The armored frigate Magenta was constructed
between 1859 and 1861 in Brest, based on a design by Dupuy de Lôme. On
31 October 1875, while it was serving as the flagship of the Mediterranean
Fleet, it caught fire and exploded in the harbor of Toulon. It was about to
embark on a trip to Tunis to ship the finds from excavations conducted at
Carthage by Pricot de Sainte-Marie, the interpreter at the French consulate at
Tunis, for the Institut de France: more than 2000 Punic steles of the second
century BC from Tophet, the Punic necropolis of Carthage. Also part of the
cargo was a
marble statue of the Empress Sabine.
In April/May of 1995, an excavation was conducted under the sponsorship of
the Institut, aided by the French Navy, and under the patronage of the Louis
Roederer Association. On 9 May, the head of the statue of Empress Sabine, wife
of the Emperor Hadrian (AD117 to 138), was salvaged.
Separated for 120 years, the head and its headdress were reunited on 18 December 1995.
Fragment of a Punic stele with an engraved hand, symbol of prayer.
|In May/June of 1997, a second excavation campaign has permitted to bring to light about sixty fragments of Punic steles and three new fragments of empress Sabines statue. The steles bear at the same time a carved dedication in Punic language; symbolic patterns like the sign of Tanit, fecundity goddess, or the open hand, sign of prayer or wish ; the representation of slaughtered animals (sheep, rams) or simple ornamental patterns.|
Excavation directed by Max Guérout (Group for Research into Naval Archeology).