Temehu
   
  
   
  
 

 


 

 

entrance to Janzur Museum

Janzur Museum

Punic Catacombs

 

Janzur or Zanzur is a beautiful small village located about 13 km west of the capital Tripoli. The archaeological cemetery of Janzur, dating from between the first and the fourth centuries AD, consists of several family and private cemeteries and tombs. The whole complex was discovered accidentally in 1958 when cemetery one (1) was unearthed. Unfortunately, many of the tombs were found empty when they were first discovered; suggesting they were robbed some time in the past, probably during their early days before they were claimed and subsequently concealed by mother earth. Currently the area is still under excavation and it is possible that several parts of the complex are still buried. Owing to the importance of the finds, the Archaeology Department in Tripoli has established Janzur museum to exhibit the findings. The museum is unique among all Libyan museums, as some parts of the museum are actually built around the tombs themselves without moving them from their original place.

 

punic tomb

Although the tombs are widely known as the Punic Tombs, from the type of the tombs, burial jars and the painted scenes it appears that the structures belonged to a local Libyan Berber culture. It is a well known fact that the Phoenicians like many others had adopted the local Berber practices and beliefs (Tannit & Amon) after their arrival in Carthage - a city largely populated by Berber natives and some Phoenician settlers. It is important therefore to remember that all references to Punic or Phoenician references in North Africa are in effect references to mixed Berber-Phoencian settlements, largely dominated by Berber populations.

 

punic tomb

Some parts of the museum are built around the actual tombs in their original location.

 

 

Jnazur cemeteries were divided into three categories

 

  • Punic Cemeteries: the Punic cemeteries are the oldest of all the cemeteries and date from the first century AD; consisting of family cemeteries, each of which is made of a rectangular, open pit (or hole), with a built-in steps along one side of the hole for easy decent to the burial room, dug underneath. The deceased is always laid to rest on his or her back, and surrounded by his or her funerary items: objects from the deceased's daily life, such as jars, plates, bottles, and coins.



  • Punic-Roman Cemeteries: the Roman cemeteries are similar to the earlier Punic one, except the fact that the Romans cremated their dead. They kept the remaining burnt bones in special jars, which in turn were placed in similar tombs. Some of these jar containing the bones were buried under the ground. These date from the second half of the second century AD.



  • Late Roman Cemeteries: the Late Roman cemeteries are basically holes slightly larger than the body and about 80cm deep, with the deceased laid on his back and covered with sand. These date from the third and the fourth centuries AD.

 

punic tomb

These early Punic cemeteries shows the side steps along one side of the hole, leading to the actual burial room (inside the dark hole).

underground cemetery

Some of the tombs are sealed.

 

 

 

The Exhibits of Janzur Museum

The items are exhibited in glass cases, numbered from number 1: for example: Case 1, Case 2, Case3, etc. The contents of each case are described in a small framed page (see below), in two languages: Arabic

 

case of exhibits & text
Case 1

 

Case 1

This case contains funerary items from the western burial of cemetery 15, dating from the second century AD, including three glass containers for keeping the remains of the deceased's bones after cremation; the middle container still contains some of the bones; eight clay dishes, some of which contain the seal of the maker; five red clay dishes; and some glass items like a small perfume bottle (bottom, in the above photo), a cup, and remains of broken plates.

 

 

Case 2

Case 2

 

Case 2

Contains a number of local pottery, found in cemetery 15, western burial, dating to the first and second centuries AD, including five clay plates, four flat plates, four small red-orange-clay plates; and three red-clay dishes. Similar items were common to Punic and Roman cemeteries in Tripolitania.

 

 

 

 

Case 3

Case 3

 

Case 3

Contains three large clay jars with lids, dating from the second and third centuries AD. They were found in the western burial of cemetery 15. They were used for keeping the remains of the deceased after cremation. Also found in the same cemetery seven special containers for keeping the deceased 's remains, three of which are made of glass.

 

 

 

 

Case4

Case 4

 

Case 4

This case houses a collection of funerary items, including make-up accessories, beautification items, and eating utensils, also from the western burial of cemetery 15: five bronze mirrors (see below, bottom shelf); four bone-pins; 14 oil lamps decorated with animals and birds (on two shelves); seven oil lamps decorated with mythical themes; and four liquid pitchers (or jars) (top shelf of Case 4).

 

 

bronze mirrors

Bronze Mirrors from the bottom shelf of Case 4.

 

 

bronze mirrors punic

Case 5

 

Case 5

This case contains about   twenty (20) personal, every-day objects of the deceased, found in the northern burial of cemetery 15, dating from the first and second centuries AD. The number of objects found with the deceased varies from tomb to another, depending on the status and wealth of the deceased. The objects include glass plates, a piece of red stone, bronze piece, mirror handles, parts of two oil lamps, three clay plates and covers, and three round bronze mirrors.

