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Part 3. Small by nature

Death, gender, and sea shells in Carthage

Mort, genre et coquillages à Carthage
Marianne E. Bergeron
p. 169-189

Résumés

Il est courant de retrouver des coquillages marins dans les tombes puniques carthaginoises, mais ceux-ci ont rarement suscité l’intérêt des archéologues. Parce que les Phéniciens ont adopté des pratiques funéraires égyptiennes, on a tout simplement prêté à ces coquillages dans les tombes carthaginoises la même signification qu’à ceux des tombes égyptiennes. Mais étant donné les rapports que les Carthaginois entretenaient avec la mer, il est vraisemblable qu’ils aient eu des raisons propres pour placer des coquillages dans leurs tombes.

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Texte intégral

1. Introduction

1Sea shells have held a particular significance in the religious beliefs of different cultural groups throughout history. In ancient Egypt, sea shells and their imitations, which were made out of semi-precious and even precious stone and metal, were worn by the living to protect them from harm. These shells were then placed in tombs where they accompanied the deceased and continued to offer them protection in the afterlife. In ancient Mesopotamia, sea shells were used for foundation deposits and some, which were used as cosmetic containers, were placed in burials as offerings. It comes as no surprise then that the Phoenician and Punic peoples would have found a votive purpose for some sea shells and their imitations as well. In Carthage, some sea shells found in Punic burials had been transformed into functional objects, such as cosmetic containers like those in Mesopotamian burials, or pendants for necklaces. These objects were usually placed near the deceased and among other funerary offerings. Sea shells in Carthaginian burial contexts are usually attributed, by scholars, the same amuletic meaning as those found in Egyptian interments. This is perhaps hardly surprising, given that we know that the Phoenicians had adopted certain Egyptian funerary customs and motifs that their Punic descendants in the west continued to utilise and practice.

  • 1 Unless stated otherwise, all dates are BCE.

2Given our understanding of Phoenician and Punic burial customs and the relevance of certain offerings in their interments, as well as our understanding of the importance of the sea for the Phoenicians, which was largely responsible for their wealth and renown across the Mediterranean, is it appropriate to prescribe a foreign, specifically Egyptian, use for sea shells in their burials? Is it not entirely possible that the people who placed these sea shells in these burials intended them as evocations of Phoenician and Punic beliefs? In this chapter, first I will examine the different sources of information available regarding sea shells in Carthaginian burials and the problems these sources present. Second, I will look at Carthaginian burial customs and the Egyptian and Egyptianising offerings frequently found in these burials. I will then examine the inclusion of sea shells as offerings in Carthaginian burials from the 8th through the 2nd centuries BCE.1 I will also consider possible reasons why these people may have chosen to include such offerings in their funerary rituals, and will seek to determine whether or not sea shells as funerary offerings, can provide any information about the living.

2. Complications arising from the evidence offered by the primary sources

  • 2 Delattre, 1890a, p. 46. Such examples are numerous. Paul Gauckler excavated over 500 Punic burials (...)
  • 3 Serge Lancel’s excavations at Byrsa Hill revealed several Archaic Punic burials. Although few shell (...)
  • 4 Bénichou-Safar, 2004, p. 52-53, 77, 93, 108.

3There are several problems associated with a study of this sort and these problems must be acknowledged and addressed from the outset. The proper identification of sea shells is one unavoidable concern that surfaces time and again and this is, in part, because most known Punic burials in Carthage were excavated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries CE when archaeological science was still very much in its infancy and recording methods depended largely on the excavators’ personal interests. In most cases, the archaeologists who excavated these burials had very little interest in the sea shells and mentioned them only very briefly or dismissed them entirely. In turn, these very rudimentary acknowledgements of shells raise many questions. What kinds of shells were found in Punic burials? Did these shells originate from a marine or terrestrial environment? Were they placed in burials intentionally or was their presence entirely accidental? Were these shells found whole or had they been modified or transformed to serve another purpose? Thankfully, in some cases, the archaeologists provided some basic identification for the shells in question and occasionally photographs that also help us to determine from which burials the shells originated.2 More recent excavations, in which modern excavation and recording methods have been used, also provide more information that helps to clarify the information gathered from earlier excavations.3 Studies on shells found in cremation urns from the Tophet highlight the problem of objects appearing in burials intrusively rather than deliberately. The shells of land snails (Caecilioides acicula) mixed with soil were found in numerous urns from the different levels of the Tophet. The presence of these shells here has been defined as entirely accidental because this is a burrowing species.4

  • 5 Reese, 1981, p. 212.
  • 6 For instance: Merlin, 1920, p. 9-10, 14-15, 19-20; Poinssot, Lantier, 1927, p. 447.

4Photographs also provide clues that help to determine a shell’s identity and occasionally its use, thereby offering some clue as to whether or not the shell’s presence in the burial was intentional. Shells that had been transformed into other objects such as cosmetic containers or bowls would have been placed in the tomb deliberately. Other shells described as pierced, could be interpreted as pendants for necklaces. In general, however, pierced shells were not all intentionally pierced. Some holes may have occurred naturally if the shells were water or beach worn. Other holes may also have been caused by carnivorous gastropods.5 Naturally occurring holes need not exclude the possibility that such shells were used as pendants but it is worth pointing out that the early excavators do not distinguish between intentionally and naturally occurring holes.6

  • 7 Pallary, 1911, p. 127-37.
  • 8 Pallary, 1911, p. 132.

5Although shells from burials were of little interest to early excavators, they did attract the attention of one specialist in particular. In 1911, Paul Pallary, an internationally renowned French malacologist who was responsible for studying the animal remains retrieved from cremation urns in the Tophet, also published a report on Carthaginian customs.7 Despite Pallary’s rather negative view of the Carthaginians as an uncultured people, his report included an extensive list of marine and terrestrial shells retrieved from the different Punic burials at Carthage. Since the publication of his article in 1911, many more burials have come to light in Carthage and thus his list may not include every type of shell encountered in Carthaginian burials. Still, his study does provide information not otherwise offered by the late-19th and early-20th century CE excavators that addresses problems related to identification and environmental origins. It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of these sea shells originated close by, just off the coast in the Mediterranean, but it is interesting to note that a few were imported from further afield. Pallary’s study rarely specified in which area of the necropolis or in which burial these different sea shells were found, but in a few instances, he did provide details on how these shells appeared in the interments.8

6Despite these complexities, it is still possible to make careful observations regarding the presence and purpose of sea shells in burials and offer interpretations about the significance of sea shells in Carthaginian burials. First, however, it is necessary to examine Phoenician and Punic burial customs, attitudes, and beliefs in relation to the information available about the context of marine shells found as offerings.

3. Carthaginian burials and burial customs

  • 9 An earlier mid-8th century necropolis was recently excavated near the seashore: Docter et al., 2003 (...)
  • 10 Lancel, 1995, p. 221; Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 61-170.

