previous next

THUBURSICU NUMIDARUM or Thubursicum (Khamissa) Algeria.

Situated 32 km NW of Thagaste and 40 km SE of Calama, this city is probably the town of which Tacitus speaks in connection with the revolt of Tacfarinas in the time of Tiberius. Chief site of an indigenous tribe, it was a municipium by A.D. 100, elevated by Trajan (Municipium Ulpium Traianum Augustum Thubursicu), and its inhabitants enrolled in the Papiria tribe. It became a colony before A.D. 270. The seat of a bishopric and twice visited by St. Augustine, it was later occupied by the Byzantines.

Excavations were conducted from 1900 to 1922. Only one part of the town has been cleared. The town was set up first on a nearly triangular hill and afterwards spread toward the N and NW over the slopes and even into the valley. The town included especially an early public square and a basilica; in the lower town are found the new forum, baths, and an arch with three openings. A number of other monuments may be pointed out: two arches, a theater, pools around a fountain, a chapel with three aisles (probably Byzantine), small Byzantine forts with a trapezoidal surrounding wall of the early era, undoubtedly used as a refuge. Most of the objects collected, especially the statues, are in the Guelma Museum.

The ancient public square was built on the steep N slope of the hill, which had to be cut into in order to provide a level surface; it was extended to the N by a retaining wall where there were buildings, some of which were undoubtedly shops. The square measures 21.7 m on the E and W sides, 29.3 m on the S, and 20.8 m on the N. It served perhaps as the forum for the municipality whereas the new forum would date from the colony; the ancient square, however, was not abandoned; the paving was repaired between A.D. 323 and 333. There were no entrance arches; access was gained by stairs. To the S, E, and N the place was bordered by porticos. Several luxuriously decorated buildings adjoined it, among them some temples, one of which was no doubt the capitol; one of these temples shows the persistence of Punic traditions. To the E there is a rectangular basilica (39.1 x 28.4 m) with a cryptoportico, an entrance on one long side, and a rectangular colonnade. Paved in limestone, with walls covered with marble, decorated with statues, it was undoubtedly constructed in the 2d c., then restored.

L'Aïn el Youdi was considered as the origin of Medjerda; several structures were established there: a large rectangular pool with a sluice gate, a rectangular pool with a semicircular end, and a third pool intervening; several buildings adjoined them, one of which was a temple to Saturn. The theater was nearby at the foot of the hill. It is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved theaters in Africa. It measures 70 m in breadth; the maximum diameter of the hemicycle is 56.8 m. Entirely of worked stone, it undoubtedly was not completed and does not seem to have an exterior portico. It was not constructed exactly according to the standards of Vitruvius; two vaulted galleries led to the orchestra and the lower part of the cavea; the stage was spacious (breadth 43.6 m, depth 9 m), framed on the E and W by two parascenia; the wall of the stage is still well preserved (9 m high). The theater perhaps dates from the 2d c., or at the latest from the 3d.

The new forum, situated NW at the foot of the hill, dates from A.D. 360-70. It is entered by an arch with three bays. A market with porticos adjoined, as did baths with a circular tepidarium and semicircular latrines. A large hall measures 14.6 x 13.9 m.


S. Gsell, Les monuments antiques de l'Algérie (1901) I-IIPI; Atlas archéologique de l'Algérie (1906) 18, Souk-Arrhas, no. 297MP; and C. A. Joly, Khamissa, Mdaourouch, Announa (1904)PI; L. Leschi, Algérie antique (1952)MI.


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