 

 

 

case 6: three large jars

Case 6

 

Case 6

Three large storage jars, used to store grain and liquids (water, wine and oil). These jars were in use among the Berbers of Zuwarah until the 1970s, after which they began to disappear; and still are in use among some of the Berbers of Nafousa Mountain. Normally a large jar, like one of the above, sits in the corner of the open court (inside the house), primarily to keep drinking water cold during the hot summer period. The introduction of electricity and fridges in recent decades slowly put an end to this prehistoric practice. Similar jars were also found from several archaeological sites all across the ancient world.

 

 

 

 

case 7 clay bots

Case 7

 

Case 7

A collection of small jars and two clay plates, used in the daily life, for water, wine and oil, some of which are very ancient; all dating from the first and second centuries AD.

 

 

 

Case 8 clay bots

Case 8

 

Case 8

A collection of tableware and cooking pots, used for preparing and serving various dishes. These items date to various periods. Three large flat plates from the first century AD; three medium plates from the western burial of cemetery 7; 3 clay cooking pots; four more cooking pots; and six small plates.

 

 

 

 

case 10 glass bottles and clay pots

Case 10

 

Case 10

This case contains various make-up tools, from cemetery 7, dating from the the first century AD, including small bottles, used for storing kohl and perfume, and also perhaps for funerary ceremonies, like offerings; bone pins; seven incense holders; and various bronze mirrors.

 

 

 

punic make-up tools

Case 10

 

make-up tools

Make up tools: kohl bone sticks.

 

 

coins

Case 11

 

Case 11

This case contains a good collection of oil lamps, which were widely used in both homes and temples (as offerings to the gods). Some of these lamps were made of clay, while other examples are made of bronze. They were lit using olive oil, with some salt around the cotton wick to keep it alight for much longer and thus save on the consumption of oil. This means adding salt to the oil lamp makes its energy efficient from modern standards. Some of the lamps carry drawings and designs from everyday life and religious symbols. Also among the collection are eight bronze coins, dating from between the first and the third centuries AD.

 

 

 

oil lamps punic

Oil Lamps

 

 

 

burial jars in the tomb

 

 

 

burial jars in the tomb

 

 

 

burial jars

 

 

The following set of photos show some of the wall and ceiling paintings found in some of the tombs.

wall paintings from the tom, humans and animals

 

The white walls of this unique museum are covered with paintings, showing various scenes, including women, men, forests and various animals: a bull, a hippopotamus, a lion, a donkey, a wolf, and an antelope. Some of these scenes show a lion chasing a donkey, while another depicting a wolf after a gazelle (see below). These would indicate the intention to depict scenes from the daily life which the deceased probably was expected to follow in the afterlife. Equally valid, they could be just pictures of everyday life; but then one needs to know why they were in the tomb. The ancient Egyptians often painted scenes from the afterlife on the walls of the tombs to aid the soul of the deceased in its journey into the new world.

 

angels from a punic tomb  Punic wall piatings from Janzur tombs

The above scene shows a flying infant, probably to symbolise the soul's journey through the underworld, after leaving the body. The souls in North African mythology were originally represented by birds, but then with time the wings were applied to the human body to signify a "human soul" - an iconography which the later schools adopted for angels. Unlike the other images (of animals and humans) found on the walls, the soul or the angel image was depicted on the ceiling, together with some flowers, probably to symbolise the association of the ceiling with the sky and hence afterlife, in accordance with the ancient North African belief in that the dead souls return to the stars.

 

the soul of the dead

 

wall paintings: an angel surrounded with flowers

Sealing one's fate? Perhaps!

 

wall paintings flowers

 

wall paintings: a man carrying a dead man, a lion chasing an animal

 

Another scene shows a man carrying what appears to be a dead body, probably in preparation for burial or cremation. As depicted in most of the mosaic panels and floors found all over Libya, including in Apollonia, Alathrun, Cyrene, Leptis Magna, Zliten and Sabratha, hunting wild animals was a common theme. Hunting is an ancient activity going back to the period when humans were still hunter-gatherers, before the realisation of agriculture. It appears that in some cultures, like the Roman's, hunting was developed into a popular sport, which brings the question of whether the above victim, clearly covered in blood, was actually butchered by a wild beast!

 

 

a libyan man in traditional clothes, painted on the wall of the tomb

A man wearing Libyan clothes, similar to the traditional clothes still used today, including the white hat.

 

 

wall paintings

 

 

 

Leaving Janzour museum

Leaving The Museum.