7The Punic necropolis at Carthage, in use between the late 8th and mid-2nd centuries, was situated along the slopes of the Byrsa, Juno, Odeon, Bordj-Djedid, and Sainte Monique hills that extended west and north of the city, as well as in the plain at Dermech, Douïmès, and Dahar-el-Morali (figure 1).9 The Carthaginians practiced both inhumation and cremation, although there appears to have been certain preferences for one method over another at different points in history. For instance, the late-8th century burials consisted of cremations in urns and pozzo pits, whilst the 7th-late 5th century burials tended to be inhumations in simple pits, cyst burials, and chamber tombs (for the wealthy). By the late 5th century, cremations again became typical but in urns, small limestone caskets, or ossuaries. These were buried deep underground in extensively built shaft tombs.10 In both inhumation and cremation burials, the remains of the deceased were laid to rest with a variety of funerary offerings, which are understood to have fulfilled certain needs or obligations related to the Phoenician and Punic beliefs in the afterlife.

  • 11 Cusí, 1995, p. 413; Dussaud, 1935, p. 267-77; Fantar, 1970, p. 13.
  • 12 Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 261-71; Gras et al., p. 138-41.

8The Phoenicians believed in two souls and this might explain the types of funerary offerings in Carthaginian burials. First was the Rohua, which was the spiritual soul that left the body after death. The second, the Nephest or vegetative soul, remained with the deceased.11 It is thought by historians that the Nephest would have required protection and nourishment in order to ensure its survival in the afterlife. It must be noted that in the absence of literary information written by the Carthaginians themselves on this matter, scholars can only offer interpretations of offerings to explain the presence of the various funerary offerings in Carthaginian burials. Scholars separate funerary offerings into the following categories: nourishment, protection, identification, beautification, and comfort.12

  • 13 For funerary vessels found in Phoenician burials in the Near East: Aubet, 2003; Dayagi-Mendels, 200 (...)
  • 14 Fantar, 1970, p. 8.
  • 15 For instance: Delattre, 1890b, p. 14; Delattre, 1905, p. 3-4, 21; Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 264.
  • 16 Delattre, 1897a, p. 14; Delattre, 1897b, p. 38-39; Astruc, 1956, p. 49.
  • 17 Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 267.

9The most typical funerary offerings consisted of liquids and foodstuffs, of which only the vessels have survived. The vessel types and shapes in the earliest Carthaginian burials are reminiscent of those found in Phoenician burials in the East.13 Vessels found in later burials were of varying types, shapes, and sizes, and generally of lesser quality than the earlier vases. It is also interesting to note that residue was often noted by archaeologists in vessels from the earlier burials. Beginning in the 5th century, the lack of residue in vases meant that the vessels were empty at the time of interment.14 This suggests a change in attitudes towards Carthaginian funerary observances or a loss of understanding of these old Phoenician funerary rites. Other offerings related to food and drink included straw baskets containing fruit and vegetables, to judge from the basket remains and juice stains on the stone sarcophagi left behind.15 Ostrich eggshells are interesting because they appeared in different states and these different appearances suggest that the eggshells served several different purposes in this context. As whole (frequently decorated) eggs, their contents might have served for nourishment. Eggshells cut into two could have served as drinking bowls or other containers and the presence of coloured residue in some of them further illustrates that possibility.16 On occasion, the eggshells were cut and painted to look like masks. These and other clay masks may have served to protect the deceased or the deceased’s Nephest from evil.17

  • 18 Gauckler, 1915a, pl. CLXXIII, CLXXV; Delattre, 1897b, p. 124, fig. 82.
  • 19 Delattre, 1897b, p. 16, fig. 3, p. 31, fig. 12; Ben Abed Ben Khader, Soren, 1987, p. 46, fig. 20; p (...)
  • 20 Delattre, 1897a, p. 7-8, fig. 16-17, p. 14, fig. 22; Gauckler, 1915a, p. 93; Delattre, 1899-1906b, (...)

10Other protective items in burials included clay figurines depicting different deities, some of which had been placed at the entrance to a burial.18 Bells and cymbals may also have had protective qualities; the sounds they produced may have served to ward off evil.19 Items such as fish hooks, mirrors, jewellery, spears, arrow heads, and children’s toys, to name but a few, could have served to identify the deceased and to allow him or her to continue practicing, in the afterlife, the same activities that he or she had enjoyed whilst alive.20

  • 21 Boucher-Colozier, 1953, p. 11-83; Delattre, 1907, p. 448, fig. 13; Lancel et al., 1979, fig. 136; L (...)
  • 22 Fantar, 1970, p. 8.

11Perfume containers, including imported Protocorinthian, Corinthian, and Etruscan alabastra and aryballoi, Attic red-figured lekythoi, as well as locally made silver and ivory jewellery and make up containers, might have served to provide the deceased or the Nephest with a more pleasant and comfortable environment.21 Incense burners and lamps, which may have served to ward off evil spirits, could also have been used to mask foul odours and to provide lighting. As was the case with the food and drink vessels, archaeologists frequently noted that the lamps in the earlier Archaic (8th-mid-6th century) burials had blackened nozzles, therefore suggesting the lamps were lit at the time of interment. Beginning in the 5th century, the lamps found in burials had never been used.22

12This list of offerings is by no means exhaustive. It is, however, representative of the types of offerings commonly found across the Carthaginian Punic necropolis beginning as early as the late 8th century.

4. Egyptian and Egyptianising beliefs and offerings

  • 23 Markoe, 2000, p. 138; Porada, 1973, p. 366-67, pl. 1a-b.
  • 24 For instance: Andrews, 1985, p. 155: Spells 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160; Andrews, 1994, p. 6.
  • 25 Cintas, 1946. For instance, see Delattre, 1897a, p. 26, fig. 47; Lancel, 1982b, p. 275-76, fig. 366 (...)
  • 26 For instance, see Cintas, 1976, p. 293-95; Delattre, 1897a, p. 7-8.
  • 27 Acquaro, 1988, p. 394.
  • 28 Acquaro, 1988, p. 394; Lancel, 1995, p. 69.
  • 29 Acquaro, 1988, p. 396.
  • 30 Acquaro, 1988, p. 396.

13One interesting observation in Carthaginian funerary customs is the inclusion of Egyptian and Egyptianising offerings in the burials. In the first instance, the Ankh and lotus flowers, both of which are Egyptian symbols of life and regeneration, are found on Phoenician sarcophagi, including the 10th century sarcophagus of King Ahiram of Byblos, now in the National Museum of Beirut.23 It is also well known that in ancient Egypt, amulets and scarabs were essential components in Egyptian funerary traditions. These objects feature in spells from the Book of the Dead and other Egyptian funerary texts and such amulets, in these burials, were found on the wrapped body of the deceased.24 In Carthage, Egyptian and Egyptianising scarabs, amulets, and jewellery items have been found in various burials.25 Many of the earliest scarabs, some of which had Egyptian inscriptions with the names of Egyptian pharaohs, were imported from Egypt.26 Others were locally made and some of these had Phoenician inscriptions that identified the scarab’s owner.27 Any political meaning attached to the Egyptian originals was likely lost on the Phoenician users of these scarabs, but it is understood that the regenerative qualities these talismans had for the Egyptians, was similarly observed by the Phoenicians and almost all 7th century burials in Carthage contained at least one scarab.28 Amulets in the form of Egyptian deities such as Ptah, Horus, Bes, Ra, Isis, and Anubis, others shaped as animals sacred to the Egyptians (e.g. monkey, hare, crocodile, cat, and falcon), and still others shaped like the Egyptian Oudja and Uraeus, were frequently used as pendants.29 Whilst the subject matter for these amulets was clearly inspired by Egyptian originals, the Carthaginian Egyptianising offerings were stylistically very different.30

  • 31 Frendo et al., 2005, p. 427-43.
  • 32 It is also worth pointing out that the earliest necropolis at Mozia was located on the northern edg (...)
  • 33 Gauckler, 1915a, p. 28-29, pl. CXXXV.
  • 34 Frendo et al., 2005, p. 431-33.

