Ruins of Ancient Algiers Uncovered beneath a Subway

In downtown Algiers, a chance discovery is shedding light on two thousand years of the Mediterranean port city’s history. Ruins dating from the French colonial period to the Ottoman and Roman empires, and perhaps as far back as Phoenician/Punic civilization, are being uncovered just yards below the surface. Archaeologists made the finds during excavation for a new subway station in busy Martyrs Square.

A team including 20 Algerian and 8 French archaeologists hope to learn about Algeria’s ancient past. So far they have found an Ottoman-period blacksmithing shop, complete with forge, iron tools, cannonballs, and a primitive pistol, 2.3 meters underground. The weapons recall the era of the Barbary pirates, who used Algiers as a base to terrorize Mediterranean shipping in the 1500s to 1800s. Archaeologists also unearthed a medieval cemetery with skeletons intact, and farther down, an early Christian basilica from the AD 300s to 400s. The bases of several columns of this Roman-era building have been uncovered, revealing a spacious mosaic floor.

The Casbah district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has witnessed archaeological excavations before. In 1940, coins were dug up that dated from the third century BC, when the site was the Phoenician outpost Ikosim (later the Roman town of Icosium). Archaeologists want to keep digging in hopes of finding more traces of the Punic period, as well as evidence of the Amazigh, indigenous North Africans who lived alongside the area’s occupiers. Algiers officials hope to incorporate the unique archaeological finds into the new metro station’s design.

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One Comment

  1. David says:

    Back in the middle/late 1970s, the beach area of Tybee Island, Georgia (US) reivceed a makeover compliments of the US Army Corps of Engineers. Millions of tons of sand were dredged and then pumped along the shore to recreate the beach that had eroded away. The coarser sediment that didn’t make it through the screens and filters were dumped along the Skidaway River, a few miles away, near an easily accessible bridge crossing. Along with my best friend of the day, we roamed and sifted this sediment, in numerous piles as high as a two story building, over a period of two years and found incredible riches of fossils in the way of the onyx-black shark’s teeth, shellfish fragments and nearly intact crab legs, etc.When I was last in the area in 2003, the remnants of a few of those heaps were still there though much eroded, overgrown and many now part of the widened road bed.