on the links below images to enlarge.
List of course units. The picture is your fearless
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
continuing through the the Carthaginian Empire, Roman Carthage,
Time started with the Big Bang, about 14 billion years ago.
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
inlets where "factories" could be established for trade with the
interior. The sites they chose were as close to one day's
in a trade vessel as possible. Most sites were established
on when the Greeks and Phoenicians were coastal navigators rather
open sea sailors. Some of the sites eventually acquired
agricultural hinterland, and one, Carthage, acquired a merchant
Phoenician sea trade routes stretched from Gibraltar (called "the
pillars" by ancient Mediterranean sailors) to the eastern edge of
Mediterranean and into the Black Sea. When the seat of
activity transferred to Carthage, trade was extended down the
coast of Africa and up the Atlantic coast of Europe at least to
Portugal and perhaps as far north as England.
A NASA view of Carthage and Sicily. Greek colonies were
the Western side of Sicily and along the southwest coast of
Italy. Carthage eventually controlled the western end of
as well as Sardinia and Corsica and made occasional raids the
western coast. Carthaginian fleets had control of the seas
thus preempted Roman trade with the eastern Mediterranean.
distance between western Sicily and Cap Bon Peninsula on the
Carthaginian-controlled coastline of northern Africa is 140
A composite map from NASA shows the Tell Atlas and High Atlas
ranges of northern Tunisia. The long trough between the mountain
is the valley of the Medjerda River, which rises in Algeria (left)
flows into the sea at the bay of Tunis. The next image is a
that shows the various terrains of modern Tunisia and the names of
ancient towns and cities.
The beginning of a short Geography lesson: The Bay of Tunis
defined by the Cap Bon Peninsula and the Northeast corner of the
Tunisian land mass. The towns on the Bay are Utica, Carthage,
and the modern city of Tunis. Kelibia and Nabeul are in the east
of the Cap Bon Peninsula. There are two mountain peaks on
Peninsula called Qarneyn (meaning "the two horns"), and it was
those two peaks that coded fire signals were passed to the
colonies on Sicily.
In ancient times, Utica, the main Punic rival of Carthage, was
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
first, Carthaginian General Hamilcar Barca, the father of
defeated Utica and former Carthaginian Mercenaries in the
War" that Carthage fought between the First and Second Punic Wars
"Mercenary war" is covered in Unit 4); in the second battle,
forces loyal to Julius Caesar defeated an army of Pompey's allies
the Roman Civil war the resulted from Caesar "casting his die" by
crossing the Rubicon. Each battle was called the "Battle of
Bagradas River", that being the ancient name of the Medjerda
South of the two mountain ranges is the coastal plain called the
(which curiously enough means "coastal plain". It is and
has been low, flat, hot, and, where there is rain, fertile.
Further inland and to the southwest of the Sahel is the area of
Chotts or depressions (it's pronounced like "shots"). These
seasonally flooded areas that are even lower than the Sahel.
There is much salt from occasional sea flooding. During the
ages (the last of which ended only 10,000) years ago, the sea
much lower, and this area and the Sahara dessert south of the
was fertile and verdant -- the home of prehistoric Neanderthals
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
cause by the impingement of the African plate on the European
plates. (The Alps are also compression mountains caused by
same movement.) Unlike in Italy, there appears to be no
so there is no volcanic activity in North Africa (or in the Alps,
that matter. The Atlas Mountains have always been the haven
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
identity. The Amazigh are considered to be descendants
the native peoples of North Africa, i.e., pre-Greek,
pre-Roman (and Christian Roman), pre-Vandal, and pre-Arab.
The Fertile Medjerda Valley, between the High Atlas and the Tell
The Medjerda Valley is the breadbasket of Tunisia, and in ancient
it was the same for Carthage.
Suosse is a coastal city in the Sahel. The central part of
city, at the back of the harbor, is the site of Punic
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,
for the European market.
Chott el-Jerid is the largest of the Chotts. To its northwest
Chott el-Gharsa, which at 12 meters below sea level is the
The Chotts are salty enough to be mined.
There are occasional folks who try to drive through the
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.
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
and artifacts) existed independently before being surrounded by
matter of the strata -- they didn't grow inside the stone layers;
strata existed before higher strata (unless they had obviously
inverted). Without Steno there would be no geology or
Comparison of Homo Sapiens Neanderthalis and early modern human -
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
there's no telling why they did not survive -- theories abound,
they are all just educated guesses. Recent testing of
recovered from remains of both species indicates that there
no inter-breeding, and new technology used in dating artifacts
associated with remains casts severe doubt on whether there was
any temporal overlap between the two species. They did seem
share the same technologies -- flaked tools of late Neanderthals
just like the flaked technologies of early Cro-Magnon. It's
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
(cheek) bones, (4) a much more robust mandible, (5) receding chin
(6) cranial base that tilt the head backward (relative to H.
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
muscles were attached to the side of the head like ours rather
along a central crest. The face of the Neanderthal was
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
The shrinking seems to be associated with a softer diet which
Amazigh in Tunisia seldom wear "Berber dress". The Amazigh,
mentioned above, are considered to be an aboriginal population in
Africa. The first "foreign" (i.e., continental European)
were the Greeks who called this native population Libyans -- the
western script spelling is hotly debated in a completely
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
"industries" of the Neanderthals. Neanderthal artifacts and
remains in Northern Africa are earlier than about 35 to 40
years ago. An "industry" defines characteristic tool types
were made by primitive human or pre-human species (human being
at least for now, as H. Sapiens Neanderthalis or H. Sapiens
Sapiens). An "axe", by the way, is a tool that was used with
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
the bottom of each point in this image and was used for binding to
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
Mesolithic and appeared about 35,000 years ago.
