Ministry of Culture unearths a major archaeological discovery in Chellah

Ministry of Culture unearths a major archaeological discovery in Chellah

After 9 months of archaeological excavations, with a team of Moroccan archaeologists and researchers from the National Institute of Archeology and Heritage Sciences (INSAP), the Ministry of Youth, Culture, and Communication, announced a major discovery in Chellah.

This is the discovery of the first port district of the Roman era in Morocco, dating from the first to the second century AD, located in the historic site of Chellah, an ancient Roman city and necropolis.

The exceptional findings result from work undertaken since last March in the surroundings of the ancient fortress and were presented today by archaeologists in the presence of Mehdi Bensaid, Minister of Youth, Culture, and Communication. 

The discovery is considered a significant advance in understanding the history of the region.

The archeologist found the first port district from the Roman era in Morocco, a public thermal complex of nearly 2.000 square meters, potentially the largest discovered in Morocco.

They also unearthed niches representing funerary columbariums probably built at the same time, as well as marble sculptures, including a headless Roman statue of a female goddess.

According to Aziz El Khyari, professor at the National Institute of Archeology and Heritage Sciences (INSAP), this discovery positions Chellah as one of the three most important ancient cities in Morocco. 

 “We only knew five hectares of the ancient city of Chellah, now we have an entire ancient city below us to discover on an area of 300 hectares,” said El Khyari.

Chellah, located near the Bouregreg River in Rabat, has a rich history, dating back to the Mauretanian-Roman period (between the 2nd century BC and the 6th century AD). 

Today, it stands strong surrounded by walls dating from the Marinid period (13th century) and is a very famous tourist destination.

The recent excavations carried out near the Chellah and the left bank of the Bouregreg have made it possible to discover part of the port district, as well as remains of altars and sanctuaries.

El Khyari also pointed out that upcoming excavations could reveal the ancient port of the city of Sala, probably dating back to the 1st century CE. He commented: “We have never identified such a port before. This indicates that this ancient maritime city was open to Mediterranean trade and received imports from Greece, the Iberian Peninsula, and elsewhere.”

Bensaid described the discovery as “very important and impressive” and announced that his department aimed to increase the number of tourist visits to Chellah to one million per year, thus doubling the current figure of 500.000 annual visitors.

Excavations in the southern part of the area revealed a large paved space bordered by partially excavated but significant building remains, judging by the presence of several architectural elements and the discovery of an altar, indicating the existence of religious cults.

Some uncovered rooms were adorned with imported marble statues, as evidenced by fragments found during the excavation, especially a life-size headless statue, likely representing a deity, making it the first statue discovered in Morocco since 1960.

This major archaeological discovery is of exceptional importance for the history and culture of Morocco, as well as for the international community. The Ministry is determined to continue its efforts to preserve, research, and showcase this invaluable cultural heritage.


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