Bulla Regia is a significant archaeological site in the northwestern part of Tunisia. The region became part of the Roman Empire in the first century A.D., and prospered by providing agricultural products such as wheat, grains, grapes, and olives to the rest of the Empire. The public and private architecture and ornate decoration of the province’s cities, including Bulla Regia, reflect this prosperity. Bulla Regia is unique among the numerous archaeological sites in Tunisia because its domestic architecture was constructed below ground. Scholars have hypothesized that the houses were built in this manner in order to alleviate the intense heat. Most of the ornate mosaics adorning the houses have remained in situ, and visitors can view the elaborate polychrome mosaics in their original context.
How We Helped
WMF began working at Bulla Regia in 2009 in collaboration with local authorities and international preservation professionals. Early work at the site included a conditions survey to identify areas most in need of urgent intervention. The Maison de la Chasse, one of the underground houses with a peristyle courtyard surrounded by rooms decorated with mosaics, was in urgent need of stabilization. The team strapped the unstable lintel and fissured columns with carbon fibers and injected resin into the architrave to alleviate pressure and cracking. In an effort to improve visitor safety, cracked staircases were repaired and new parapets were installed. Because much of the archeological site is below ground level, drainage poses a major threat. At Maison de la Chasse, the conservation team recently reopened and expanded the ancient Roman drainage system to help facilitate water dispersal. At Maison d’Amphitrite, the conservation team cleared a drain that had been completely obstructed. Other work at the site has included repairing damaged arches and removing destructive vegetation. A recent mission to the site included collecting and verifying data to assemble comprehensive architectural documentation for each of the villas on site.
Why It Matters
Bulla Regia provides a unique opportunity to see Roman houses and their sophisticated decorative mosaics in situ. Continued site conservation work, increased training opportunities at the site, and the completion of a site management plan will help establish improved guidelines for how best to conserve, manage, and present archaeological sites in Tunisia.