Scrapers were used to remove remnants of fat and meat from the
of animal hides. The tangs that indicate that these tools
hafted are characteristic of the Aterian industry. (The
industries are derived from the name of the first site at which
artifacts were found. In this case, "Aterian" is a North
name and similar tools found in Europe go by another name.)
Bear claws found in "The Cave of the Bears" a North African
Drawings of Cro Magnons, the type of early modern man who made
artifacts in common with North African Neanderthals. The
tool makers were followed by a group of "Ibero-Maurusian" tool
(also Cro Magnon type early modern humans). That name was
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
Recent restudies of their tools shows more commonality with
techniques, but the Ibero Maurusian nomenclature is still
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.
Neolithic Capsian period essentially ended with the arrival of
Egyptian, Greek, and (later) Phoenician metallurgy.
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
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
out" the implement before grinding).
A larger ground Capsian hand axe
A Capsian "tool kit" (tools found in close association at a
Drills had much narrower profiles than projectile points.
were mounted on hafts or shafts and were spun by hand to drill
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
normal for a quern of this size; it also is being held at a 90
angle from the way it would have been used, rolling along the long
of the quern; and, finally, the way it is held in the illustration
might imply that the handstone was scraped across the quern rather
being rolled along the quern's long axis. Querns are still
by "primitive" societies today, and study of their use indicates
flour can't be made unless the grain is at least slightly
The flour that is produces is usually either slightly moist or
Large areas of land snail
shells, up to a meter thick and as large as 200 meters square,
result of sheet flooding typical of the Maghreb,
Algeria and Morocco. The rammadiyat, as the shell mounds
in Tunisian, consist of black to gray earth, ashes and stone
shell material (seen in one of the examples below). They tend to
sites and often contain graves. The mounds are usually barren of
bones, but rich in implements. These sites date to the Capsian
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
typically mountainous desert sites where Saharan rock art is
preserved. Saharan rock artists are thought to have been
from about 5500 BC until a few hundred years AD. There are
several periods starting with the Bubalos, named after an early
cow (Bubalus Anticus, much like a water bufalo), through the
Horse, and Camel periods. Bubalos period art shows
the Cattle period shows herding, and the Horse and Camel periods
include those animals. This gives a rough chronology
with hunting, then herding on foot, then the introduction of the
and finally the arrival of the first camel introduced from
around the beginning of the first millennium AD.
Mountains on the Tassili N'Ajjer plateau. At this and
Saharan sites, carved and painted images are preserved in caves
open air exposed rock surfaces.
During the Bubalos period, people were often shown, but seldom
features. Instead, a featureless round ball was shown. The
was also called "Roundhead" or aniconic. In this
painting the darker figures were painted at some time after the
white figure. The Bubalus period pre-dated 4500 BC.
This image shows an inscribed elephant and dates from the
period. Other Bubalus period images show giraffes,
bubalus cattle, and other large African fauna being hunted.
sites of these images are deep in the Sahara, but at the time they
painted the area had much more rain and appears to have been like
current African Savanna with, of course, pools for the hippos.
Cattle and men from the Cattle period which corresponds with
arrival of the first domesticated cattle -- about 4500 to 4000 BC.
A Cattle period archer.
Although cave painting persisted into the Cattle and later
circles of stones, thought to be hut foundations also appear from
Cattle period onward. It i not definitively known whether
caves or huts were permanent accommodations, but it is assumed
folks who made these pictures were nomadic pastoralist --
of the Saharan Bedouin.
Horse period image showing clear Cretan "Sea Peoples"
After 1200 BC
The Camel period, which started about the time of the Punic Wars,
camels were first introduced to north Africa, has none of the
of the Horse pictures. Or maybe we have only found the work
A late image thought to show a masked dancer. Although
imagery appears similar to slightly later West African art there
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
such carvings were found).
For many more images in all of these styles, scroll to
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
appear to date back to the Capsian period. The people
camels between the two tumuli pictured here indicate the size of
tumuli. More information on Saharan burials is available at
A multi-tomb necropolis in the dessert and a more complex "crater
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
history of the period written by Polybius. He was a Greek hostage
former Greek General) who was quartered on Scipio Aemilianus
Africanus the Younger) who eventually destroyed Carthage.
Polybius was present for the victories of Aemilianus in Spain and
at the destruction of Carthage and had access to the Scipio family
archive which covered the victories of Scipio Africanus the Elder
the Second Punic war. Polybius is still memorialized in
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
eventually glorified Greek culture and art rather than destroying
More images of Polybius including a reference to him as the
inventor of the torch/flag semaphore code system used for
the Roman Army. It used five flags or torches to send
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
of the Second Punic War) was rediscovered by Italian Renaissance
humanists. It was translated into Latin (Polybius wrote in
in the mid 15th century by Niccolo Perotti , who was in the employ
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
Polybius. During the US Constitutional Convention, Jefferson
multiple copies of the works of Montesquieu and Polybius to those
assembled in Philadelphia.
Titus Livius (Livy) is also sometimes called a "primary
the Punic Wars, but he was actually paraphrasing Polybius 150
after the fact and during the reign of Augustus.