World Monuments Watch
Constantine, Algeria

Site History and Significance

A Funerary Monument

Imedghassen, a historic funerary site located in Algeria, approximately 40 km north of Batna, which comprises a large mausoleum surrounded by several smaller tombs. According to researchers, the mausoleum could date to around the third–second centuries B.C.E., as its architectural features seem also to indicate. It was designed for funerary worship, and it is believed to be the tomb of a notable, possibly a Numidian king.

The mausoleum takes the form of a truncated cone with a cylindrical base. The base has a diameter of around 59 meters and a height of around 4.5 meters, while the total height of the monument is over 18.5 meters. The exterior wall is made of limestone blocks once held together by lead clamps, and it is divided into bays by 60 engaged columns. These columns support an entablature with a concave cornice. Behind the exterior wall, there is an interior wall, and the core of the structure can also be seen. The mausoleum features three false portals evenly spaced around its perimeter, as well as a mortuary chamber accessed through an opening on the east side.

Imedghassen is highly valued by the local community and civil society. The Algerian Ministry of Culture and Arts considers the protection of the mausoleum a priority and aims to establish it as a model for best practices in safeguarding and managing heritage sites in Algeria. After independence, the mausoleum was listed on the national registry in 1967.

World Heritage Tentative list

In 2002, along with five other similar funerary monuments, Imedghassen (Medracen) was included in UNESCO Tentative List, it represents an example to one of a series of “funerary heritage places created by a rich civilization that is both African and Mediterranean,” as described on UNESCO website. This unique cultural landscape predates the Roman period and stretches across the modern borders of Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco.

Our involvement

2008 World Monuments Watch Addresses Threats to Site

Despite multiple investigations and restoration attempts since mid-nineteenth century, the mausoleum is in a poor state of conservation. Some past interventions were inappropriate and threaten the structure’s historic fabric, while others affect its visual integrity. Major problems include loss of the original mortar from leaching; weathering and erosion of the stones; partial collapse of the core of the structure; water infiltration through holes in the roof; and historic removal of lead pegs that provided structural stability.

To raise awareness and draw attention to the threats facing the site, World Monuments Fund listed the monument on its 2008 World Monuments Watch.

Condition Assessment and Structural Stabilization Approach

Although the monument has been under study scientifically since 1849, and the condition of the monument was documented by written descriptions and photographs taken as early as the end of the 19th century, and despite the multiple investigations and attempts of consolidation and restoration, the monument remains largely unknown.

Since 2021 and thanks to the support from the US Embassy in Algiers, US State Department, and J.M. Kaplan Fund, WMF and the Algerian Ministry of Culture and Arts are leading key activities such as engaging experts and consultants to assist compiling and analyzing previous studies as well as conducting further necessary documentation and structural analysis in view of eventual future conservation efforts. The existing documentation, collected and systematically organized in the last months, will be the base to develop a comprehensive conservation and restoration plan.

This project is essential for the future of the Imedghassen and will greatly improve the understanding of its original construction and current vulnerabilities, while presenting an important reference for the possible preservation of other funerary structures and sites from the same period.

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World Monuments Fund's work at Imedghassen Mausoleum has been made possible, in part, by support from The J.M. Kaplan Fund and the U.S. Embassy Algiers.

Last updated:
July 2023

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