Ancient Punic Town of Kerkuan
Do you dream to see the ancient Carthage? Do you want to see the Punic houses, sculptures, ceramics, learn how the people of this great civilization lived? Then you should not go to the excavations of Carthage , and here - to Kerkuan.
What is the value of this place
Recall that the ancient Punic Carthage was completely destroyed in 146 BC, all buildings are destroyed, and the soil is covered with salt. Already later, in the reign of Julius Caesar, a new Roman city was founded, also called "Carthage". It is the ruins of Roman houses that tourists watch during an excursion to Carthage.
Inspired by the legends of Carthage, the passage of Hannibal through the Alps and the stories of battles on battle elephants, tourists want to see the real Carthaginian culture - what did their gods look like, what houses they lived in, what streets these brave people walked in?
The real Punic city in the world exists in a single copy - this is Kerkuan.
Where to find and how to get there
Kerkuan is located next to Cape Bon on the peninsula of Cap Bon. The most convenient way to get here from the hotels in Nabeul is 70 kilometers, a little over an hour drive and 40-50 Tunisian dinars for a taxi.
From the hotels of the resort of Hammamet - 80 kilometers, about an hour and a half drive and 45-55 dinars for a taxi. From the hotels of the resort of Yasmine Hammamet - 110 kilometers, about two hours drive and 70-90 dinars for a taxi. From the city of Tunis (the capital of the country) - 120 kilometers, about two hours drive and 75-95 dinars for a taxi.
Excursions to Kirkuan are rare. If we talk about Russian tour operators, then in the range of Pegas Touristik, there are no trips to Kerkuan at all, and in the Coral Travel assortment the visit to this place is included in the program of the "CAPE BON" excursion. More convenient ways - to go independently by taxi, the benefit of taxi prices in Tunisia is low, or hire a private guide by car. In the second case it is necessary to look for a Russian-speaking guide, it is difficult, but possible.
Price of tickets and excursions
If you come to the excavations of Kerquan yourself, then the entrance will cost 7 Tunisian dinars. Another 1 dinar must be paid for permission to take pictures. Visiting the local museum is included in the price of a ticket for excavations.
Bus excursion in a large group will cost from 20 to 60 dollars, the price will depend on the program of the trip, your charm and ability to bargain. If your tour operator does not provide an excursion to Kerkuan, you will have to contact the street excursion bureau. Here to find an excursion in Russian - the task is extremely difficult.
It is much easier to hire a private guide, who will bring, tell and take back to the hotel. This service costs from 150 to 300 dollars, a passenger car seats up to 4 tourists. The price is for all, the fewer people, the more expensive it will be for everyone. Again, finding a Russian-speaking private guide is problematic.
The site of the excavation is open to visitors from 9-00 to 18-00.
How much time to plan
The city is quite large, but not everything is interesting to watch. All houses are the same type, one looked, the rest do not make sense. Interest are columns, a temple and a museum. For a full inspection program, plan up to 3 hours. For a quick inspection, enough for an hour.
A bit of history
No written sources, where the city was mentioned, did not survive. Even the name "Kerkuan" was given to it by French archaeologists, and its historical name is unknown. All the information about the history of the city historians received exclusively from the finds.
All the finds date back to the 6th and 3rd centuries BC. Hence the city was founded in the 6th century BC. Traces of mass extermination of people are not found, most likely, in the 3rd century the inhabitants left it. This probably happened during the campaign of the Roman army under the command of the consul Mark Atilius Regulus in the First Punic War. The Roman army landed in 256 just near Cape Bon and plundered all the nearby cities.
Judging by the number of houses, the population of the city was 1500-2500 people. The interesting fact that there was no port in the city is uncharacteristic of the Phoenicians - the nation of seafarers. The inhabitants of Kerkuan were engaged in fishing, farming and mining of a purple dye extracted from the shells of sea shellfish. This large part of the city's economy is evidenced by the large number of shells found on the ruins.
The ruins of Kerkuan were discovered by archaeologists in 1952. Since then, Tunisian and French archaeologists have been active. It is believed that most of the city has already been dug up, and nothing interesting can be found here. The finds went to museums: the local museum of Kerkuan, the archaeological museum of Nabeul and the Bardo museum in Tunis .
In the houses, many mosaics with the image of the goddess Tanith are found. Probably she was considered the patroness of the city. However, the cult of the goddess Tanith was popular in all the colonies of the Phoenicians in the western Mediterranean, including Carthage. With the goddess Tanith and the god Baal, scientists are disputing about the sacrifices of children. Fortunately, no clues to this have been found in Kerkuan.
What to watch
From the houses there were only the lower parts of the walls, this is not Pompei in Italy, where you can see the houses in their entirety. However, general ideas about the ancient Punic city are emerging. First, pay attention to the wide streets - up to 4 meters in width, as well as tight construction of blocks.
In many houses the floor is covered with mosaics, on which the goddess Tanith is depicted. This goddess-virgin at different times was considered the patroness of procreation, prosperity and wealth - for the house the best patron. Images of Tanith look like a very small children draw a woman: a circle - a head, a triangle - a dress and two sticks - hands. See the photo on the right, click on the photo to enlarge.
In the cities of the state of Carthage there was no clearly expressed central square, like the agora in Greek or a forum in Roman settlements. A small central square with the market here was, its archaeologists identified by a large number of dug coins. Now an ordinary tourist to identify it is almost impossible, except that the guide will show.
In one place you will see the columns, probably there was a temple, but archaeologists are still not exactly sure, and it is unclear to what god he was dedicated.
The Carthaginians loved to wash no less than the Romans. But the Romans loved public baths, and in the Carthaginian civilization they preferred to lie in their own bathroom at home. In some houses the bathrooms have been preserved, they were washed in them in a sitting position. Approximately such a bathroom, but already in the 20th century was put into the villa of Sebastian in Hammamet .
After seeing the city, you can proceed to the tombs. In some you can go and see the decoration and drawings. According to most tourists, it looks pretty primitive.
We recommend to finish the tour in the local museum, where you can see some finds of archeologists - ceramics, statues, ornaments. Near the museum there is a small shop where you can buy snacks and water, as well as a small souvenir shop (information for 2016).
After the tour, some tourists say: "It's no wonder that the Romans conquered and destroyed Carthage." What a big difference in the cultural level! Everything here is so primitive, and the Romans have such statues, such aqueducts, such amphitheaters. "
We want to warn tourists from such thoughts, conclusions and statements. In Kerkuan, you see the Punic culture of the 6th-3rd centuries BC. And what monuments of Roman culture are admired? The Colosseum was built in 80 AD - 400 years later, Pompeii was covered with ashes in 79 AD - again, 400 years later. The famous statue of Emperor Augustus of Prim-Port was made in 20 years - 350 years later.
In 4-3 centuries BC. Roman culture was about the same level as Punic culture, which you will see in Kerkuan. And there is no better way in the world to see the culture of Phoenician (Punic) Carthage than to come to Kerkuan.
Successful excursions to Kerkuan, and read our articles about Tunisia ( links below ).
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