14Beginning as early as the Predynastic Period (4000-3100), the Nile River played a central role in Egyptian funerary customs, as it was the conduit for the journey undertaken by the deceased in the afterlife. The river, which separated the country into two, marked the metaphorical boundary between the world of the living and the world of the dead. The funeral procession involved a journey over the Nile or one of its branches and this journey was often represented through offerings and images found in Egyptian burials (figure 2). Anthony Frendo, Aloisia De Trafford, and Nicholas Vella, highlighting the archaeological evidence and literary sources, have recently argued for a similar belief amongst the Phoenicians, both in the East and the West.31 Both Phoenician and Punic burial grounds were typically separated from settlements by a body of water; there were notable exceptions, such as Carthage. It ought to be pointed out that burial grounds could have been placed at a distance from the settlements for sanitary and hygienic purposes, or perhaps because of a lack of space. Sites like Tyre and Mozia had limited space as they were situated on small islands.32 Some funerary offerings in western burials were also consistent with a journey over water. One burial at Dermech contained a terracotta figurine of a man (perhaps the deceased) in a small boat.33 On Malta, an inland burial contained a small papyrus that had been placed inside a bronze amulet holder. The papyrus contained a Phoenician inscription and an image of Isis. The inscription also mentioned a journey over water.34 It is possible that the Phoenicians shared this Egyptian belief in a final funerary journey over water. Despite the fact that sea shells are naturally associated with water, they do not specifically imply a journey of any kind, so I do not believe that they would have had an association with this funerary journey.

  • 35 Markoe, 2000, p. 124.
  • 36 CIS, I, 1068.
  • 37 Markoe, 2000, p. 124; Lemaire, 1986, p. 87-98.

15Egyptian customs and beliefs adopted by the Phoenicians were not limited to the world of the dead. As well as their belief in the afterlife and their use of Egyptian amulets and scarabs, it is also understood that in eastern and western Phoenician centres, including Carthage, the residents worshipped different Egyptian deities.35 According to one Punic inscription, Isis was worshipped in Carthage in the 3rd-2nd centuries.36 Other Egyptian deities, including Bes, Bastet, and Horus, were also worshipped by the Phoenicians and it would appear that these were closely associated with women and children.37

  • 38 Acquaro, 1988, p. 396; Andrews, 1994, p. 56-59.

16The Egyptian, Phoenician, and Punic peoples shared certain funerary beliefs and made use of the same objects in similar ways, yet some Egyptian symbols that had an important function in funerary protection such as the heart scarab, which assured the deceased an afterlife, did not fit into Phoenician funerary customs and were absent from the burials.38 It seems clear that whilst the Phoenicians were aware of the importance of these amuletic offerings for the Egyptians, the Phoenician and Punic peoples made use of these same and similar objects for their own purposes.

5. Sea shells in Carthage

  • 39 For a recently published study on the different uses of sea shells as observed through archaeologic (...)
  • 40 Andrews, 1994, p. 4, 102, 107.
  • 41 Petrie, 1914, p. 27-28.
  • 42 Andrews, 1990, p. 39a; Andrews, 1994, p. 42; Petrie, 1914, p. 27.
  • 43 Andrews, 1994, p. 20.

17Sea shells have held a particular importance, whether for religious, decorative, industrial, or for other purposes, to different cultural groups throughout history and prehistory.39 Sea shells originating from the Red Sea were used as amulets by the ancient Egyptians beginning as early as the Predynastic period.40 Different kinds of sea shells served as amulets both for the living and the dead and W.M. Flinders Petrie listed them and their known properties in his monograph entitled Amulets: Illustrated by the Egyptian Collection in University College London.41 It would seem that sea shells, both real and manmade, served to protect their owners against evil. To the living, these types of amulets also had certain health benefits. For instance, cowrie shells, which have the appearance of female genitalia, were inserted into women’s girdles, where they served to protect their reproductive organs and in the case of pregnant women, their unborn children (figure 3).42 Oyster shells, again both real and manmade, were also used as pendants for women’s necklaces.43 Whilst in life, they offered their owners protection and so these amulets frequently accompanied them in death as well.

  • 44 For reconstructed necklaces: Delattre, 1896, p. 37; Gauckler, 1915a, pl. CXLVIII, CLII.
  • 45 Aynard, 1966, p. 30; Moorey, 1994, p. 134-35.
  • 46 Delattre, 1897b, p. 84; Lancel, 1982b, p. 325, 328.
  • 47 Saumagne, 1932-1933, p. 85-86, 326; Delattre, 1897b, p. 84-87; Gauckler, 1915, p. 89-91.
  • 48 Delattre, 1896, p. 32-35.
  • 49 For a discussion of funerary offerings from burials and what they might mean: Gras et al., 1991, p. (...)

18In Carthage, sea shells appeared in burials under a number of ways. Their presence in this context is most frequently attributed the same meaning as the other Egyptian and Egyptianising amulets and scarabs, that is, amulets that provided various forms of protection to the deceased. Although the strings used for necklaces would have rotted away, it is understood that the shells with holes were probably used as pendants, perhaps even together with other the amulets.44 Bivalves and some gastropods were also used as receptacles and contained different coloured cosmetics. Similarities here can be drawn with sea shells used as cosmetic containers in (albeit much earlier) third millennium Mesopotamian burials, for instance in Cemetery A at Kish and in the Royal Cemetery at Ur.45 As regards sea shells used as cosmetic containers in Carthage, the shells themselves were usually not transformed or had undergone very little alteration and coloured residue was frequently (but not always) observed inside them.46 Unfortunately, in most cases, the archaeologists offered no information as to whether these cosmetic containers belonged in men’s or women’s burials yet, in some cases, these burials also contained objects such as mirrors and combs that are usually identified as belonging to women.47 Other bivalve shells had been transformed into decorative boxes complete with lid and handle.48 Other sea shells, such as those that were water or beach worn or those that had not been transformed or used for another purpose are usually attributed a more menial interpretation, that of pretty objects meant to provide the deceased or Nephest with a more pleasing environment.49

  • 50 Vercoutter, 1945, p. 201-204, 279, pl. XIV-XV.

19Imitation cowrie shells have also been noted in a few Carthaginian burials. These however, may be interpreted specifically as amulets. Some contained hieroglyphs and were used as seals whilst others were found inside amulet holders. It would seem that these imitation sea shells were Egyptian imports.50

  • 51 The names of the various species of shells are those used by the different authors.
  • 52 Pallary, 1911, p. 128-29; Cintas, 1976, p. 284.
  • 53 In a Late Archaic burial at Juno Hill, the contents included an Early Protocorinthian Subgeometric (...)

