12km/7.5mi from Djebel Abiod a road goes off on the left to Kerkouane (signposted). The excavations here are among the most important in the whole of North Africa, bringing to light the remains of the only large Punic town so far discovered.HistoryKerkouane is believed to have been a Phoenician port of call long before the foundation of Carthage. At least as early as the sixth century B.C. this developed into a small village of fishermen and dyers, the name of which is unknown. In the second century B.C. the town was taken by Scipio, and in the Third Punic War it was razed to the ground by the Romans. Unlike Carthage, it was never rebuilt, so that the layout of the Punic town has been preserved intact.
Opening hours: 9am-12pm, 2pm-5pm; Closed: Mon
The site of Kerkouane was discovered only in 1952, and excavation began in 1966. The town, laid out in the shape of a horseshoe, is bounded on the east by the sea. It was enclosed by a double ring of walls with two gates. The excavations have revealed mainly the foundations of buildings and the network of streets. The houses had marble floors with red and white mosaic decoration, many of which have been preserved. In many houses the rooms were laid out round a central courtyard with a fountain. It is notable that almost every house had its own bathroom, and at many points can be seen the trough-shaped baths which were filled from small water channels. There are also drainage channels which show that the town had a highly developed drainage system. Also of interest are the remains of a dye factory, with tubs hewn from the rock in which the shellfish (murex) used to make the purple dye were collected. Piles of discarded shells were also discovered. The Phoenicians had a monopoly of the production of the dye, the most prized dye of ancient times (almost 5,000 shellfish being required to produce a gram of the dye). Outside the town a necropolis was discovered.
Adjoining the site of Kerkouane can be found a small museum which illustrates the history of Kerkouane and of the excavations.