Birds and Artisans of the Roman Mosaics of Tunisia: Species, Symbolism and Origins

By Sonia Tidemann.

Published by The Humanities Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The mosaic pavements of Roman North Africa contain both African and Italian bird species, amongst others, but it was not possible to attribute pavements to mosaicists from either country on the basis of the avifauna depicted. Forty-one species of birds were recorded, the most commonly occurring being the Indian Peafowl Pavo cristatus, Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara, Pheasant Phasianus colchicus and Mallard Anas platyrhynchos. Birds appear in a variety of ways: representing the seasons, game to be served to guests dining at a banquet, hunting including falconry and disguises, immortality and the gardens in paradise, myth, ritual as well as for decoration. Pavements containing birds spanned the first to the sixth centuries and have been found in twenty-nine locations in Tunisia. El Djem was the third century centre for birds in mosaics, shifting to Carthage and Thuburbo Majus in the fourth, then Tabarka in the fifth, with a notable decline in species diversity. The pavements preserve an ornithological treasure.

Keywords: Tunisia, Roman Mosaics, Birds, Mosaicists

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 6, pp.141-156. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.223MB).

Dr Sonia Tidemann

Honorary Professor, Humanities and Social Sciences, Bond University, Port Lincoln, Qld, Australia

Professor Tidemann has been involved in ornithology for over 25 years, as a research scientist focussing on endangered species and later working with Australian Aboriginal people and their bird stories with the aim of raising the status of indigenous knowledge and looking at parallels with western knowledge. Her earlier research background was in ecology and behaviour of birds but now encompasses any field that touches on ornithology.

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