20According to Pallary, some burials contained sea shells that were not native to the waters near Carthage. Some imports, including the strawberry top shell (Clanculus pharaonius)51 and the panther cowrie (Cypraea pantherina) are native to the region of the Red Sea.52 Whether or not the deceased or the individuals responsible for placing these imported shells in burials were aware that such shells were not native to their region is unknown. Unlike regions located at a distance from the sea and other large bodies of water and where sea shells would not have been a common sight and therefore those found in burials could have been considered exotica, imported shells found in Carthaginian burials might have been treasured possessions or heirlooms belonging to the deceased. Similar explanations have been used to understand the presence of other objects in burials.53

  • 54 2 Chronicles 2.13-17; 1 Kings 5.1-6, 7.13-51; Homer, Iliad, 23.740-749; Homer, Odyssey, 4.612-620; (...)

21Sea shells, regardless of any cultural affiliation, stand as very powerful symbols for the sea. Because these molluscs originated from the sea, they are symbols of its existence and of its fertility. The important relationship between the Phoenicians and the sea is independent of the Egyptians, yet the sea brought these two peoples together and made them aware of each other’s customs and motifs. The wealth of Phoenician cities in the Levant was directly associated with their relationship with the sea. Purple dye, shipbuilding, and fishing stand amongst some of their more successful enterprises, but they are perhaps best known, first for their involvement in maritime trade and their desperate search for precious metals and then for their western colonisation movement to secure their trade routes. Numerous ancient literary texts mention or discuss Phoenician trading ventures and their manufacture of luxury goods.54 Quite clearly, without direct access to the sea, the Phoenicians would never have been as successful as they were and our knowledge of them would have satisfied little more than a footnote in the history of other groups in the East. Later, after the foundation of Carthage, the city established itself as a true maritime empire by building a powerful navy and undertaking its own colonisation programme to gain access once again to trade routes and valuable commodities.

22Given our current understanding of Phoenician and Carthaginian funerary customs, whereby certain offerings connected the deceased to activities with which he or she was once in some way involved, it seems quite possible that sea shells in burials connected the Carthaginians to their own and their Phoenician ancestors’ activities on the sea. Carthaginian funerary offerings have been placed into different categories that provided the deceased or Nephest with certain benefits and sometimes the same objects appeared in several categories and thus served more than one purpose and the same can also be said about sea shells. The following is an examination of these sea shells and their placement into some of these different categories. Ultimately, can these sea shells shed more light on the Carthaginians themselves?

5. 1. Sea shells as symbols for nourishment

  • 55 Van Wijngaarden-Bakker, van Neer, 2007, p. 841-49. For details concerning the excavation of the Ham (...)
  • 56 Van Wijngaarden-Bakker, van Neer, 2007, p. 844-45.
  • 57 Van Wijngaarden-Bakker, van Neer, 2007, p. 848.

23The presence of sea shells in certain contexts can help to inform us about local diets. For instance, shells that were mixed with other faunal remains and later unearthed from rubbish layers in settlement contexts suggest their usage for nourishment. Studies carried out on faunal remains from the recently excavated Hamburg housing quarter (figure 1), situated along the coastal plain in Carthage, showed that the residents there were in part reliant on the sea for their nutritional requirements.55 Some marine molluscs retrieved from the site originated from nearby coastal rocks, where Carthaginians could pry them off during periods of low tide. Some originated from shallow waters and others came from deeper waters where their collection would have likely occurred during other fishing activities.56 Furthermore, evidence at the Hamburg housing quarter showed that between the mid 8th and late 5th centuries, the residents there gradually increased their consumption of molluscs.57

  • 58 See supra, p. 167-69.
  • 59 Saumagne, 1932-1933, p. 86; Delattre, 1896, p. 70 ; Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 264.
  • 60 Pallary, 1911, p. 130; Lancel, 1982b, p. 333, 340, fig. 542; Gauckler, 1915a, pl. CXXVII.
  • 61 Pallary, 1911, p. 131; Van Wijngaarden-Bakker, van Neer, 2007, p. 842, 845.

24As discussed earlier,58 certain funerary offerings similarly served to nourish the deceased or the Nephest, so these food tokens also provide some information about Carthaginian diets. Burials contained fish and animal bones, in addition to liquids such as wine, and baskets containing fruit and vegetables.59 Unfortunately, as is the case with most sea shells, very few details were typically given by excavators to determine the kinds of animals and fish. Yet the presence in burials of bones, devoid of meat (which had long since rotted away), is most easily explained as food residue. Certainly some sea shells found in burials could thus be similarly interpreted. Several types of molluscs recorded by Pallary in his publication on shells from burials are indeed edible and are consumed by people today. Admittedly, it is not possible to say that every kind of edible mollusc found in Pallary’s list was indeed consumed by Carthaginians between the 8th and 2nd centuries, yet we know from the settlement evidence that at least some of these types of molluscs were. For instance, limpets and cockles were found in the Hamburg housing quarter and used as offerings in some burials.60 Limpets are gastropods that are collected from coastal rocks. In burials, these often appeared unaltered and thus may have served as receptacles, but as they appear like other fish and animal bones (the flesh having rotted away leaving behind only bones), there is no reason to discount the possibility of their purpose as sustenance for the deceased or Nephest. The same is true about cockles, which are still commonly eaten bivalve molluscs.61

  • 62 Delattre, 1905, p. 22; Krandel-Ben Younes, 1995, p. 120.

25Sea shells might also have shared a similar symbolic value as terracotta fruit and vegetables, which were found in Late Punic (3rd-2nd century) burials (figure 4).62 Naturally, these terracotta fruit and vegetables were inedible. Nonetheless, they served to represent actual food offerings and importantly, they represented the kinds of food likely consumed by Carthaginians. In this capacity, so too could sea shells.

  • 63 Merlin frequently noted sea shells in his excavation of 4th century burials at Dahar el-Morali: Mer (...)

26According to the information provided by the various published field reports - both those from late-19th and early-20th century CE excavations and those from more recent excavations, it appears that sea shells were more frequently observed in Middle and Late Punic burials than those from the Early Punic or Archaic period.63 If so, let us also remember that, based on the evidence from the Hamburg housing quarter, the consumption of molluscs in Carthage increased over the centuries. The shells (that were not water worn) from burials, regardless of whether or not they had been transformed into different objects to serve different purposes, were probably collected during regular fishing activities at the same time as the molluscs that were destined for the dinner table or used for other purposes, since they were probably alive when caught.

27As members of a society with close ties to the sea, the Carthaginians would have made use of their unlimited resources for a number of purposes. By including sea shells as symbols for sustenance in their burials, the Carthaginians were demonstrating their reliance on the sea as a source for food, as well as ensuring the continuation of their close relationship with the sea and, most importantly, ensuring their dependence on its fruits, for sustenance, in the afterlife.

5. 2. Sea shells as symbols for identification

  • 64 Homer, Iliad, 6.289-91; Athenaeus of Naucratis, The Deipnosophists, 1.49, 12.58.
  • 65 For a bone reed: Delattre, 1897b, p. 100-101. For a bronze hatchet razor with an incised decoration (...)
  • 66 Delattre, 1897a, p. 8-9; Lancel, 1982a, p. 108-10; Schmidt, 2007, p. 772-73.
  • 67 Saumagne, 1932-1933, p. 86; Koens, 2003, p. 64

28Artisanal activity at Carthage, according to the archaeological evidence, is reminiscent of the same types of activities for which the Phoenicians in the East were known: purple dyeing, potting, metallurgy, and bone and ivory carving. Another type of artisanal activity for which both the Phoenicians and Carthaginians were known, which was associated with purple dyeing, was textile making. Naturally, the vast majority of these textiles no longer exists but the Greek literary sources do inform us about this Carthaginian industry.64 The archaeological evidence also provides some valuable information. Spindles and reeds made of bone, ivory, and wood and associated with spinning were found in numerous burials.65 Clay and stone weights associated with weaving or spinning were found in some houses and also in burials.66 Ivory, bone, and bronze needles were also frequently placed in interments and bronze needles of various sizes have been recorded in recent excavations of the region immediately south of the Hamburg housing quarter.67

  • 68 Cintas, Gobert, 1939, p. 136.
  • 69 On fulling and dyeing in Roman North Africa: Wilson, 2004, p. 155-64.
  • 70 Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 9.60.125-127; 9.61.132; 9.62.133-135. His description of the dyei (...)

29Although cloth disintegrates over time, some remains of wool and linen pouches for hatchet razors and mirrors, recorded in a number of burials, still bore traces of colour when they were excavated.68 Wool and linen needed to be washed and treated, and this would have been done by fullers who cleaned, carded, bleached, and pressed the materials before they were spun into thread.69 Since some of the fabrics found in burials still bore traces of their dyes, dyers who produced these dyes and those who dyed the materials or the cloth would also have been involved in textile production. Unfortunately, evidence for fulling and dyeing in Punic Carthage is slight. The ingredients used for making dyes were largely organic and would not have survived and one would expect to find large vats or tubs and water channels in which the materials would have been treated. There is, however, one type of dye for which there is some evidence, in Carthage, of its production and which is synonymous with both the Carthaginians and the Phoenicians: purple dye made from crushed Murex shells. Information on how the Phoenicians produced their famous purple dye comes, perhaps most famously, from Pliny the Elder.70

  • 71 This mid-8th century pile of crushed Murex shells was found during a stratigraphical survey in the (...)
  • 72 For the use of Murex shells in stucco: Rakob, 1997, p. 36; Reese, 1979-1980, p. 90; Lancel, 1995, p (...)

30Typically, large deposits of crushed Murex shells are the only evidence uncovered by archaeologists that point to the dyeing industry and this is certainly true at Carthage, where a few small shell deposits indicate the presence of such an industry beginning as early as the mid 8th century.71 In most cases, whilst these deposits were found within industrial layers, their presence in these layers was indicative of their use in other industrial activities, for instance, as aggregate for the production of stucco and as calcium to strengthen iron.72 Although these were small piles of crushed shells, they were likely, in the first instance, refuse from dyeing activities. This refuse would then have been recycled for use in other industries. There are no known large piles of crushed Murex shells from the Punic period in Carthage.

  • 73 Ben Abdallah et al., 1980, p. 17-18; Annabi, 1981, p. 26-27.
  • 74 For instance, Gauckler, 1915a, p. 9, 50-53, 83-84, 88; Gauckler, 1915b, p. 427; Gaillard, 1938-1940 (...)
  • 75 Gauckler, 1915a, p. 9, 50-53, 83-84.
  • 76 See supra, n. 65.
  • 77 Barber, 1991, p. 289.

31The remains of a workshop, where certain activities related to textile production, including dyeing and perhaps also fulling, were unearthed in the southern region of Carthage in an area known as the Kram. Here, a series of basins, cisterns, and channels, as well as a large layer of Murex brandaris shells indicated that purple dye was made here until the 3rd century.73 Whole and crushed Murex shells have also been recovered from a few burials.74 Although the excavators did not always identify the gender of the deceased in these burials, those containing Murex shells also contained other artefacts including mirrors and necklaces that are usually associated with women.75 Other tools used in the production of cloth in Carthage also came from burials identified as belonging to women.76 This is hardly surprising since textile making is an activity usually associated with women. Throughout history (and prehistory), textile production was largely seen as a woman’s activity. Women were usually attributed the more traditional roles of spinning and weaving. These activities, which are considered mundane and repetitive and do not require deep levels of concentration, would have allowed women to perform other tasks, such as looking after children, at the same time. These were also activities that could easily be carried out within the confines of one’s home, which provided a suitable environment for rearing children.77

  • 78 Smith, 2002, p. 288, 295; Barber, 1991, p. 239.
  • 79 CIS, I, 344.
  • 80 CIS, I, 345.
  • 81 Sznycer, 1976, p. 81-91.
  • 82 Delattre, 1906a, p. 7b-8b; Delattre, 1906b, p. 9b.

32Activities such as metalworking, hunting game, and rearing animals, would have been too dangerous for children, and thus would not have been appropriate ventures undertaken by mothers or women in general. Some elements of textile making can also fall under the category of inappropriate activities for women: dye production, which often necessitates tools including pounders and grinders, large quantities of water, heat sources, vats, tubs, and large quantities of varying ingredients for making dyes, some of which could be hazardous and could produce harmful fumes. As these elements combine to create an environment that would not have been suitable for children and perhaps even detrimental to the development of foetuses,78 it is usually assumed that the production of dyes for textiles would have been mainly carried out by men. Indeed, there is some evidence at Carthage pointing towards the involvement of men in the production of some dyes as well as in weaving and fulling activities. One Punic inscription found in a funerary context identified a man, presumably the deceased, as a weaver.79 Another inscription identified man who produced weaving tools.80 A third identified a male slave who worked as a fuller for his master.81 One burial contained, in addition to the other usual funerary offerings, a jug that was filled with crushed Murex shells. An inscription on the jug provided a name that presumably identified the deceased.82 So men were clearly involved in the production of textiles, perhaps on an industrial level. Since Murex dye had to be used immediately after it was produced, the presence of the dye workshop at the Kram presupposes the presence of a textile workshop close by.

  • 83 Xeste 3, Akrotiri, Thera: Barber, 1994, p. 113-16.
  • 84 Barber, 1991, p. 228 n. 4.
  • 85 Although note that Doumet showed that sun was not necessary for the oxidisation process, but rather (...)
  • 86 Jensen, 1963, p. 104-18.

33Yet, it stands to reason that if wool and linen were spun and woven in the home, then it is also possible that the fabrics produced here were dyed here too and that this procedure could then have been carried out by women. There is little evidence, however, to support the notion that women in antiquity were directly involved in dyeing. Elizabeth Barber discusses the role of women in the dyeing of cloth by interpreting a Minoan fresco as having a close connection to a specific yellow dye.83 This fresco from the island of Thera, shows a group of women collecting saffron. Saffron was not only used as a spice, but was and still is used as an appropriate remedy from menstrual cramps. Saffron is also the main ingredient for making a yellow dye. In ancient Greece, the colour yellow was specific to young women or maidens and so the scene in this fresco has been interpreted as a rite of passage into womanhood with a young veiled maiden as its central figure. Barber also describes a process for dyeing yarn purple that is practiced today in Central America.84 She describes women collecting snails along the seashore during periods of low tide and rubbing them against wool. According to Barber, oxidisation occurs through the combination of saltwater and sun, which then creates the purple dye.85 Once done, the women simply throw the (still living, if perhaps irritated) snails back into the sea. Lloyd Jensen also wrote of children on the beach in Lebanon in the 1960’s, crushing Murex snails and mixing the extract from the snails with lemon juice, and then using the dye produced to colour rags.86 Without any contradictory evidence, there is no reason to suppose that Carthaginian women could not have found similar ways to dye the cloths and other materials which they produced at home for household use. Yet the processes described constitute a very small production of the dye, suitable for personal use.

