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English summary: “Archaeological investigations on the urban history of Meninx (Jerba)”

Archaeological investigations on the urban history of Meninx (Jerba)

The aim of our Tunisian-German project is to shed light on the urban history of Meninx, the largest ancient city on the island of Jerba. The special significance of this spacious seaport lies in the fact that it had been one of the main production centers of purple in the Mediterranean. Having existed at least since the 4th century BC, Meninx expanded considerably in the 2nd and 3rd century AD, and persisted into Late Antiquity.

The impetus for our investigation was triggered by the results of a geophysical prospection conducted in 2015, during which a large area of the city was surveyed by means of magnetometry and which gave us, for the first time, insights into its urban structure. Emanating from this new data we are now going to focus on the urban history of Meninx. Starting from the surroundings of the Forum where the earliest settlement was situated, excavations will be conducted in some selected sanctuaries, commercial buildings and residential houses. We are particularly interested in the early settlement layers providing information on the previously unknown history of Meninx before the city was given a largely new structural design from the middle of the 2nd century AD onwards. To get a consistent picture of the diverse archaeological remains on the site, the excavations shall be accompanied by other investigations. We intend to continue the geophysical prospection to check the peripheral quarters of the city. And in accordance with the terrestrial prospection, we plan to conduct, for the first time at Meninx, underwater exploration, to investigate the structural remains off the modern shore, by which we also expect to gain new information on the harbor structures.

As a result of these interrelated investigations, we intend to explore the extent to which the cultural geography and the specific economic role of Meninx are reflected in the structure of the city. This study will hopefully contribute to fill the topographical gap between the ancient cities on the Tunisian East Coast and the coastal cities of Tripolitania (Sabratha, Lepcis Magna), and to gain a better understanding of the important role that Meninx played, as an epicentre between the Mediterranean trading network and the opposite mainland with its trading routes leading into the Sahara.