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Carthage, Tunisia

March–May 1925

Director: Francis W. Kelsey

Excavations at the Sanctuary of Tanit.

In 1925 Francis W. Kelsey conducted an investigation of the site of Carthage, the ancient city-state founded by the Phoenicians in the middle of the 9th century BC and destroyed by Rome in 146 BC in the last Punic War. The Washington Archaeological Society had asked Professor Kelsey and his staff to investigate working conditions and to determine whether to invest large sums of money for a complete excavation.

The archaeological stratification on the site of Carthage covered periods from the 8th century BC through the 7th century AD. In one plot free of modern buildings and known to have been associated with the cult of the Punic Goddess Tanit, three distinct archaeological levels were discovered. While the staff found no ruins of an actual temple or shrine, they did unearth cinerary urns and dedicatory stelae set in the earth like tombstones in a cemetery. The lowest level they dated to the 8th or 7th century BC and the highest, judging from fragments of pottery and Hellenistic lamps found in filling materials, to the period just preceding the Roman conquest. A preliminary examination of the contents of the urns revealed charred bones of young children, lambs, goats, and small birds. Rings, bracelets, earrings, beads, amulets, and objects of gold, silver, bronze, and iron were found with the bones in certain urns at the lowest level. The excavation at Carthage was discontinued because of lack of substantial evidence that buildings would be found in accessible areas.