previous next


A large mausoleum in the Batna region, 9 km S-SE of Aïn Yagout, excavated in 1873. The general form is that of indigenous tombs of the type known as cylindrical-based bazina. It is made up of a cone comprising 23 steps, .54 to .58 m high, set on a cylindrical base 59 m in diameter. The total present height is 18.5 m; at the summit is a circular platform, which seems to have supported an aedicula. The cylinder is relatively low (4.43 m) and of fine masonry; it has 60 engaged Doric, unfluted columns, built of five courses of which the last forms the capital. The unadorned architrave is crowned by a cornice with concave Egyptianate molding, separated from it by a series of projecting bosses with beveled sides. Between the columns, at three points equally spaced around the monument, there survive horizontal bas-reliefs, moldings, cyma recta, and fillet. A recent investigation disclosed there the remnants of the entablatures of false doors framed by three recessed flat moldings. A simple fillet above the lintel carries a broad entablature, which varies slightly from one door to the next. This building style, with its mixture of Egyptian and Greek reminiscences is characteristic of Carthaginian monumental architecture.

To the W of the monument an antechamber, now completely in ruins, once probably accommodated the ceremonies of a funerary cult. On its axis, at the level of the third step of the tomb, opens a gallery beginning with an 11-step stairway and leading to a small funeral chamber in the center of the monument. It is furnished with a narrow bench 0.3 m high along the walls. During the excavations of 1873, a reddish revetment was visible on the floor and walls of the gallery and of the room itself. In 1970 a new exploration revealed that the platform of the gallery was made of cedar logs, of which 17 are in a perfect state of preservation. When submitted to radiocarbon dating tests samples taken from these beams gave dates of 220 and 330 B.C. This confirms chronological conclusions drawn from the moldings. Numerous circular tumuli surround the monument; a dry-stone boundary wall perhaps marked the limits of the necropolis; a Moslem cemetery continues the tradition.

This mausoleum, princely in character (the nearby lake was called lacus regius in the Roman period), has been assigned sometimes to Syphax and sometimes to Masinissa or his successors. Syphax would have had his tomb built in Massaesylian territory in W Numidia and not in this region; in any case, he was not buried here since he died in exile at Tibur. We believe that it was erected by a Massilian king before the reign of Masinissa; it was perhaps commissioned by Gaïa, who died before A.D. 205.


C. Texier, “Exploration de la province de Constantine et des Zibans,” RA 1st series, 5 (1848-49) 129; A. Cahen, “Le Medracen, rapport de fouilles,” Recueil des Not. et Mém. de la soc.arch. de Constantine 16 (1873-74) 1; Brunon, “Mémoire sur les fouilles exécutées au Medracen,” ibid. 303; S. Gsell & R. Graillot, “Exploration archéologique dans le département de Constantine,” MélRome 14 (1894) 17-86; G. Camps, Aux origines de la Berbérie, Monuments et rites funéraires protohistoriques (1961) 201, see bibl. p. 583; id., “Nouvelles observations sur l'Architecture et l'Âge du Medracen, Mausolée royal de Numidie,” CRAI (1973) 470-517.


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: