The Marble Quarries of Chimtou, TUNISIA
- Keywords: Tunisia, Cultural Landscape, archaeological landscape, Marble quarries, Chimtou, Simitthus, numidic marble, golden marble, Numidiam, Roman Empire, roman aqueduct, roman bath, roman theatre.
1. OFFICIAL CLASSIFICATIONS AND CATEGORIES
1.1 National and International Classification Lists
The Marble Quarries of Chimtou and its archaelogical landscape is in the Tentative List of UNESCO (named: “Les carrières antiques de marbre numidique de Chimtou”) since 17/02/2012, with criteria: (ii)(iv), category: cultural, and ref.: 5687.
- Tentative List of UNESCO
1.2. Cultural Landscape Category/Tipology
Organically evolved landscapesRelict (or fossil) landscape
1.3. Description and Justification by Med-O-Med
The quarries of the famous yellow Numidian marble, in Chimtou hills, are in the north-west of Tunisia near the Algerian border. In the 5th century BC a Numidian settlement was founded at this place and became later the Roman colony Simitthus. The site has a great geological and historical interest. The mountain was composed of excellent golden marble, called “numidic marble”. The golden marble of Chimtou was first quarried under Numidian King Micipsa (149 to 118 B.C.). Under Roman rule, the marble served as decoration in public buildings all over the empire, especially in Rome itself. The massive Roman exploitation is responsible for the marvellous scenery offered by the golden Chimtou marble cliffs, an unique cultural landscape that shows how human-being can modify the environment in its own benefit. Also there are, in the site, several ancient remains quite well preserved. They are an unequalled testimony of the extraction and transport techniques implemented during the Roman Empire. The spread of the use of marble all over the mediterranean area was very significant in the development of the architectural ornaments. The quarries, the ancient ruins, together with the intangible historical value of the site and the direct modification that man has made on the natural landscape, are the reasons why Med-O-Med has considered appropiated to include “The Marble Quarries of Chimtou and its archaelogical landscape” as a Relict Cultural Landscape in this inventory.
2. NAME / LOCATION / ACCESSIBILITY
- Current denomination Chimtou.
- Current denomination Chimtou.
- Original denomination Simitthus.
- Popular denomination Chimtou.
- Address: Jendouba Governorate.
- Area, boundaries and surroundings: Chimtou is located in the north-west of Tunisia, near the Algerian border.
- Access and transport facilities: The quarries, the ruins of the ancient town and the new museum are easily accesssible by a good road from the provincial capital Jendouba (National Road 17 (Jendouba - Tabarka) to crossing with Road 59 (Bulla Regia - Thuburnica), then westbound via Aïn Ksir, approximately 16 kms).
3. LEGAL ISSUES
- Owner: Tunisian Government.
- Body responsible for the maintenance: Tunisian Government.
- Legal protection: The acient remains, the sanctuaries and the quarries are, for now more than twenty years, under legal protection.
- Public or private organizations working in the site: From 1965 to 1996 the Tunisian Institute of National Heritage (INP) and the Rome Section of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) set up a programme of research for the ancient quarries and the site of Chimtou. The projec at Chemtou, directed by Friedrich Rakob, focused on the quarries, the Numidian sanctuary at the top of the mountain, the temples of the Dii Mauri and of Caelestis, the Roman forum, Numdian funeral monuments (bazinas) under the forum, and the camp for soldiers, slave-labourers and the imperial adminstration of the quarries which was later transformed to a fabrica for the serial production of marble objects. Other sub-projects studied the Roman brigde over the Madjerda river, the largest bridge in Roman Africa, a turbine-powered mill and the Roman aquaeduct. The new museum of Chemtou opened its gates in 2000. In 2008, the German Archaeological Institute at Rome started a new initiative for the publication of the unpublished results of the excavations 19965-1996.
The golden marble of Chimtou was first quarried under Numidian King Micipsa (149 to 118 B.C.). Under Roman rule, the marble served as decoration in public buildings all over the empire, especially in Rome itself. The massive Roman exploitation is responsible for the marvellous scenery offered by the golden Chimtou marble cliffs.
5. GENERAL DESCRIPTION
5.1. Natural heritage
- Heritage: Archaeological
- Geography: High Mountain
- Site topography: Natural
- Climate and environmental conditions: General overview of the country: Winter rains fall over the northern highlands, with the highest readings along the coast. On parts of the Monts de la Mejerda and Mogod Mountains, annual falls of 1500 mm have been received in what is the wettest part of North Africa. However, at sea level, at Bizerte (37°18'N/9°52'E), mean annual precipitation is 625 mm, declining inland to 490 mm at Zaghouan (36°24'N/10°08'E) some 600 m asl, although again, higher falls are recorded on the nearby massif of Jebel Zaghouan (1294 m). Rainfall is 500 mm/yr at Makthar (35°50'N/9°12'E), 934 m asl, farther south and east, while at an altitude of 68 m asl on the central lowlands, Kairouan (35°42'N/10°01'E) receives an average of 286 mm/rain/yr. Off the east coast, Jerba Island has an average annual receipt of 207 mm/yr. Rainfall varies considerably from year to year, e.g. Makthar received over 900 mm in 1963-64, but only 400 mm in 1966-67. Coastal temperatures are moderated by cool sea breezes, but may occasionally be raised to extremes by a hot dust laden wind from the Sahara. August is the warmest month and mean daily maxima at the coast are then in the region of 31-33°C, while in the northern interior they are 36-38°C. January is the coldest month, when mean daily minima range from 7-8°C at the coast and 3-4°C in the northern interior. Summer temperatures in the far south may exceed 48°C.
