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The Phoenician archaeology - a common Euro-Mediterranean heritage
Global Arab Network - Eurojar
Archaeological news: In the framework of the European programme “Euromed Heritage IV”, Mare Nostrum project works on linking cities developed by the Phoenicians. A paragon of the Mediterranean cooperation, this project aims at revitalizing the targeted areas and enhancing an antique relationship among port cities.

The Phoenician pre-hellestinic civilization was the one that invented and spread the alphabet. Known as an enterprising maritime trading culture, it did not constitute – as far as we know- a unified world, or a homogenous population. It was rather an aggregation of cities on the coast of present Lebanon, and a little further to the North and the South. Mare Nostrum project aims at enhancing this heritage in several Mediterranean cities. It is funded by the European Union by 1.3 million Euros.

A Glance at the Phoenician heritage
Fabrizzio Fuccello, initiator of the project and cultural heritage specialist, considers that even if the cities participating in the project are not all Phoenicians, such as Rhodes (Greece) or Syracuse (Italy), yet the project focuses on a larger scale heritage, targeting the cities that have had prolific relations with the Phoenicians. Other cities such as Tyre (Lebanon), La Valette (Malta), Carthage (Tunisia), Tartous and Arwad (Syria) also participate in the project.

The idea was born in 2007, with the Institut du Monde Arabe exhibition in Paris: “The Phoenicians and the Mediterranean, from Carthage to Tyre”. While the emphasis was often on the Roman Empire, Phoenicia was, according to Fabrizzio Fucello, “the link” between those cities. Mare Nostrum is one of the 12 projects chosen by the EU in the framework of Euromed Heritage. The key words in the project are “cultural heritage”, “sensitization”, “appropriation” of the heritage: “these are very important key words in our project”.

A rich and diversified network
This Italian man living in Lebanon was able to establish an active and dense network. In addition to the main collaboration of the Department of Restoration and Conservation of Architectural Properties at the University of Florence and of 4 main partners (the Italian Institute Paralleli, the Medieval City of Rhodes, the City of Tyre and the USJ, University in Lebanon, in cooperation with the University of Balamand/ Institute of Urban planning Majal) the project also succeeded in getting the support of six associates, representatives of the civil society in different countries such as the Tunisian association Delarpa, the department of tourism in Aegean University, the House of Europe in Rhodes, as well as the Syracuse Cultural Association Samotracia.

According to Claudine Abdelmassih, from the Majal Institute of Urbanism, who is preparing a handbook on traditional handcraft, detailing the production sites, work tools, craftsmen, and boutiques, “the idea is not to redraw the Phoenicians’ route in the Mediterranean, but to shed some light on the Phoenician pacific epic, in an effort to highlight what we have in common in the Mediterranean or what unites us, mainly the traditional handcraft work realized thousands of years ago. Several points have been studied without necessarily stressing on specific objects. “From the murex to make purple dye, other types of natural pigments were produced, noted Abdelmassih. Phoenicians naval ships were also constructed with an artisanal touch. Several Mediterranean naval construction sites still use similar production techniques. This is our common heritage and this is why we talk about Mare Nostrum, which is a Roman term that applies to Phoenicians as well: it is an image that we are trying to reveal to the world. The main point is to combine the past to the present.”

Sensitizing local populations
The participative aspect of the project is essential according to Fabrizzio Fuccello, as it contributed to its success. Another project “Cultural Heritage and Urban Development”, supported by Italy and France through the World Bank, aimed at restoring the city of Tyre and creating a beautiful promenade in the city. Yet, this walk site has been damaged: benches and street lights were broken, because, according to Fabrizzio Fucello, people “do not understand that this project targets them and aims at enhancing their life. The problem is the sensitization problem, mainly in Lebanon, the country that lived a very long and tough civil war. People hardly understand that such assets belong to their heritage, to their lifestyle.”

The consulting agency Avventura Urbana, sent to Tyre by Paralleli, considers that the best work can be done through the consultation of local actors. The agency, specialized in participative actions aiming at restoring public space, developed an analysis to assess the strong points versus the weak points and the resources versus the risks. Motivated by the initiative, Isabelle Toussaint, one of the partners, notes that ”focus groups” have been organized, gathering professional and religious representatives: “a detailed report will be prepared later on and integrated to the general guidelines of Mare Nostrum project.”

On the other hand, according toi Fabrizzio Fucello, it is very important to involve the population in such activities, to incite them to participate in public work to feel responsible for what is achieved in the neighborhoods. Thus, maintaining street lights and green spaces are tasks that should be directly entrusted to the population.”

It is worth noting that the project is moving forward: the first phase (data gathering) has finished and the second phase as well, with a participative approach realized by the pilot project. The third phase has just kicked off with the identification of historical, archeological and heritage sites. In each of the six cities concerned by Mare Nostrum project, a “heritage path” will be drawn with multilingual information boards showing the city’s important historic sites. This path will be redrawn on the internet with a virtual line that will unite the six cities concerned by the project. Special emphasis is given to the sensitization of the youth, with two contests to do (one for schools pupils and the other for students in architecture), in order to “increase public knowledge about the development of public space in cities and ports,” according to the active initiator of Mare Nostrum. Involving local populations in a wide project, based on common heritage, is perhaps the main message behind the Phoenician civilization “which united the cities in a spirit of peace,” reiterates the scientific expert.

For More Archaeological News click HERE

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