The Tophet

Together with Carthage and Utica, Hadrumetum was one of the oldest cities of ancient Africa. Ancient sources consider it a Phoenician foundation, which is, according to the Roman historian Sallust[1], older than Carthage. Simple Maritime and Commercial relay at the beginning, it had become one of the largest cities in Africa when Rome destroyed Carthage in 146 BC.

The excavations that were conducted there were supervised by P. Cintas[2], confirm this activity undertaken at the end of the 7th century BC.

The results of these excavations are exhibited in one of the rooms of the museum where we find steles and ceramics, including funeral urns

Steles and ceramics

Steles and ceramics

funeral urn

funeral urn

stele

stele

The history of this monument is illustrated by a large panel displaying a vertical stratigraphy demonstrating an uninterrupted sacrificial activity during 8 centuries approximately, a life greater than that of the Tophet of Carthage.

Stratigraphy of the tophet

Stratigraphy of the tophet

The purpose of the monument such as the principle of burial is the same as in the tophet of Carthage. It is a six-floor cemetery where were placed urns containing the charred remains of children and animals sacrificed for the most famous divine couple of Punic Africa, Baal- Hammon and Tanit. The procedure is well known: an urn full of bones and various objects placed in a circular alveolus of about thirty centimeters in diameter delimited by stones and topped with a pebble, a stele or a cippus. When all the sacrificial area is entirely filled with urns, and when there is no more room to accommodate one more, they proceed with backfilling the whole with packed earth separating thus the old saturated level with the newly prepared area for future sacrifices. During the eight centuries of activity, this operation had been conducted six times.

 

funeral urn

funeral urn

[1] Guerre de Jugurtha, 19.1.

[2] P. Cintas, Le sanctuaire punique de Sousse, Revue Africaine, 1947, p. 1-80.

 

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