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4 Ruins, Roads and Railways

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Chapter Summary

This chapter first sketches the great extent of ancient ruins in North Africa, and then examines sites occupied by locals when the French arrived, as well as others deserted except for occasional nomads. Algeria contained monuments the like of which had disappeared from European soil centuries before. Travellers in earlier centuries, and throughout the 19th century, write of groups of ruins every few kilometres; of the frequent remains of Roman bridges, roads and their milestones, fountains and cisterns; of plentiful inscriptions by which the deeds of the Roman army could be traced; and of a landscape little altered for centuries, except where Roman installations scattered through now-dry areas or in marshes bespoke of the degradation or abandonment of sophisticated water supply systems. For example, at Le Kef, many of the houses were built from antique blocks, and several appeared to be reworked Roman or Byzantine structures.

Keywords: Algeria; ancient ruins; French; Roman army; Roman roads



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