on the links below images to enlarge.
List of course units. The picture is your fearless instructor
superimposed on a modern graphic of Hannibal.
This is a multidiscipline course covering many aspects of the
Carthage/North Africa area, starting at about 6 to 8 thousand BC and
continuing through the the Carthaginian Empire, Roman Carthage, and
Time started with the Big Bang, about 14 billion years ago. We
will skip the first 13,999,992,000 years or so, and start with the
North African stone ages.
The Phoenicians competed with the Greek city-states for coastal
inlets where "factories" could be established for trade with the
interior. The sites they chose were as close to one day's rowing
in a trade vessel as possible. Most sites were established early
on when the Greeks and Phoenicians were coastal navigators rather than
open sea sailors. Some of the sites eventually acquired
agricultural hinterland, and one, Carthage, acquired a merchant empire.
Phoenician sea trade routes stretched from Gibraltar (called "the
pillars" by ancient Mediterranean sailors) to the eastern edge of the
Mediterranean and into the Black Sea. When the seat of Phoenician
activity transferred to Carthage, trade was extended down the Atlantic
coast of Africa and up the Atlantic coast of Europe at least to modern
Portugal and perhaps as far north as England.
A NASA view of Carthage and Sicily. Greek colonies were on
the Western side of Sicily and along the southwest coast of peninsular
Italy. Carthage eventually controlled the western end of Sicily
as well as Sardinia and Corsica and made occasional raids the Italian
western coast. Carthaginian fleets had control of the seas and
thus preempted Roman trade with the eastern Mediterranean. The
distance between western Sicily and Cap Bon Peninsula on the
Carthaginian-controlled coastline of northern Africa is 140 kilometers
A composite map from NASA shows the Tell Atlas and High Atlas mountain
ranges of northern Tunisia. The long trough between the mountain ranges
is the valley of the Medjerda River, which rises in Algeria (left) and
flows into the sea at the bay of Tunis. The next image is a map
that shows the various terrains of modern Tunisia and the names of the
ancient towns and cities.
The beginning of a short Geography lesson: The Bay of Tunis is
defined by the Cap Bon Peninsula and the Northeast corner of the
Tunisian land mass. The towns on the Bay are Utica, Carthage, Rades,
and the modern city of Tunis. Kelibia and Nabeul are in the east side
of the Cap Bon Peninsula. There are two mountain peaks on the
Peninsula called Qarneyn (meaning "the two horns"), and it was from
those two peaks that coded fire signals were passed to the Carthaginian
colonies on Sicily.
In ancient times, Utica, the main Punic rival of Carthage, was right at
the mouth of the Medjerda River, but the centuries have added more
delta land to the coast, and Utica is now more than a mile
inland. Two historic battles were fought at Utica: in the
first, Carthaginian General Hamilcar Barca, the father of Hannibal,
defeated Utica and former Carthaginian Mercenaries in the "Mercenary
War" that Carthage fought between the First and Second Punic Wars (the
"Mercenary war" is covered in Unit 4); in the second battle,
forces loyal to Julius Caesar defeated an army of Pompey's allies in
the Roman Civil war the resulted from Caesar "casting his die" by
crossing the Rubicon. Each battle was called the "Battle of the
Bagradas River", that being the ancient name of the Medjerda River.
South of the two mountain ranges is the coastal plain called the Sahel
(which curiously enough means "coastal plain". It is and always
has been low, flat, hot, and, where there is rain, fertile.
Further inland and to the southwest of the Sahel is the area of the
Chotts or depressions (it's pronounced like "shots"). These are
seasonally flooded areas that are even lower than the Sahel.
There is much salt from occasional sea flooding. During the ice
ages (the last of which ended only 10,000) years ago, the sea level was
much lower, and this area and the Sahara dessert south of the Chotts
was fertile and verdant -- the home of prehistoric Neanderthals and
early modern man (Cro Magnons). See below.
A small valley among the Atlas Mountains. The several Atlas
mountain ranges of north Africa are all parts of of a compression zone
cause by the impingement of the African plate on the European
plates. (The Alps are also compression mountains caused by the
same movement.) Unlike in Italy, there appears to be no
so there is no volcanic activity in North Africa (or in the Alps, for
that matter. The Atlas Mountains have always been the haven of
the "Berbers" (what foreigners call the Amazigh peoples).
