Dougga/ Thugga
Dougga/ Thugga
Cultural Tunisia Arab States Gouvernat De Beja

The archaeological site of Dougga is the best-preserved example in North Africa of the rise, development, and daily life over more than 17 centuries of an indigenous Numidian city. Many of its monuments are unique of their type and bear witness to the harmonious synthesis of several cultures - Numidian, Punic, Hellenistic, and Roman - making it an exceptional site. The important epigraphic collection from Dougga, comprising over 2,000 Libyan, Punic, Greek and Roman inscriptions, has made a decisive contribution to the decipherment of the Libyan language and to knowledge of the social and municipal life of the Numidians and Roman colonial policy and municipal organization in its provinces.

Thugga is thought on the basis of recent excavations of an early necropolis on the northern edge of the site to have been founded before the 5th century BC. In the early 2nd century BC the Numidian Massimissa made it one of his capitals. In 46 BC Julius Caesar annexed eastern Numidia as the Roman province of Africa Nova, and Thugga became a Roman town. Then during the reign of Augustus the town was formally composed of two legally distinct communities: a shifting indigenous population who were governed according to their traditional systems, and a community of Roman citizens belonging to the Roman colonia of Carthage, who lived according to the Roman way.

Although small, its inhabitants never having exceeded 5,000, it flourished from its rural economy based on its rich and fertile territorium. Its prosperity seems to have continued throughout the 4th century, judging by the considerable amount of restoration and rehabilitation attested by numerous inscriptions, but urban life declined in the 5th century. The re-establishment of Byzantine rule (533-698) saw Thugga assigned a minor role in the political and economic life of the region. Little is known of the town in the Islamic period, beyond the erection of the simple Mosque of Sidi Sahbi.

The original Numidian settlement was built on a steep hillside, in the centre of a very fertile region. Thugga possesses a remarkable assemblage of public buildings - temples and sanctuaries, forum, public baths, theatre, amphitheatre, circus, market, public cisterns and fountains, etc. Private life is also well represented by large and small houses, shops, and mausolea.

The small rectangular forum, which is surrounded by a marble colonnade, is crossed by part of the later Byzantine fortifications. On one side of it is the capitolium, dedicated to Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, one of the finest buildings of its type in North Africa. The theatre is small and is of standard Roman form. The scenae frons (stage) was originally floored with mosaic. Among the many temples is that dedicated to Juno Caelestis (the Punic goddess Tanit), built around 230. The temple of Saturn, on the edge of the town in the area of the pre-Roman settlement, is located on the site of an older sanctuary dedicated to Baal. There are two triumphal arches: that of Septimius Severus is much degraded, but the Arch of Severus Alexander still stands to a substantial height. The well-preserved 3rd-century Licinian bath is an excellent example of this type of municipal facility.

One of the most significant monuments in Thugga is the Lybico-Punic mausoleum in the southern part of the town, but it was reconstructed in 1908-10. This is the only major monument of Punic architecture still surviving in Tunisia.

In 1961 the Tunisian Government relocated all but two families of the remaining inhabitants of the archaeological site to a new village, Dougga-al-Jadida.