanked by two lateral naves 5.5 m wide that are terminated on one side by three great projecting apses (the axial ones with a 7.9 m span and 5.25 m deep; the lateral ones, 6.8 m in span and 7.2 m deep). The trefoil arrangement of these apses in relation to the transept is an original combination of the Romano-African tradition and Byzantine influence. In the axis of the basilica, opposite the central apse and 20 m from the choir platform, is a semicircular exedra 6.7 m in span and 4.5 m deep designed for the synthronon. This space was complemented by three rooms opening onto the NE side. One of them was a memoria (10.6 x 4 m), also terminating in a raised apse; it contained a reliquary with the mensa above it, a fragment of which, in ivory-colored marble, has been recovered.

The different floors of this complex were paved with a variety of mosaics. The central apse (5.25 m deep and 7.9 m in span) was decorated with a mosaic (now in the Bardo Museum) depicting a tracery of vine leaves curling out of medallions that contained various birds and bearing the inscription CUIUS NOMEN DEUS SCIT VOTUM SOLBIT. Likewise, the choir platform, which measured 7.1 x 15.3 m and was raised 0.5 m, was covered with a mosaic of 6 x 5 panels containing animals and human figures or geometric motifs with stylized palms, the whole edged with a floral design. The architectural fragments apparently were recovered a long time ago.

The third monument, another basilica designed around a baptistery, is 30 m S-SE of the first. Measuring 32.15 x 10.86 m, it has a quadratum with three naves fronted by a narthex 4 m wide with a facade built of a masonry of large blocks, and terminating on the other side in an apse. In front of the latter, inside the church, is a choir platform which widens out to measure 2.7 x 6.4 m and 0.55 high. The baptistery was in the rear of the apse and was oriented N-NE-S-SW, on the same axis as the monument. Measuring 3.75 x 1.37 m, it had four steps. A fragment of a marble mensa has been recovered along with a frustum of a small column, and a stone slab with a design of a Latin cross surmounted by a globe. Many stuccos and paintings were also found on the mosaic floor of the presbyterium and choir; most of these are now in the Bardo Museum in Tunis.


G. L. Feuille, “Le baptistère de Iunca,” CahArch 3 (1948) 75-81; P. Garrigue, “Une Basilique byzantine à Iunca en Byzacène,” MélRome 65 (1953) 173-96P.


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