A fond farewell early the next morning to my room mate; the first of the group to leave.
The remaining group paid a visit to Constantine Museum which was pretty sparse but had some truly stunning pieces.
The rooms were heaving with small stelae leant up against the walls depicting the Punic God Tanit with her up-stretched bent arms and stylistic triangular body. I am reminded immediately of my Masters dissertation on Punic burial practices and the numerous such depictions that I had consulted. North African archaeology is a little nostalgic for me. I first came to work in Libya in 1995 and from then I developed a love affair with the region of North Africa and its rich history. It was always a distant love affair and every now and then I would dip my toe back in whether it be through a dissertation topic, a season of excavation or surveying projects, so seeing familiar objects casts me back to the days when this fascination started.
After the museum visit we bid goodbye to three more travellers and the rest of us clambered aboard our distinctly empty bus to go and visit the Roman site of Tiddis. There were a couple of people who had seen this site before but for the rest of us Tiddis surprised and impressed us far more than we had thought possible and made us all fall instantly in love with it. North of Constantine there is a hill of deep orangey/red soil overlying a grey/red rock sitting in a sea of lush greenery. Seemingly, growing out of the natural bedrock in an organic manner is a Roman town. The man made construction blends perfectly with the natural rockface. The arch of the entrance to the town is camouflaged at certain angles by its backdrop which is composed of the same coloured stone.
The Roman town is a true spectacle. Up high, the walls blend into the rock but as the town spills out into the fields below there is a vibrancy of red against green that is almost edible.
The main road clings to the contours and weaves up the steep slope leading passed a rock cut Mithraeum. Guarding the entrance are two carvings of phallus’ that, despite my distinguished and lerned company, cause much mirth. Even successful academics cannot resist a snigger at a rude relief which is wholly reassuring.
As we wind up the hill the view just gets more and more stunning and three quarters of the way up we are greeted by a relief of Saturn and thank the Gods (or perhaps just Saturn) as it gives a chance for the puffed out amongst us to pause and catch our breath.
As we scramble up the crest of the hill we are amply rewarded by a view down the other side which reveals a deep-cut gorge. The sense of location, location, location has never been more apparent.
On the way down we passed a stone with a rather rude inscription: LIVIDI LINGUE MENTULA(M). Not for the faint hearted so I will avoid a literal translation but suffice to say it was inscribed by a man in need of a sexual favour.
We wend our way down to visit the best preserved house in the town which must have survived on account of its solid, stoutly built walls. it was built on a series of terraced levels to compensate for the steep slope and the view down the valley must have been enjoyed then just as it was being devoured by the group now.
Back to the bus and a rather sad trip to Constantine aiport where we were to drop off some of the group. And then there were three. Myself and my two Pompeiian buddies. We head back to Constantine and treat ourselves to a well earned rest. We meet for dinner and we are seated at a small table. We cast our eyes over the large, actually huge, table where the group had been seated the previous evening and we feel the sense of the trip coming to a close.