Volubilis Archaeological Site

Meknes and Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, Morocco


Volubilis is one of the largest and most important archaeological sites in Morocco, with the remains of settlements dating from the pre-Roman to the early Islamic periods. It was the capital of the Mauretanian kingdom under the reigns of Juba II and Ptolemy (A.D. 25 to 40). Annexed by the Romans in A.D. 40, it was given the status of municipium and later capital of the province of Mauretania Tingitana. The city derived substantial wealth from agricultural products, but in 285 the Romans abandoned the region, and portion of Volubilis were abandoned. With the arrival in 781 of Idriss I, the founder of Fez and considered the first Islamic ruler of Morocco, the city gained momentum again, and was still occupied at the beginning of the elventh century, before its total abandonment shortly thereafter. Until recently, the site was managed by archaeologists with little or no expertise in tourism management or conservation.

How We Helped

In 2003 WMF provided support through the Robert W. Wilson Challenge Program to create a database to compile all available research into a multilingual, digital repository. Conservation projects were undertaken to focus on key features such as the mosaics. In particular, a monitoring program was established to review soil conditions, movement, and relative moisture levels. An architectural survey was carried out and photographed by students at the Moroccan Institut National des Sciences de l’Archèologie et du Patrimonie. Vegetation was removed from the site and mortar samples were taken in preparation for restorations, which would soon be possible through an additional Wilson grant in 2006. The products of this research and preservation project were catalogued to establish standards and basic methods for implementation of conservation work at the site. Moroccan archaeological conservators were trained and a master conservation and management plan was designed for the site.

Why It Matters

The extensive archaeological remains at Volubilis hold valuable information about the habitation of the site over nearly a thousand years. Major remains include the construction projects during the reign of Marcus Aurelius and the Severans. During the reign of the Severan dynasty, a monumental center was built and included a capitol, basilica, and monumental arch dedicated to the emperor Caracalla. The wealth of the town—mostly acquired through the growth of olives and production of oil—is clear in the houses that have been excavated in the northeast quadrant of the town, where mosaic and opus sectile (stone inlay or tiling) floors and painted walls decorate the elaborate residences. In some cases, these homes even had their own private bath houses.

Last updated: June 2018.

Join us in safeguarding significant places.