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MOGADOR (“Cerne”) Morocco.

Thanks to chance finds made in 1950 and excavations carried out from 1956 to 1958, we know that the small, now uninhabited island that lies about 2 km offshore opposite the town of Essaouira (Mogador) was visited in antiquity and occupied on several occasions for varying periods of time.

To the SE of the island a large dump revealed a great many potsherds dating back to the 7th and 6th c. B.C.: red-glazed pottery from Cyprus and Phoenicia as well as amphorae, tripods, and ordinary vases of the same origin, several of them carrying Punic graffiti. There were Ionian and Attic amphorae, and painted pottery in the Ionian tradition. On the other hand there are very few traces of houses, just stone or tamped clay floors and large hearths which some say show traces of the fires by which, according to Herodotos (4.196), Carthaginian merchants announced their arrival to the natives. These remains suggest that the site was a temporary, probably seasonal, stopping-place for sailors and merchants from Phoenicia, Carthage, or Gades, whose visits to the island ceased, however, after the 6th c. A single amphora neck from the 3d-2d c. B.C. shows that they passed that way in this period, but then the island remained uninhabited until the Augustan era.

At that time a villa, built of mud and unburnt brick on stone foundations, was put up on the E slope facing the nearby shore. Later, at the end of the 2d c. A.D., it was reused and enlarged; a cistern, water supply, and tanks were added. It appears to have been still inhabited in the 4th c., when one of the rooms was decorated with a mosaic showing two peacocks confronted; however, this depends on the accuracy of the date suggested for the mosaic. But the over-all building plan cannot be discerned today; remains are limited to some 20 rooms aligned N to S over a length of more than 100 m, all the E part of the villa having been swept away by erosion of the shoreline. Excavations have revealed a great deal of Roman pottery, from Etrusco-Campanian black to late Roman D terra sigillata; also of note is a very fine Arretine vase, almost intact, from the hand of the potter P. Cornelius. Coins range from the 1st c. B.C. to the middle of the 5th c. A.D.; through them we know for how long the island was visited, if not permanently occupied. A necropolis has been uncovered N of the villa; it seems to correspond to the last period, and contained a Latin funerary inscription, all but undecipherable.

According to M. Jodin, the settlement was created under Juba II (33 B.C-A.D. 17) for the purpose of manufacturing purple, and the discovery of a heap of purpura haemastoma and murex shells near Essaouira would seem to justify this interpretation. On the other hand, the identification of the island of Mogador with Cerne appears equally likely: as a port of call for Punic sailors and no doubt the limit of their navigation, it answers the description Pliny (6.199) gave of the island after Polybios and Cornelius Nepos.


M. Tarradell, Marruecos punico (1960) 184-96; L. Galand, J. Février & G. Vajda, Inscriptions antiques du Maroc (1966) 109-23; A. Jodin, Mogador, comptoir phénicien du Maroc atlantique (1966)MPI; Les Etablissements du roi Juba II aux Iles Purpuraires (Mogador) (1967)MPI.


hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (2):
    • Herodotus, Histories, 4.196
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 6.36
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