Economic resilience of Carthage during the Punic Wars: Insights from sediments of the Medjerda delta around Utica (Tunisia).


CNRS UMR 5133 Archéorient, Maison de l'Orient et de la Méditerranée, Université de Lyon 2, 69365 Lyon Cedex 7, France; [Email]


While the Punic Wars (264-146 BC) have been the subject of numerous studies, generally focused on their most sensational aspects (major battles, techniques of warfare, geopolitical strategies, etc.), curiously, the exceptional economic resilience of the Carthaginians in the face of successive defeats, loss of mining territory, and the imposition of war reparations has attracted hardly any attention. Here, we address this issue using a newly developed powerful tracer in geoarchaeology, that of Pb isotopes applied to paleopollution. We measured the Pb isotopic compositions of a well-dated suite of eight deep cores taken in the Medjerda delta around the city of Utica. The data provide robust evidence of ancient lead-silver mining in Tunisia and lay out a chronology for its exploitation, which appears to follow the main periods of geopolitical instability at the time: the Greco-Punic Wars (480-307 BC) and the Punic Wars (264-146 BC). During the last conflict, the data further suggest that Carthage was still able to pay indemnities and fund armies despite the loss of its traditional silver sources in the Mediterranean. This work shows that the mining of Tunisian metalliferous ores between the second half of the fourth and the beginning of the third century BC contributed to the emergence of Punic coinage and the development of the Carthaginian economy.


Medjerda river,Punic Wars,Utica,mining resources,paleopollution,

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