(El Kantara) Tunisia.
On the tip of
the island of Jerba, facing the mainland, it lies on the
Syrtic gulf, on whose shore each successive culture set
up an emporium. The growth of the site was favored by
vigorous trading between the interior of the region and
the eastern Mediterranean; also, like all the cities in this
area, it came under Eastern and Hellenistic influence. Its
position enabled it to profit from these widespread contacts; but its prosperity (attested by Pliny) came strictly from the richness of the island which it dominated and from the ancient causeway linking it with the continent
and the famed purple industry. Vibius Gallus and Volisius were proclaimed emperor there in 251.
Situated in the SW part of the island on a bay formed
by the point of Castille Fort to the E and that of Tabella
to the W, the vast ruins form mounds of wavy sand
strewn along the shoreline over an area 2.5 km x 300-700 m. Excavated at the start of the French occupation and then sporadically until 1943, the site is abandoned today and threatened by encroaching tourism on the island. Those sections or monuments that have been uncovered (none completely) are left to the erosion of the elements or human depredation.
The causeway linking the island and the mainland
across an arm of the sea was built in the Roman period
and rebuilt in recent years. This chain of land touches
the island midway along a bend in the coastline to the
N, where the city with its warehouses and markets first
starts to spread out. A large esplanade 70 m from the
shore, presumed to be the forum, was very soon explored. Several pillars of reddish stone were found, carved with Victories and Barbarians; some of them were removed either to the Louvre or, on two occasions, to
the Bardo Museum in Tunis. These sculptures presumably
belonged to a monumental colonnade (of which 12 bases
were excavated as well as a statue identical to another
discovered previously), suggesting that a monument of a
rare Hellenistic type once stood on that spot.
In 1881 excavations of the same monument uncovered
six columns of pink white-veined marble, aligned and
ringed with a second colonnade of green marble, as well
as a large Corinthian frieze fragment of the same marble
taken to belong to the frieze of the monument. A great
basilica with three mosaic-paved naves, long known by
its cruciform baptistery in the Bardo, was incompletely
excavated in 1901. Another, smaller basilica, 400 m from
the mosque, was discovered and partially excavated.
Some baths were explored in 1900, and a few inscriptions found. The buildings were paved with mosaics.
In 1942 more baths, situated NE of the city 500 m
from the forum, were excavated and a room was disclosed with a frieze depicting scenes. Several other monuments and remains have been noted without being studied, or excavated without being identified. The many
cisterns and hydraulic installations should also be added
to this list.
Excavations, and especially the open trench dug along
the shore, have laid bare a great number of houses with
rough-cast rooms, some paved with mosaics. One mosaic
covered an area of 10 x 3 m and terminated in a semi-circular apse; another with a design of four plumed horses was found inside the French military camp when it was being set up. Still another mosaic, representing a
nereid, formed the floor of an indeterminate building
near the shore close by the borj. Another house had walls
covered with paintings. A five-room building excavated
in 1934 disclosed an inscription now preserved in the Bardo.
The necropolis lies 1500 m NW of the city, near a
great basilica. In it was a large funerary vault cut in the
tufa; it was excavated in 1941. Lastly, there is an amphitheater near the city.
P. Gauckler, “Fouilles en Tunisie,” RA
(1901) 403; P. M. Duval, “Recherches archéologiques à