vrijdag 2 januari 2015




This Phoenician settlement is located 33 km west of Cherchel in Algeria. It is the Qubba/Marabout of Sidi Brahim-el-Krouas next to Gouraya.


The Phoenician name of the settlement is not directly known, but an attempt to find it in Punic can be made by the following information:

The town is mentioned by

- Plinius (NH V, 20) > Gunugu is a colony of Augustus;

- CIV VIII 9071, 9423;

- Ptolemeus (IV 2,5) κανουίς ;

- It.Ant.(p.15) resp(tiblica) G(unugitanomm);

- Coin from Bocchus II of Mauretania with neo-Punic letters : g n g n.

The name Gunugu could be Libyco-Berber. We find g n w k n in the inscription CIS I 1443,3 and the corresponding K N K N in the inscription RIL 627. K.Jongeling gives a survey of all the Berber names ending on –kn op p.60-61 of his dissertation Personal names in neo-Punic inscriptions.


Excavations of the three necropolis have attested the existence of a pre-roman settlement of certainly the 3rd and 2nd century BC. The presence of Attic pottery proves however that the beginning of the settlement goes back at least to the 5th century BC. See: F.Villard (1959).

We find two necropolis on the eastern bay near Sidi Brahim and another on cape, which separates the western and eastern bay. In 1900 S.Gsell digs up the so-called “maison du charbonnier” = house of the charcoal-burner. It is a pit of 2 meters deep, without a staircase and a room nect to it for the deceased.


Shipping and trade.


Gunugu had overseas connections with Sicily and Spain and even with Lixus on the coast of Morocco and that is surprising for such a small settlement. In particular the connection with Villaricos is important. Here we see in both towns the ability of maintaining and painting egg-shells of the ostrich in almost the same way.

Maybe it has something to do with the pattern of colonisation by the Phoenicians. Briefly: In the beginning they took the northern route along Crete – Sicily – Sardinia to Spain.  In Spain they arrived already in the 9th-8th century BC and made there permanent colonies. On the way back they took the southern route along the North-African coast and made there only semi-permanent ports of call. When the Greeks however were threatening to cut off the lifeline to the homeland in the Lebanon, then it was necessary to reinforce the settlements halfway in Africa, Sicily and Sardinia in 6th-4th century BC. Most of the North-African Phoenician settlements as permanent towns begin in the 6th century, but Gunugu is an exception. The beginning here start at least a century earlier. I could elaborate much more about this, but here it is enough to understand, why the spread of the art of ostrich egg-shell painting went probably from Villaricos in Spain to Gunugu in North-Africa.


Ostrich egg-shells.


Gunugu is a centre for the painting and decoration of ostrich egg-shells. The town joins a very old tradition, that started already before 3000 BC at Bahrein! From there it spread to Sumeria -> Syria –> Lebanon and by the Phoenicians all over the Mediterranean. Outstanding are the tombs of Djidjelli and Gouraya, with a rich series of the receptacle type with undecorated whole shells and three-quarter shells. The Gouraya examples are interesting for the iconographical repertoire painted on the three quarter shells. The geometrical and floral motifs, similar to those found at Carthage, do not exclude use of human and animal representations: a winged female figure, a male and an advancing ostrich enliven Phoenico-Punic iconographical influences with a popular stylistic language. In the three quarter shells the type of decoration is in yellow ochre and its style recall complicated designs: four metopes framed vertically by bands with geometrical motifs and horizontally by smooth, figured bands (See: Moscati p.456-463).

The geometric pattern and even signs/marks are almost the same, as we can see in Villaricos in Spain. The shells of Gunugu are broken due to earthquakes except one, says M.Astruc (1954). The signes on the shells of Villaricos are the oldest (6th century BC) according to Astruc. Thereafter comes Gunugu with her signs of the shells in the 5th century BC. But later Caubet in 1995 thinks that the shells may go back to the 7th or perhaps 8th century BC. See: A.Caubet: Documents puniques: les oeufs dáutruche de Gouraya, Actes de IIIe Congrès international des Etudes phéniciennes et puniques, Tunis, 1995 Vol I p.253-259. Moreover there is S.Moscati in the catalogue I Fenici (1988), who claims that the shells from Villaricos are from the 8th century BC. It is still uncertain, what the paintings on the shells mean. Is it religious or just an ornament? For some strange reason this habit of paintings dies out after the 2nd century BC.




Gunugu is a remarkable settlement, because we find there also the incredible amount of at least 22 neo-Punic inscriptions. K.Jongeling traces down the personal names: g n s (N17),

g s m? (N18), z b y g y s/š (N9), y g y š w m (N12), m g w Ṣ (N11). See : Personal names in neo-Punic inscriptions, Groningen, 1974.

There has also been found an Etruscan inscription, engraved on a bronze disk, at Sidi Brahim. It comes from the 3rd century BC. You can read here (p)unicum Lartha. See: Y.Liebert, Une inscription étrusque d’Algérie, Revue des Etudes Latines 74 (1996) p.38-46.


Some history :

Carthage took over control in the 5th century BC.  In the 2nd – 1st century BC Gunugu became a part of the Mauretanian kingdom and from there it was a part of the Roman empire. So far nothing new. That happened to all the Phoenician settlements in North-Africa. But in the Roman period there is a difference, because we find hardly any Roman vestiges here.


Literature :

S.Gsell, Fouilles de Gouraya, HAAN II, p.161-162, Paris 1903.

F.Missonier, Fouilles dans la nécropole de Gouraya, Melanges de l’école francaise de Rome 50 (1933) p.87-119.

M.Astruc, Supplément aux fouilles de Gouraya, Libyca 2 (1954) p.9-48.

Mazard, Corpus Nummorum Numidiae Mauretaniarque, p.172-173, Paris 1955.

F.Villard, Vases attique du Ve siècle av.J.C.à Gouraya, Libyca 7 (1959) p.7-13.

Lepelley, les cités de l’Afrique romaine du Bas Empire, Paris, 1979-1981.

Leschi, Fouilles de la nécropole punique de Gouraya, BCTH 1932-1933, p.277-278.


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