- Geological and Geographical characteristics: Marble massif.
Land uses and economical activities:The economy of ancient Simitthus (Chimtou) benefited from the quarries because they required a series of activities which were not performed by forced labourers, but by technicians, accountants and sailors. In 27 AD Simitthus acquired the status of colonia which indicates that many of its inhabitants were Roman citizens. The town had a large forum, the size and location of which have been clearly identified, although the only remaining building is a massive apse of a basilica.
Agricultural issues or other traditional productions and their effect on the landscape:In addition the land along the Mejerda River was fertile and its crops were exported to Rome.
Summary of Landscapes values and characteristics:
The massive Roman exploitation is responsible for the marvellous scenery offered by the golden Chimtou marble cliffs. Also there are several ancient remains quite well preserved. They are an unequalled testimony of the extraction and transport techniques implemented during the Roman Empire.
5.2. Cultural Heritage
A) Related to current constructions, buildings and art pieces in general
Architectonical elements /Sculptures:
The spread of the use of marble all over the mediterranean area was very significant in the development of the architectural ornaments of the Roman Empire.
In the case of gardens: original and current style:It is not the case.
Man-made elements related to water management:
B) Related to ancient remains
- Archaeological components:
From 1965 to 1996 the Tunisian Institute of National Heritage (INP) and the Rome Section of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) set up a programme of research for the ancient quarries and the site of Chimtou. In its course a Numidian sanctuary in Hellenistic style was discovered. It was built in the 2nd. cent. B.C.E. on the Sacred Hill of Chimtou. Its reconstructed Eastern façade forms the central monument displayed in the Chimtou Museum. In course of excavation in the quarry area, the foundations of a Numidian monument were discovered. Around the hill two pagan temples and the remnants of a 5th cent. Christian church were found. Most important excavation result was a set of buildings North of the marble hills, a Roman quarry service camp. At its center were six halls of a prison for forced labourers, to the East the quarters of the military watchmen, to the West a complex for the imperial administration of the quarries. The marble hills of Chimtou are surrounded by the site of ancient Simitthus. The joint Tunisian German excavations there found a cemetery dating from before 400 to 1st cent. B.C. underneath the Roman forum. The graves were preserved and partly reconstructed. The forum itself presents its hillside boutiques and, towards the riverside, a forum basilica and remains of a fountain. On the Majrada river bank lie impressive ruins of a Roman bridge. It is dated into the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. Attached to it was one of the two known water driven turbine flour mills of Roman North Africa. It operated four shafts. A functioning scaled model of the turbine can be seen in the museum. Furthermore, remains of many buildings customary to a Roman city still exist. The rests of a small amphitheatre, a theatre , the forum basilica, another three nave basilica and the city baths still stand above ground.
- Historical routes:
Chimtou quarries played an important role in the marble comerce with Rome and the rest of the Mediterranean area.
- Traces in the environment of human activity: The quarries and all the ancient remains.
C) Related to intangible, social and spiritual values
- Population, ethnic groups: During the Roman occupation, the citizens of Simitthus became romans.
- Languages and dialects: Arabic
- Lifestyle, believing, cults, traditional rites: The ancient remains preserved in the area are an unequalled testimony of the extraction and transport techniques implemented during the Roman Empire.
Condition: environmental/ cultural heritage degradation:The quarries and the archaeological remains already described in this file are relatively well preserved.
Perspectives/Views/ Points of interest/Setting:
-The Quarries of Chimtou. -The ancient city of Simitthus. -All the archaeological remains scattered around the area.
Authenticity:The golden marble of Chimtou was first quarried under Numidian King Micipsa (149 to 118 B.C.).
Universality:The quarries, the ancient ruins, together with the intangible historical value of the site and the direct modification that man has made on the natural landscape, are the reasons why "The Marble Quarries of Chimtou and its archaelogical landscape" is an unique place that must be recorded in this inventory. Med-O-Med agrees the criteria proposed in the Tentative List of UNESCO (ii, iv): ii) Under Roman rule, the marble served as decoration in public buildings all over the empire, especially in Rome itself. The massive Roman exploitation is responsible for the marvellous scenery offered by the golden Chimtou marble cliffs. iv) The ancient remains that are in Chimtou are an unequalled testimony of the extraction and transport techniques implemented during the Roman Empire.
Historical and graphical data (drawings, paintings, engravings, photographs, literary items…):
The Marble Quarries of Chimtou and its archaelogical landscape is one of all of the cultural landscapes of Tunisia which is included in The Cultural Landscape inventory runned by Med-O-Med.
http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5687/ http://whc.unesco.org/venice2002 http://www.chimtou.com/Area.html http://www.dainst.org/en/project/chemtou?ft=all http://soloner.org/ancient-numidian-marble-quarries-chimtou/ -Rakob, F. (1993, 1994). Simitthus I. Die Steinbrüche und die antike Stadt. Simitthus II. Der Tempelberg und das römische Lager. -UNESCO. (2001). Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. World Heritage Committee. 25 session. Helsinki, Finland. -UNESCO. (2002). Cultural Landscapes: the Challenges of Conservation. Associated Workshops, World Heritage. Ferrara, Italy.
Compiler Data: Sara Martínez Frías.