The influences of extensiv raw material extraction, the processing of the workpieces and their distribution in Mediterranean world as well as the influences of the local landscape and city development of Simitthus (Tunisia) were major tasks of this research project. One focus was studying the use of the marmor Numidicum in different periods of time from the 2nd century BC until the 7th century AD to get a spectrum of utilization. The project was as well dealing with fundamental questions to trading and commerce, as to the quarries and agents in the marble business.
Recent research has revealed new evidence about the early inhabitation of Simitthus in the first millennium BC in the Medjerda valley of western Tunisia, where a Hellenistic kingdom of a Numidian dynasty reigned in the time from 2nd century BC until 46 BC and roman colony was later founded under Augustus. The earliest traces of settlement at the site found so far date to the fifth century BC, although some archaeobotanical evidence recently has been carbon dated to the eight century BC.
It is assumed that marble quarrying at Simitthus definitely started in the pre-roman settlement period and occurred from the 2nd century BC onward. The first building entirely constructed of marmor Numidicum was a large Hellenistic monument on the top of Chimtou’s “temple hill”, which was probably built by the Numidian king Micipsa (148 – 118 BC). In 46 BC, after the defeat of Pompeius and Juba I., Chimtou and its surrounding area probably became part of the Roman province of Africa, acquiring the status of a Colonia under Augustus in 27 BC. The main hypothesis by F. Rakob and J. Röder was that the quarries were at that point became imperial property and under imperial administration with a large camp for workmen, prisoners and guards on one side of the “marble hills”, whereas the Roman Colonia Iulia Augusta Numidica Simitthensium on the other side of the hill remained an independent juridical unit. Dealing with and investigating these hypotheses and furthermore their influences on the landscape and city development were the major tasks of the dissertation project (A-1-4-1) Ancient Simitthus in-between urban development and marble extension.
Marble from Chimtou was in high demand as a luxury good in the Roman Empire from the 2nd century BC onward, causing an increase in marble quarrying activities. Parallel to the intensification of quarrying and trading activities, Simitthus expanded and gained political importance on a regional level. Giallo antico was well- known throughout the Roman Empire, a fact which is due to the well-established trade routes. The marble was mostly used in pavements. Especially the marble crustae in opus signinum and so called “scutulatum” was part of many late republican and early imperial houses not only of the elite, but also in houses from middle layer society. The marmor Numidicum is part of every huge imperial building process in the 1st century AD in the city of Rome. Its use in pavements and wall incrustation, as architectural elements like columns, cornices as well as statues and small sculptures is present in private housing contexts as well as in public architecture. The marble is a component of the most luxurious decorations we know from antiquity. A quarry administration, based on imperial agents and private businessman was installed in the last quarter of the 1st century BC and probably was used with several modifications up until the 3rd century AD while the marble was still mined until the 4th century AD, maybe until the Arabian conquest.