Thursday, July 4, 2013

Museum Of Sousse At Historic Kasabah

Kasabah of Sousse

Sousse, the pearl of the Tunisian coast, has provided guests with a gateway to the past with the opening of the Archeological Museum of Sousse, located in its historic Kasbah, on the west fringe of the Medina.

Sousse is one of the oldest cities in Tunisia, and was a central point for the world’s largest ancient civilizations, starting with the Phoenicians who founded it as a base for their sea trade. They named the area “Hadramuete” in the ninth century BC.

Sousse museum plan

When Carthage, the Phoenician urban center encompassing Hadramuete, was destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC, the city was annexed to Rome, becoming Rome’s first African colony.For more than five centuries under the Roman empire, Hadramuete was a merchant metropolis due to the wealth the port brought the country. The wealthy Roman citizens built luxurious villas paved with mosaics, and the villages were dotted with public buildings,such as baths, basilicas and temples.

With the Arab conquest in the 7th century, the area currently known as Sousse became a military port. The city was marked by ribats and fortresses to protect the coast from Byzantine assaults.

Sousse and its surrounding area are home to literal layers of culture. Underneath the Arab institutions lies the ruins of both the Punic and Roman eras. The Arabs kept some cultural edifices from the previous inhabitants. The new Arab leaders used the Roman’s huge stone blocks and columns to build the Arab cities of Sousse and Kairouan.
Oceanus was widely worshiped in Roman Hadramuete

The museum, covering 2000 meters, offers the opportunity to see the development of each civilization.  The building itself is a historical monument that evokes the Arab-Byzantine style of the eighth and ninth century.

The museum is divided into thirteen departments, with an outside terrace offering a panoramic view of Sousse. Statues, mosaics and funeral objects exhumed from Sousse and other sites along the Tunisian coast, are exhibited.

Inside Museum

The mosaics are a central component of the musem, as Sousse is famous in the Mediteranean for its collection of art. Their importance to Sousse is reinforced every summer with the festival of Aoussou. This is one of the oldest traidtions of the Tunisian Sahel, the Tunsian desert area, which draws its origins from the Oceanus, one of the most popular gods from the Roman era. This god was worshiped in the first and second centuries, and was the most commonly represented deity in mosaics in the public baths and basins.

The mosaics depicted gods, goddesses and heroes from Greek and Roman mythology, many of which are available for exhibition at the museum.

The Punic and early Christian eras are also represented in the museum. The Punic department exhibits funeral items, with terracotta vases and funeral objects. Christian artificats are plentiful.

A beautiful baptistery, found accidentally  in the Bkalta quarry 40 km south of Sousse It is decorated with mosaics, depicting birds and chrism, or holy oil used in early churches. Other funeral mosaics and tombstones were discovered in the undergrounds catacombs, one km from the Sousse bus station of Souk Lahad.

This museum allows guests to witness the ancient civilizations that have shaped the Tunisian identity and have enriched Tunisia’s development into one shaped by a variety of cultures.