  • 87 Fantar, 1993, p. 308.
  • 88 Lancel, 1982b, p. 340-51. By this principle, the crushed Murex shells in the burial discussed above (...)

34Returning to the Murex shells found in burials, if the crushed shells from one burial have been interpreted as symbols for the deceased’s profession as a purple dyer, then a similar interpretation can be offered for the Murex shells found in other burials.87 It is difficult to attribute to them the term ‘exotica’ - usually used to describe high quality, imported, and rare goods - since their presence in Carthage was widespread and their uses were numerous. As unbroken whole shells, they could have served to represent the source of the dye or the raw ‘ingredient’. Other funerary offerings have been similarly interpreted. Lancel noted the presence of several pieces of unworked bone and ivory in one burial on Byrsa Hill. Lancel thus suggested that the deceased may have been a bone and ivory carver and these offerings would have permitted him to continue practicing his craft in the afterlife.88 So, if these Murex shells in burials served to identify a trade practiced by the deceased and some of the burials in which these shells were found are understood to have belonged to women, then the possibility exists of women in Carthage who worked at some level in the dyeing industry. Is it not possible then to see a similar purpose for red ochre found in some burials and placed inside sea shell ‘cosmetic’ containers? Ochre was used by some in the production of red dyes and containers containing ochre residue were typically found in women’s burials, where they were identified as make up.

6. Conclusion

35Throughout history, sea shells have served a variety of purposes. In Carthage, molluscs were used to make dyes and formed part of the local diet. Sea shells had decorative and industrial purposes as well. They were used as pendants for necklaces, some were transformed into decorative containers, others as valuable ingredients for making stucco, and yet others to make stronger metals. It is unsurprising then to also find sea shells in funerary contexts.

36Admittedly, there are many questions that remain unanswered regarding Carthaginian and indeed Phoenician customs in general. We have very few written sources and the archaeology is lacking and largely funerary. We are further hampered by the lack of information provided by archaeologists, who focussed their attention on things that were of interest for themselves. Far too frequently, these excavators saw very little in sea shells as offerings and consequently wrote very little about them.

37We do know that, from very early on, the Phoenicians incorporated and adapted several Egyptian elements into their own funerary customs, so it is perhaps unsurprising that a similar Egyptian amuletic significance was placed on sea shells in Carthaginian burials. Certainly, some sea shells, in particular the few imitation sea shells, can be attributed an amuletic purpose, but given the different meanings attributed to other offerings in Carthaginian burials, the likelihood exists that sea shells held more than one purpose to the deceased or the deceased’s Nephest. As food offerings, these molluscs served to nourish the deceased or Nephest in much the same way that other meat and fruit offerings did. As raw materials, they served to identify the deceased’s occupation or hobbies and allowed the Nephest to continue practicing these activities in the afterlife. It is entirely possible that sea shells had also served a number of other uses as well.

38Given the lack of Phoenician and Punic literary sources and the few non-funerary contexts known, the different uses for sea shells as observed from the burials can offer some more information about the Carthaginians themselves. One thing that does seem clear, however, is that the inclusion of sea shells in Carthaginian burials, rather than simply illustrate the Phoenico-Punic adoption of an Egyptian ritual, demonstrates the Carthaginian practice of a specifically Phoenician custom.

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Annexe

Figure 1. Sites and regions of Carthage

Figure 1. Sites and regions of Carthage

1. Bir Massouda ; 2. Bordj-Djedid ; 3. Byrsa Hill; 4. Circular Lagoon/ Military Harbour ; 5. Dahar-el-Morali ; 6. Dermech; 7. Douïmès; 8. Hamburg Housing Quarter; 9. Juno Hill; 10. Odeon Hill; 11. Rectangular Lagoon/ Commercial Harbour; 12. Sainte Monique; 13. Tophet of Salammbô.

Figure 2. Model barque from Egypt, now located in the British Museum (EA 9524). Middle Kingdom (12th Dynasty circa 1991-1802).

Figure 2. Model barque from Egypt, now located in the British Museum (EA 9524). Middle Kingdom (12th Dynasty circa 1991-1802).

© The Trustees of the British Museum.

Figure 3. Girdle, perhaps belonging to a statuette, said to be from Thebes, now located in the British Museum (EA 3077). Middle Kingdom (ca. 2055-1650).

Figure 3. Girdle, perhaps belonging to a statuette, said to be from Thebes, now located in the British Museum (EA 3077). Middle Kingdom (ca. 2055-1650).

© The Trustees of the British Museum.

Figure 4. Terracotta fruit from a Punic burial, in Musée National de Carthage.

Figure 4. Terracotta fruit from a Punic burial, in Musée National de Carthage.

Drawing by François Leclère.

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Notes

1 Unless stated otherwise, all dates are BCE.

2 Delattre, 1890a, p. 46. Such examples are numerous. Paul Gauckler excavated over 500 Punic burials in the regions of Dermech, Odeon Hill, and Dahar-el-Morali. In many cases he merely noted the presence of shells in individual burials: Gauckler, 1915a, p. 9-10, 129. In other instances, Gauckler provided a little more information: Gauckler, 1915a, p. 94. Finally, his publication also includes plates that provide details of shells from specific burials, yet the listings in the accompanying text make no mention of shells at all: Gauckler, 1915a, p. 17-18, pl. CXXV, CXXVII. Alfred Merlin’s excavation report on burials at Dahar-el-Morali, made numerous references to the presence of pierced cowrie type shells: Merlin, 1920, p. 9-10, 14-15, 19-20. Merlin, together with Louis Drappier, briefly mentioned the presence of cowrie and pecten shells, similar to those found in burials at Douïmès and Dermech, in their burials at D’Ard-el-Khéraïb: Merlin, Drappier, 1909, p. 18; Delattre, 1894, p. 433.

3 Serge Lancel’s excavations at Byrsa Hill revealed several Archaic Punic burials. Although few shells were retrieved from these interments, Lancel identified the different shells, provided photographs of them, and even included them in his burial sketches, thereby providing details pertaining to each shell’s placement in the tomb: Lancel, 1982, p. 308, fig. 464, p. 324, fig. 505, p. 328, fig. 515-16, p. 333, p. 338, fig. 537, p. 340, fig. 542.

