the ruins of tipasa: algeria’s ancient punic trading post

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With the blue Mediterranean in the background, the impressive ruins of Tipasa, an ancient Punic trading-post conquered by Rome and turned into a strategic base for the conquest of the kingdoms of Mauritania by the emperor Claudius, reveals itself. From the sandy earth to the impressive mosaics, this ancient seaside city is one of the most impressive in the country, thanks to its location. At this UNESCO site can be found remnants of Phoenician, Roman, and Byzantine structures.

According to UNESCO, “Tipasa is located 70 km west of Algiers. It is a serial property comprising three sites: two archaeological parks located in the vicinity of the present urban complex and the Royal Mauritanian Mausoleum, on the west Sahel plateau of Algiers, at 11 km south-east of Tipasa. The archaeological site of Tipasa regroups one of the most extraordinary archaeological complexes of the Maghreb, and perhaps one which is most significant to the study of the contacts between the indigenous civilizations and the different waves of colonization from the 6th century B.C.E. to the 6th century C.E. This coastal city was first a Carthaginian trading center, whose necropolis is one of the oldest and one of the most extensive of the Punic world (6th to 2nd century B.C.E.).

During this period, Tipasa played the role of a maritime port of call, a place for commercial exchanges with the indigenous population. Numerous necropolis testify to the very varied types of burial and funerary practices that bear witness to the multicultural exchange of influences dating back to protohistoric times. The monumental, circular funerary building, called the Royal Mauritanian Mausoleum, associates a local architectural tradition of the basina type, to a style of stepped truncated roof covering, the result of the different contributions, notably Hellenistic and Pharaonic.

The Roman period is marked by a prestigious ensemble of buildings, comprising much diversified architectural typologies. From the 3rd to the 4th centuries C.E. a striking increase in Christianity is demonstrated by the multitude of religious buildings. Some are decorated with high quality mosaic pavings, illustrating scenes from daily life, or geometric patterns. The Vandal invasion of the 430’s did not mark the definitive end of prosperity of Tipasa, but the town, reconquered by the Byzantines in 531, gradually fell into decline from the 6th century.”

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