Biblical Archaeology Review 36:2, March/April 2010

ReViews: Preserving Tunisian Treasures

Tunisian Mosaics: Treasures from Roman Africa

Aicha Ben Abed, translated by S. Grevet (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2006) 140 pp., 136 color illus., $29.95 (paperback)

Stories in Stone: Conserving Mosaics of Roman Africa

Aicha Ben Abed, editor (Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute and Museum with the Institu National du Patrimoine, Tunisia, 2006), 200 pp., 140 color illus., $75 (hardcover)

Mosaic pavements have been preserved at sites across the Roman Empire, from the Atlantic coast in the west to the Syrian Desert in the east. The preservation of floor mosaics has been facilitated by the fact that they are naturally low to the ground, and so likely to withstand the ravages of time far better than wall paintings or monumental architecture. In addition, mosaics are made of materials that are usually not easily reused for another purpose, so they have seldom been disassembled solely for their stone content. Like those in many areas of the Mediterranean world, the mosaics of Tunisia have another factor favoring their preservation: the depopulation of many formerly urbanized areas of North Africa that left these artifacts untouched for more than 1,500 years.

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