maandag 19 januari 2015

Mersa Bou Zedjar


This place near Cape Figalo is a strange location full of question remarks. It starts with the Itinerario Antoninus (13,5): 26 miles to the east of Castra Puerum lies the town of Gilva or Gilua. That is about the location of Mersa Bou Zedjar. S.Gsell suggests to G.Vuillemot that he should search in Mersa Bou Zedjar. On a rather hostile coast for seamen this is the only possibility for a port of call, some 11 km west of Mersa Madakh. And indeed G.Vuillemot found some pre-Roman ruins. And more than that: also fragments of Punic and Italic amphorae of Campanian ware and Punic ovoid jars from at least the 3rd century BC. Besides that a Libyan inscription was found on a stele with a ritual scene at 1.5 km distance from the ancient settlement. Strange enough: there are no Roman vestiges. The pre-Roman settlement is located on the foreland of Sidi Moul Baḥar, a rock just to the north of Cape Figalo. In antiquity there was still a marsh around the ancient settlement, but in recent times it is drained now.
There is a lot of deliberation going on about the exact spelling of the name of the place. O.Cuntz thinks that we should read Silua instead of Gilua. That refers to:
Al-Bakri speaks of a town Aslan between Wahran (Oran) and Argikuk (Rashgoun).
On Punic coins we find the name ’sldn (2nd century BC) according to Mazar and Charrier. Lipinski and Krahmalkov are coming with the name ’šlbn (Müller 3.67 coins) and Krahmalkov mentions that with Salviana on page 461.
If the routing Gilva -> Gilua -> Silua -> Aslan > sldn -> šlbn -> Salviana is correct, then we have here a Punic settlement with the name on coins and Punic pottery. But that is all there is. It is not very convincing. On the other side it is the only possible port of call on the rather hostile coast. There is still a question mark: why there could be a Latin name (Salviana) and no Roman vestiges on the place.

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