Bringing Carthage Home: the Excavations of Nathan Davis, 1856-1859 [Hardback]

J. Freed(Author)

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ISBN: 9781842179925 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Series: UBC Studies in the Ancient World | Volume: 2 | Year of Publication: 2011 | Language: English 264p, 137 b/w & 9 color illus
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Bringing Carthage Home


Adorning the north-west staircase in the British Museum is a group of brightly coloured figured mosaic pavements. Most were excavated for the Museum between 1856 and 1859 at Carthage, in what is now Tunisia, by a dilettante called Nathan Davis; the work was funded by the Foreign Office of the British Government. This book recounts for the first time the extraordinary story behind this pioneering enterprise and the political and cultural rivalry between representatives of the colonial powers as they asserted their rights to explore the buried remains of one of the ancient world's greatest cities. The account is based on unpublished documentary material as well as what can be gleaned from published sources, including Davis's own discursive and chaotic account of his work, Carthage and her Remains (1861) - a book published exactly 150 years ago this year. Bringing Carthage Home places Davis's discoveries both in their wider archaeological context and in their topographical setting, locating for the first time on the ground the places where Davis sunk his trenches. The result is an important and original contribution to our knowledge of the history of archaeology, the topography of Carthage, the study of North African mosaics and the story of social and political intrigue in mid-nineteenth-century Tunisia.

Table of Contents

1. Nathan Davis at Carthage
2. Davis in his social context
3. Davis becomes an archaeologist
4. The site of Carthage
5. Davis gets to work
6. Mosaics discovered at Carthage before Davis’ excavations
7. The late Roman Mosaic of the Months and Seasons
8. Excavations on other sites in the Spring of 1857
9. Punic votive stelae
10. Excavation at Carthage in the second half of 1857
11. Davis moves outside Roman Carthage
12. Davis’ late mosaic finds
13. Davis in competition with Beulé
14. The contribution of the pioneer archaeologists at Carthage
Appendix 1: Some observations on Davis’ mosaic finds
Appendix 2: Gauckler’s errors on the provenances of Davis’ mosaics
Appendix 3: The mortar of Davis’ mosaics

Reviews & Quotes

"...her monograph represents a valuable exercise in archival archaeology, a strong complement to Gutron’s Franco-centric account of archaeology in Tunisia, an important contribution to the topography of Roman Carthage, and a solid model for future studies seeking to re-contextualize a range of materials from the Maghreb.'"
Matthew M. McCarty, Yale University
Bryn Mawr Classical Review (May 2012)

"What emerges from the book is a portrait of Davis as an energetic and resourceful adventurer struggling to establish his reputation as an archaeologist in a climate of unremitting hostility from the French colonial establishment who regarded Carthage as their own exclusive sphere of influence. In the end,Davis’ career as an archaeologist was short-lived.His funding lasted only four years during which time his prolific activity in the field was never matched by a corresponding scholarly rigour, a failing which left him vulnerable to criticism by other professional archaeologists. While it may be easy to dismissDavis’ archaeological activity at Carthage as mere treasure hunting, this new reappraisal of his excavations and discoveries does much to restore his reputation as a worthy pioneer of North African archaeology. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the early exploration of ancient Carthage.'"
Jeremy Rossiter
Antiquity (volume 86, issue 332)

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