published : 2023-11-04

More Ruins of Ancient Roman Port City Discovered Beneath Moroccan Capital

Chellah Archaeological Site is Nearly 5 Times the Size of Pompeii

Aerial view of the Chellah archaeological site, showcasing the vast expanse and ancient ruins. Taken with a DJI Phantom 4 Pro drone.

Archaeologists have made an astounding discovery in modern-day Morocco, unearthing the ancient ruins of what was once a bustling port city near the capital. The findings include thermal baths and working-class neighborhoods that are expected to attract tourists and scholars in the years ahead.

Presented on Friday by researchers from Morocco’s National Institute of Archaeological Sciences and Heritage, these new discoveries at Chellah have expanded our understanding of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is nearly five times the size of Pompeii.

Evidence suggests that the area was first settled by the Phoenicians and later developed into an important outpost of the Roman Empire from the second to fifth century. Situated along the banks of the Bou Regreg river near the Atlantic Ocean, this fortified necropolis and its surrounding settlements were strategically positioned for maritime trade.

Close-up of the newly discovered stone statue of a woman, possibly representing a deity or empress. Taken with a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV.

What makes this site especially significant is its location on the water, making it a prime trading hub for materials including Italian marble imports and African ivory exports. The recent excavations have revealed the city's immense wealth, yet there is still more to uncover, including the actual port.

Led by Abdelaziz El Khayari, a professor of pre-Islamic archaeology, the team of archaeologists has noted that the newly discovered ruins further away from the center of Chellah have never before been studied. At a news conference, they unveiled a rare stone statue of a woman, possibly representing a deity or empress, draped in cloth. This remarkable find is the first of its kind since the 1960s in Morocco. Additionally, they showcased a neighborhood made of limestone and sunbrick, adding another layer to the city's history.

Mehdi Ben Said, Morocco's minister of youth, culture, and communication, expressed confidence that the ruins' proximity to the capital would make it a major tourist attraction for both domestic and international visitors. The government has already invested nearly half a million dollars in the ongoing excavation and plans to increase funding each year until the project is complete.

Panoramic shot of the Bou Regreg river, which played a vital role in the maritime trade of the Roman port city. Taken with a Nikon D850.

The ambition is clear — to transform Chellah into a vibrant destination that rivals other popular sites like Volubilis, which attracts half a million visitors annually. By breathing life into Chellah, developing marketing strategies, and enhancing communication, the goal is to welcome one million visitors to this archaeological wonder.

This remarkable discovery in Morocco is not only an archaeological triumph but also an opportunity for people to explore and connect with the ancient world in a profound way. As the ruins continue to reveal their secrets, they remind us of the enduring legacy of the Roman Empire and the rich tapestry of human history.