Discovery of Roman ruins engulfed in Tunisia


Tunisian and Italian researchers were able to explore the remains of the town of Neapolis, part of which had been swallowed up by a tsunami.

„It is a major discovery“ because it corroborates narratives dating back to antiquity, Mounir Fantar, director of the archaeological mission, told AFP. Roman remains extending over 20 hectares under the sea were discovered during the summer of 2017 by a Tunisian-Italian mission in Nabeul, Tunisia . It confirms that a tsunami engulfed part of the city of Neapolis in the 4th century.

A city specializing in garum production

A joint team of the National Institute of Tunisian Heritage (INP) and the University of Sassari-Oristano in Italy carried out underwater surveys which uncovered streets, monuments and above all about a hundred vats for the production of „garum“, a sauce of flesh and viscera of fish, probably responsible for intestinal problems but which the Romans were very fond of.

„This discovery gave us the certainty that Neapolis was a great center of garum and salting, probably the largest center in the Roman world, and that (…) the notables of Neapolis really owed their fortune to the garum,“Mr Fantar added. The garum has been exported across almost the entire Mediterranean and has built bridges between different cities“ in the region, according to the researcher.

An earthquake that also affected Alexandria and Crete

The mission began in 2010, first to try to find the port of the sunken city which was at first a Carthaginian counter evoked by the Greek historian Thucydides before becoming a colony of the Roman Empire. 7 years after the beginning of the mission and thanks to climatic conditions favorable to underwater research the archaeologists discovered the 20 hectares of vestiges near the shore of the city Nabeul in the northeast of the Tunisia.

The team now has „the certainty that Neapolis suffered from this earthquake“, which according to the historian Ammianus Marcellin, dated July 21, 365 AD, and which touched Alexandria and Crete, said Mr. Fantar. The tsunami that followed the earthquake immersed part of the city, which led to the relocation of curing activities. Today, “ the most important is not to excavate but to preserve “ these remains, to make “ an archaeological reserve for future generations ,“ said Mr. Fantar.