Amazigh usually identify themselves as Arab Tunisians, unlike the
Moroccan and Algerian Amazigh, who try to preserve a separate cultural
identity. The Amazigh are considered to be descendants of
the native peoples of North Africa, i.e., pre-Greek, pre-Carthaginian,
pre-Roman (and Christian Roman), pre-Vandal, and pre-Arab.
The Fertile Medjerda Valley, between the High Atlas and the Tell Atlas
The Medjerda Valley is the breadbasket of Tunisia, and in ancient times
it was the same for Carthage.
Suosse is a coastal city in the Sahel. The central part of the
city, at the back of the harbor, is the site of Punic Hadrumete.
The town had several other names in later periods before becoming
Soussa or Sousse in Arabic.
The watered parts of the Sahel are heavily planted in olives.
Inland Oases in the Sahel grow dates and, more recently, bananas
for the European market.
Chott el-Jerid is the largest of the Chotts. To its northwest is
Chott el-Gharsa, which at 12 meters below sea level is the lowest point
The Chotts are salty enough to be mined.
There are occasional folks who try to drive through the Chotts.
This one did it on a motorcycle. In recent years the Chott
el-Jerid Desert Rally has drawn teams of off-road vehicles.
Even the Sahara has become a tourist attraction. Tunisia's
main industry is Tourism.
Prehistoric North Africa. Niels Steensen (Later Latinized to
Nicholas Stenonis = "Steno") was a Dane who, after going to Rome,
worked out the basic rules of geology. His "principles"
included: horizontal deposition of strata; inclusions (fossils
and artifacts) existed independently before being surrounded by the
matter of the strata -- they didn't grow inside the stone layers; lower
strata existed before higher strata (unless they had obviously been
inverted. Without Steno there would be no geology or
Comparison of Homo Sapiens Neanderthalis and early modern human - Homo
Sapiens Sapiens (Cro Magnon) skeletons -- yes, those are the real
scientific names of the two species. Neanderthals were more
robust and, in fact, had larger brains (but smaller frontal lobes), and
there's no telling why they did not survive -- theories abound, but
they are all just educated guesses. Recent testing of DNA
recovered from remains of both species indicates that there was
no inter-breeding, and new technology used in dating artifacts
associated with remains casts severe doubt on whether there was even
any temporal overlap between the two species. They did seem to
share the same technologies -- flaked tools of late Neanderthals look
just like the flaked technologies of early Cro-Magnon. It's hard
to explain that overlap if there was no temporal overlap, although
reverse engineering has been proposed
The Neanderthal skull, on the left show several signs of
"primitive" development: (1) pronounced eyebrow ridges, (2)
back-sloping frontal eminence (forehead), (3) more robust zygomatic
(cheek) bones, (4) a much more robust mandible, (5) receding chin line,
(6) cranial base that tilt the head backward (relative to H. Sapiens
Sapiens), and several other minor differences from the current H.
Sapiens Sapiens. It does not, however, have the fore-and-aft
saggital crest of more primitive anthropoids: Neanderthal jaw
muscles were attached to the side of the head like ours rather than
along a central crest. The face of the Neanderthal was larger
than H. Sapiens Sapiens, but it's worth noting that the H. Sapiens
Sapiens face has been shrinking fairly constantly for thousands
of years, and noticeably even in the last three hundred years.
The shrinking seems to be associated with a softer diet which requires
Amazigh in Tunisia seldom wear "Berber dress". The Amazigh, as
mentioned above, are considered to be an aboriginal population in North
Africa. The first "foreign" (i.e., continental European) arrivals
were the Greeks who called this native population Libyans -- the
western script spelling is hotly debated in a completely nonsensical
way: all spelling are equally valid since they are all just
transliterations from the Greek alphabet.
A North African Saharan "Mousterian Industry" hand axe -- one of the
"industries" of the Neanderthals. Neanderthal artifacts and
remains in Northern Africa are earlier than about 35 to 40 thousand
years ago. An "industry" defines characteristic tool types that
were made by primitive human or pre-human species (human being defines,
at least for now, as H. Sapiens Neanderthalis or H. Sapiens
Sapiens). An "axe", by the way, is a tool that was used with a
chopping motion. The two broad categories are hand axes and
hafted (i.e., with a handle) axes. Mousterian tools are
Paleolithic ("Old Stone Age") to Mesolithic ("Middle Stone
Age"). This and some of the following images are drawn from the Paleo Direct
Internet site at http://www.paleodirect.com/primman1.htm.
