Tipaza is a town on the coast of Algeria, and is the capital of the Tipasa wilaya province. It is considered to be one of the most extraordinary archaeological complexes of the region, and of considerable significance to the study of the contacts between the indigenous civilizations and the successive colonialists between 600 B.C and 600 A.D.
The original coastal settlement was established by the Carthaginians as a trading center, and the remains of the necropolis from this period represent the oldest and most extensive of the Punic age. The town was later taken over by the Romans, who used it as the beachhead from which to launch their campaign of conquest of the Mauritanian kingdoms.
The original Roman settlement was located in the center of the town on a steep slope protected by cliffs, but by 147 A.D., when Antoninus Pius was involved in war against the Mauritanians, this had undergone great expansion, including heavily fortified walls encompassing the Forum, Curia, Capitolium, two temples, an amphitheater, a nymphaeum, a public theater and public baths. Around these civic buildings were many private dwellings, decorated with paintings and mosaics.
It was Christianized early in the 3rd century and later become a bishopric, and there are numerous buildings from this period including a very large seven-naved basilica dating from the 4th century. There is also a large Christian necropolis laid out around a funerary chapel constructed by the bishop Alexander. In the east of the town are located the basilica of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and a tomb, church and necropolis dedicated to Saint Paul, which became an important center for pilgrims.
In 484 the Vandal king Huneric (477‑484) sent an Arian bishop to Tipaza, causing a large number of the inhabitants to flee to Spain; many of the remainder were severely persecuted. It was reconquered by the Byzantines in 534 A.D., but never recovered. Around this time, it disappears from recorded history, and, whether or not its ruin was caused by the subsequent Arab conquests, no attempt was made to resettle it.
For bearing "exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization... which has disappeared", and as "an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates significant stages in human history", UNESCO inscribed the site as a World Heritage Site in 1982.
- UNESCO Site entry. Accessed 13 January 2008
- Musée de Tipasa (French language site) Accessed 13 January 2008