In the northeastern region of Tunisia, there sits a piece of history, preserved against the odds for thousands of years: the Punic city of Kerkouane.
Travelling the world will offer you the opportunity to see different archaeological sites, but discovering an entire Punic city, is something different.
Once a thriving Phoenician metropolis, Kerkouane became a ghost town when its inhabitants abandoned it while battling the invading Roman Empire.
Yet it was this abandonment which ultimately saved the city; because it had no one to rule, the Romans left Kerkouane alone, and it stands to this day as a relic from the past, its decaying walls still the best (and only true) example of Phoenicia-Punic structure and city-planning to survive into the current day.
Piecing Together the Kerkouane Heyday
Archaeological study has revealed much about the heyday of this city. Studying the architecture and artifacts found on-site reveals many deals about the lifestyles of the Phoenician people. For example, it is now known that they had technology to transport water to household water basins and baths, and that the people had some standards of hygiene.
Also, the city was industrially-based, its economy primarily dependent on the production of dyes and figurines. It traded with other cities, as evident by the myriad of cultures present in artworks.
Kerkouane, Current Day
In the present day, the mere existence of Kerkouane has become remarkable. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared it a World Heritage Site in the 1980’s and many archeologists have spent their careers pouring over each inch and crevice of the dead city and its adjoining necropolis.
Because the city has been raided multiple times by treasure hunters and other unscrupulous characters, an untold number of artifacts have been stolen; however, there are still notable treasures found at the site which have since been preserved and now find their homes in museums. This includes the sarcophagus of a female identified by writings as the goddess Asarte and by the media as the princess of Kerkouane. Other findings include flasks, bones, jewelry and more.
While it is the general consensus that the great discoveries of Kerkouane have already been made, many still hope to stumble across yet another piece of history from the Phoenicia-Punic era.