4 Bénichou-Safar, 2004, p. 52-53, 77, 93, 108.

5 Reese, 1981, p. 212.

6 For instance: Merlin, 1920, p. 9-10, 14-15, 19-20; Poinssot, Lantier, 1927, p. 447.

7 Pallary, 1911, p. 127-37.

8 Pallary, 1911, p. 132.

9 An earlier mid-8th century necropolis was recently excavated near the seashore: Docter et al., 2003, p. 43-70; Docter et al., 2006, p. 37-89. Unfortunately, these nine pozzo pit burials were disturbed in the mid-7th century, when that part of the city was transformed into an industrial quarter. As a result, only pottery fragments and some bone remains were identified.

10 Lancel, 1995, p. 221; Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 61-170.

11 Cusí, 1995, p. 413; Dussaud, 1935, p. 267-77; Fantar, 1970, p. 13.

12 Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 261-71; Gras et al., p. 138-41.

13 For funerary vessels found in Phoenician burials in the Near East: Aubet, 2003; Dayagi-Mendels, 2002; Mazar, 2004.

14 Fantar, 1970, p. 8.

15 For instance: Delattre, 1890b, p. 14; Delattre, 1905, p. 3-4, 21; Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 264.

16 Delattre, 1897a, p. 14; Delattre, 1897b, p. 38-39; Astruc, 1956, p. 49.

17 Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 267.

18 Gauckler, 1915a, pl. CLXXIII, CLXXV; Delattre, 1897b, p. 124, fig. 82.

19 Delattre, 1897b, p. 16, fig. 3, p. 31, fig. 12; Ben Abed Ben Khader, Soren, 1987, p. 46, fig. 20; p. 47, fig. 21.

20 Delattre, 1897a, p. 7-8, fig. 16-17, p. 14, fig. 22; Gauckler, 1915a, p. 93; Delattre, 1899-1906b, p. 19-20, fig. 39; Ben Abed Ben Khader, Soren, 1987, p. 47, fig. 22.

21 Boucher-Colozier, 1953, p. 11-83; Delattre, 1907, p. 448, fig. 13; Lancel et al., 1979, fig. 136; Lancel et al., 1982, fig. 581; Gauckler, 1915a, pl. CLX, fig. 2.2 bis, pl. CLXI (middle), CLXXXVIII, pl. CXC, fig. 1; Ben Abed Ben Khader, Soren, 1987, p. 141.4; p. 147.10; p. 159.24.

22 Fantar, 1970, p. 8.

23 Markoe, 2000, p. 138; Porada, 1973, p. 366-67, pl. 1a-b.

24 For instance: Andrews, 1985, p. 155: Spells 155, 156, 157, 158, 159, 160; Andrews, 1994, p. 6.

25 Cintas, 1946. For instance, see Delattre, 1897a, p. 26, fig. 47; Lancel, 1982b, p. 275-76, fig. 366; Gauckler, 1915a, p. 33, 95, pl. CLI.

26 For instance, see Cintas, 1976, p. 293-95; Delattre, 1897a, p. 7-8.

27 Acquaro, 1988, p. 394.

28 Acquaro, 1988, p. 394; Lancel, 1995, p. 69.

29 Acquaro, 1988, p. 396.

30 Acquaro, 1988, p. 396.

31 Frendo et al., 2005, p. 427-43.

32 It is also worth pointing out that the earliest necropolis at Mozia was located on the northern edge of the island.

33 Gauckler, 1915a, p. 28-29, pl. CXXXV.

34 Frendo et al., 2005, p. 431-33.

35 Markoe, 2000, p. 124.

36 CIS, I, 1068.

37 Markoe, 2000, p. 124; Lemaire, 1986, p. 87-98.

38 Acquaro, 1988, p. 396; Andrews, 1994, p. 56-59.

39 For a recently published study on the different uses of sea shells as observed through archaeological study: Çakirlar, 2011.

40 Andrews, 1994, p. 4, 102, 107.

41 Petrie, 1914, p. 27-28.

42 Andrews, 1990, p. 39a; Andrews, 1994, p. 42; Petrie, 1914, p. 27.

43 Andrews, 1994, p. 20.

44 For reconstructed necklaces: Delattre, 1896, p. 37; Gauckler, 1915a, pl. CXLVIII, CLII.

45 Aynard, 1966, p. 30; Moorey, 1994, p. 134-35.

46 Delattre, 1897b, p. 84; Lancel, 1982b, p. 325, 328.

47 Saumagne, 1932-1933, p. 85-86, 326; Delattre, 1897b, p. 84-87; Gauckler, 1915, p. 89-91.

48 Delattre, 1896, p. 32-35.

49 For a discussion of funerary offerings from burials and what they might mean: Gras et al., 1991, p. 127-76; Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 262-71.

50 Vercoutter, 1945, p. 201-204, 279, pl. XIV-XV.

51 The names of the various species of shells are those used by the different authors.

52 Pallary, 1911, p. 128-29; Cintas, 1976, p. 284.

53 In a Late Archaic burial at Juno Hill, the contents included an Early Protocorinthian Subgeometric kotyle, which was dated to the first half of the 7th century. The burial itself was dated to 620-580, according to the construction techniques employed in the tomb. As the kotyle in question is much older than the burial, it may be considered an heirloom belonging to the deceased and specifically chosen by him or her or by a loved one, as a funerary offering: Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 358; Cintas, 1976, p. 294. In another instance, a 4th century burial at Dermech contained a 6th century kothon. It too was probably an heirloom: Lancel, 1984-1989, p. 35-51.

54 2 Chronicles 2.13-17; 1 Kings 5.1-6, 7.13-51; Homer, Iliad, 23.740-749; Homer, Odyssey, 4.612-620; Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 16.79.216; Velleius Paterculus Roman History, 1.2; Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 19.22.

55 Van Wijngaarden-Bakker, van Neer, 2007, p. 841-49. For details concerning the excavation of the Hamburg housing quarter: Niemeyer, 1987, p. 8; Niemeyer, 1990, p. 45-52; Niemeyer, Docter, 1993, p. 201-44; Niemeyer et al., 1995, p. 475-502; Niemeyer et al., 2007.