Mousterian "flake tools".
Neanderthal flaked hand axes.
Drawing of the profile of a Neanderthal.
"Aterian industry" tanged points. The "tang" is the part at
the bottom of each point in this image and was used for binding to a
haft (handle) which would be split on the end to accept the
point. Aterian industry artifacts have been found at both
Neanderthal and Cro Magnon sites in the Sahara. Aterian tools are
Mesolithic and appeared about 35,000 years ago.
Scrapers were used to remove remnants of fat and meat from the inside
of animal hides. The tangs that indicate that these tools were
hafted are characteristic of the Aterian industry. (The names of
industries are derived from the name of the first site at which the
artifacts were found. In this case, "Aterian" is a North African
name and similar tools found in Europe go by another name.)
Bear claws found in "The Cave of the Bears" a North African Aterian
Drawings of Cro Magnons, the type of early modern man who made Aterian
artifacts in common with North African Neanderthals. The Aterian
tool makers were followed by a group of "Ibero-Maurusian" tool makers
(also Cro Magnon type early modern humans). That name was used to
describe North African tools that showed a supposed commonality of
techniques between Iberian Peninsular and Mauritanian technicians --
with some proponents arguing for diffusion in each direction.
Recent restudies of their tools shows more commonality with Egyptian
techniques, but the Ibero Maurusian nomenclature is still used.
The Ibero-Maurusian culture dates from about 18,000 years ago.
A Capsian hand axe. Capsian industry tools are definitely
Neolithic ("New Stone Age") and date from 7,000 to 4,500 BC. The
Neolithic Capsian period essentially ended with the arrival of
Egyptian, Greek, and (later) Phoenician metallurgy. The
initial findspot of Capsian tools was at Gafsa (ancient Capsa) in
central Tunisia, just north of the Chotts. From this point
onward, more artifacts are found closer to the coasts rather than in
the interior, mirroring the time of the desiccation of the
interior. This hand axe is ground rather than
flaked (although initial flaking may have been used to "rough
out" the implement before grinding).
A larger ground Capsian hand axe
A Capsian "tool kit" (tools found in close association at a single
Drills had much narrower profiles than projectile points. They
were mounted on hafts or shafts and were spun by hand to drill holes in
wood, horn, or bone.
Querns were used to grind grain and usually are associated with
cultivated (as opposed to gathered) grain. Ground grain, of
course, implies some sophistication of diet. ("Stone ground"
in primitive diets can also be deduced from tooth wear.) The
illustration is somewhat deceptive: the handstone is smaller than
normal for a quern of this size; it also is being held at a 90 degree
angle from the way it would have been used, rolling along the long axis
of the quern; and, finally, the way it is held in the illustration
might imply that the handstone was scraped across the quern rather than
being rolled along the quern's long axis. Querns are still used
by "primitive" societies today, and study of their use indicates that
flour can't be made unless the grain is at least slightly malted.
The flour that is produces is usually either slightly moist or even
Large areas of land snail
shells, up to a meter thick and as large as 200 meters square, are the
result of sheet flooding typical of the Maghreb, covering
Algeria and Morocco. The rammadiyat, as the shell mounds are
in Tunisian, consist of black to gray earth, ashes and stone mingled
shell material (seen in one of the examples below). They tend to be
sites and often contain graves. The mounds are usually barren of animal
bones, but rich in implements. These sites date to the Capsian period,
or about 7000 to 6500 BCE.
Picks found in snail shell assemblages.
An "aesthetic" ochre-stained Capsian snail shell
The Tassili N'Ajjer plateau in the Sahara is the most famous of the
typically mountainous desert sites where Saharan rock art is
preserved. Saharan rock artists are thought to have been active
from about 5500 BC until a few hundred years AD. There are
several periods starting with the Bubalos, named after an early wild
cow (Bubalus Anticus, much like a water bufalo), through the Cattle,
Horse, and Camel periods. Bubalos period art shows hunting,
the Cattle period shows herding, and the Horse and Camel periods
include those animals. This gives a rough chronology starting
with hunting, then herding on foot, then the introduction of the horse,
and finally the arrival of the first camel introduced from further east
around the beginning of the first millennium AD.
