UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Byrsa's second death : reconstruction and erasure in the heart of colonial Carthage Burkhart, Joseph


As the spatial, historical, and cultural nucleus of Carthage, the Byrsa Hill is a stark illustration of the erasure inherent in the city’s colonial reconstructions. In 146 BC, Romans obliterated the last resisting Punic forces in the acropolis on the hill’s summit, completing the genocide that was the third Punic War. A century later, Roman colonists radically reshaped the hill into the organizational nexus of a new colony, removing and burying Punic remains to form an enormous monumental platform . Although this platform was occupied throughout Carthage’s Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic periods, following its “discovery” by European explorers in the early 1800s, it became the center of French colonial excavations in the ancient city. In the last 160 years, the hill has been excavated by many different project directors, and the published archaeological datasets for the site vary widely in accessibility, quality, and completeness. In this thesis, I use the Byrsa Hill as a case study to investigate systemic problems in the ways that archaeologists traditionally organize and publish their data. By integrating previously published architectural datasets from the Byrsa Hill, I uncover many inconsistencies and gaps, including vague, contradictory, and missing descriptions of Roman features from older and newer excavations. My restructured dataset enables new interpretations of the development of the site in the Roman period, in particular revealing the diversity of construction strategies employed during the complex’s Augustan-era construction. This interpretation contrasts with previous studies, which have uncritically and selectively used the problematic datasets to emphasize the unity of the complex’s design and construction. This lack of prior critical engagement, I will argue, shows that research on the site has been limited by divisions of labor and publication norms that remain common in archaeological research today.

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