56 Van Wijngaarden-Bakker, van Neer, 2007, p. 844-45.

57 Van Wijngaarden-Bakker, van Neer, 2007, p. 848.

58 See supra, p. 167-69.

59 Saumagne, 1932-1933, p. 86; Delattre, 1896, p. 70 ; Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 264.

60 Pallary, 1911, p. 130; Lancel, 1982b, p. 333, 340, fig. 542; Gauckler, 1915a, pl. CXXVII.

61 Pallary, 1911, p. 131; Van Wijngaarden-Bakker, van Neer, 2007, p. 842, 845.

62 Delattre, 1905, p. 22; Krandel-Ben Younes, 1995, p. 120.

63 Merlin frequently noted sea shells in his excavation of 4th century burials at Dahar el-Morali: Merlin, 1916, p. CLXXV-CLXXXVI, CCXXX-CCXXXIX; Merlin, 1917, p. 131-53; Merlin, 1920, p. 3-20. Several of Merlin and Drappier’s 4th century burials at D’Ard el-Khéraïb contained shells: Merlin, Drappier, 1909, p. 18. Merlin’s report on his Archaic Juno Hill burials made no mention of shells: Merlin, 1918, p. 288-314. Few of Lancel’s Archaic burials at Byrsa Hill contained shells: Lancel, Thuillier, 1979, p. 255-63; Lancel, 1982b, p. 263-364. Cintas made no mention of sea shells in his Archaic Juno Hill burials: Cintas, 1976, p. 293-95. Saumagne noted few shells in his Archaic burials on Byrsa Hill and none in his Juno Hill burials: Saumagne, 1930-1931, p. 641-51; Saumagne, 1932-1933, p. 82-89, 324-30. Delattre and Gauckler both excavated very large numbers of Archaic burials and according to their reports, sea shells were rare: Delattre, 1897a; Delattre, 1897b; Delattre, 1896; Delattre, 1890a; but see Delattre, 1894, p. 433. See also Gauckler, 1915a. We know that Delattre was particularly selective about the material he included in his publications, so it is possible that he deemed sea shells to be of no consequence. He noted, with more regularity, the presence of sea shells in several of his 3rd-2nd century burials at Sainte Monique: Delattre, 1899a; Delattre, 1899b. Although Gauckler rarely mentioned shells in his burials, the plates included in his published field notes would suggest that he too, chose not to disclose everything. Merlin and Drappier, in their publication of burials at D’Ard el-Khéraïb, implied that sea shells at Douïmès and Dermech may have appeared more regularly than the excavation reports suggest, see infra n. 2. We must also remember that both Dermech and Douïmès were active burial grounds until the 5th century: Bénichou-Safar, 1982, p. 304-10.

64 Homer, Iliad, 6.289-91; Athenaeus of Naucratis, The Deipnosophists, 1.49, 12.58.

65 For a bone reed: Delattre, 1897b, p. 100-101. For a bronze hatchet razor with an incised decoration depicting a woman spinning material with a reed: Vercoutter, 1945, pl. XXVIII, fig. 915.

66 Delattre, 1897a, p. 8-9; Lancel, 1982a, p. 108-10; Schmidt, 2007, p. 772-73.

67 Saumagne, 1932-1933, p. 86; Koens, 2003, p. 64

68 Cintas, Gobert, 1939, p. 136.

69 On fulling and dyeing in Roman North Africa: Wilson, 2004, p. 155-64.

70 Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 9.60.125-127; 9.61.132; 9.62.133-135. His description of the dyeing process has since been disputed. The dye is obtained from the hypobranchial gland situated in the mantle cavity of the snail. The gland does not produce a dark pinkish substance as Pliny states, but a colourless liquid that only becomes purple when it is exposed to air. Once the cloth has been immersed in the solution, it undergoes an oxidisation process through its exposure to air. Joseph Doumet, in his efforts to recreate Tyrian purple dye, conducted a study in which he used three different species of the Murex snail: the Murex trunculus, Murex brandaris, and Purpura haemastoma. He made use of materials that would have been known to the Tyrians such as sea water, lime water, wood ash, and fermented urine, which are known for their alkaline properties. Lead utensils and sugar may have been used as reducing agents. Vinegar would have been appropriate for its acidity, and air, for the oxidisation process. Doumet uncovered three different methods that may have been used by the Tyrians to produce this purple dye. One of these found some similarities with Pliny’s instructions. Doumet, 1980, p. 35, 39, 40; Reese, 1979-1980, p. 79; Jidejian, 1969, p. 150 n. 31; Karmon, Spanier, 1988, p. 186 n. 13.

71 This mid-8th century pile of crushed Murex shells was found during a stratigraphical survey in the eastern region of the city, directly west of the Mago Quarter, along Septime-Sévère Road; according to the later Roman street grid system, between the Cardo XV and Cardo XVI East and immediately south of the Decumanus I North. Rakob, 1997, p. 36.

72 For the use of Murex shells in stucco: Rakob, 1997, p. 36; Reese, 1979-1980, p. 90; Lancel, 1995, p. 314. For the use of Murex shells in the production of metal goods: Docter, 2002, p. 32; Docter, 2002-2003, p. 121-22; Rakob, 1991, p. 57-58, pl. 8a-b; Rakob, 2002, p. 26 n. 56, pl. XI, Fig. 4; Chelbi et al., 2006, p. 39-40; Chelbi et al., 2003, p. 44-46.

73 Ben Abdallah et al., 1980, p. 17-18; Annabi, 1981, p. 26-27.

74 For instance, Gauckler, 1915a, p. 9, 50-53, 83-84, 88; Gauckler, 1915b, p. 427; Gaillard, 1938-1940, p. 331; Delattre, 1899-1906a, p. 7b-8b; Delattre, 1899-1906b, p. 9b.

75 Gauckler, 1915a, p. 9, 50-53, 83-84.

76 See supra, n. 65.

77 Barber, 1991, p. 289.

78 Smith, 2002, p. 288, 295; Barber, 1991, p. 239.

79 CIS, I, 344.

80 CIS, I, 345.

81 Sznycer, 1976, p. 81-91.

82 Delattre, 1906a, p. 7b-8b; Delattre, 1906b, p. 9b.

83 Xeste 3, Akrotiri, Thera: Barber, 1994, p. 113-16.

84 Barber, 1991, p. 228 n. 4.

85 Although note that Doumet showed that sun was not necessary for the oxidisation process, but rather simply air: Doumet, 1980, p. 39.

86 Jensen, 1963, p. 104-18.

87 Fantar, 1993, p. 308.

88 Lancel, 1982b, p. 340-51. By this principle, the crushed Murex shells in the burial discussed above could have represented the deceased’s involvement in construction or metalworking.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Sites and regions of Carthage
Légende 1. Bir Massouda ; 2. Bordj-Djedid ; 3. Byrsa Hill; 4. Circular Lagoon/ Military Harbour ; 5. Dahar-el-Morali ; 6. Dermech; 7. Douïmès; 8. Hamburg Housing Quarter; 9. Juno Hill; 10. Odeon Hill; 11. Rectangular Lagoon/ Commercial Harbour; 12. Sainte Monique; 13. Tophet of Salammbô.
URL http://pallas.revues.org/docannexe/image/2143/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Titre Figure 2. Model barque from Egypt, now located in the British Museum (EA 9524). Middle Kingdom (12th Dynasty circa 1991-1802).
Crédits © The Trustees of the British Museum.
URL http://pallas.revues.org/docannexe/image/2143/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 200k
Titre Figure 3. Girdle, perhaps belonging to a statuette, said to be from Thebes, now located in the British Museum (EA 3077). Middle Kingdom (ca. 2055-1650).
Crédits © The Trustees of the British Museum.
URL http://pallas.revues.org/docannexe/image/2143/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 340k
Titre Figure 4. Terracotta fruit from a Punic burial, in Musée National de Carthage.
Crédits Drawing by François Leclère.
URL http://pallas.revues.org/docannexe/image/2143/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 381k
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Pour citer cet article

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Marianne E. Bergeron, « Death, gender, and sea shells in Carthage », Pallas, 86 | 2011, 169-189.

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Marianne E. Bergeron, « Death, gender, and sea shells in Carthage », Pallas [En ligne], 86 | 2011, mis en ligne le 30 octobre 2011, consulté le 27 juin 2017. URL : http://pallas.revues.org/2143 ; DOI : 10.4000/pallas.2143

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Auteur

Marianne E. Bergeron

Project Curator, Naucratis Project
The British Museum
MBergeron@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk

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Licence Creative Commons
Pallas – Revue d'études antiques est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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