Mountains on the Tassili N'Ajjer plateau. At this and other
Saharan sites, carved and painted images are preserved in caves and on
open air exposed rock surfaces.
During the Bubalos period, people were often shown, but seldom with any
features. Instead, a featureless round ball was shown. The style
was also called "Roundhead" or aniconic. In this
painting the darker figures were painted at some time after the larger
white figure. The Bubalus period pre-dated 4500 BC.
This image shows an inscribed elephant and dates from the Bubalus
period. Other Bubalus period images show giraffes, hippopotami,
bubalus cattle, and other large African fauna being hunted. The
sites of these images are deep in the Sahara, but at the time they were
painted the area had much more rain and appears to have been like the
current African Savanna with, of course, pools for the hippos.
Cattle and men from the Cattle period which corresponds with the
arrival of the first domesticated cattle -- about 4500 to 4000 BC.
A Cattle period archer.
Although cave painting persisted into the Cattle and later periods,
circles of stones, thought to be hut foundations also appear from the
Cattle period onward. It i not definitively known whether either
caves or huts were permanent accommodations, but it is assumed that the
folks who made these pictures were nomadic pastoralist -- predecessors
of the Saharan Bedouin.
Horse period image showing clear Cretan "Sea Peoples" influence.
After 1200 BC
The Camel period, which started about the time of the Punic Wars, when
camels were first introduced to north Africa, has none of the elegance
of the Horse pictures. Or maybe we have only found the work of
A late image thought to show a masked dancer. Although the
imagery appears similar to slightly later West African art there are no
images in West Africa with this particular costume of mask, nor is
there anything to indicate cultural contact
Incised gazelles from the Tazzarine Oasis in Morocco, carved (not
pecked) in stone in the Tazina style (named after the first spot where
such carvings were found).
For many more images in all of these styles, scroll to the
bottom of a French language internet page at http://perso.orange.fr/atil/atil/w2.htm
Saharan tumulus tombs can be quite large. Dates and
circumstances unknown, but the bones are H. Sapiens Sapiens and they
appear to date back to the Capsian period. The people and
camels between the two tumuli pictured here indicate the size of the
tumuli. More information on Saharan burials is available at http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/~e118/wsahara/2002results/burials/burials02.html
A multi-tomb necropolis in the dessert and a more complex "crater tomb"
with concentric rings of stones and an entrance defile. It's
unclear whether some crater tombs may be collapsed "chapel tombs",
i.e., tombs with an internal chamber.
Most of what we know about the period of the Punic Wars comes from the
history of the period written by Polybius. He was a Greek hostage (a
former Greek General) who was quartered on Scipio Aemilianus (Scipio
Africanus the Younger) who eventually destroyed Carthage.
Polybius was present for the victories of Aemilianus in Spain and the
at the destruction of Carthage and had access to the Scipio family
archive which covered the victories of Scipio Africanus the Elder in
the Second Punic war. Polybius is still memorialized in Greece
for having saved Greece from destruction by the Romans: he
convinced the leaders of the Achaean League (led by Athens) to
surrender rather than to fight. The upshot was that the Romans
eventually glorified Greek culture and art rather than destroying it.
More images of Polybius including a reference to him as the
inventor of the torch/flag semaphore code system used for centuries by
the Roman Army. It used five flags or torches to send messages
and was based on what is still known among cryptographers as the
Polybius Grid or Polybius Checkerboard, a five-by-five matrix that
could represent all 24 letters of the Roman alphabet.
The description of the Roman Republican government system (at the end
of the Second Punic War) was rediscovered by Italian Renaissance
humanists. It was translated into Latin (Polybius wrote in Greek)
in the mid 15th century by Niccolo Perotti , who was in the employ of
Pope Niccolas V (Thomaso Parentucelli), a patron of the
humanists. It became an instant best-seller in the field of
political theory and remained one for several centuries. The
"greatness" part of Charles de Montesquieu's Considerations of the
Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline was based on
Polybius. During the US Constitutional Convention, Jefferson sent
multiple copies of the works of Montesquieu and Polybius to those
assembled in Philadelphia.
Titus Livius (Livy) is also sometimes called a "primary source" on
the Punic Wars, but he was actually paraphrasing Polybius 150 years
after the fact and during the reign of Augustus.