Fancy floors

Yesterday I posted an image and briefly described an excavated house at the site of Kerkouane (see here). Today, I take you to the courtyard inside a house and note two things about the floor.

First, recognize the lovely example of opus signinum. This construction technique is common to Roman Italy--and even draws its name from an Italian site--but in fact, is believed to have originated here in North Africa (the same is true of mosaics in general). Opus signinum is a term used to describe a concrete made by grinding tiles or pottery to powder, mixing it with lime to create a slurry, then pouring and pounding it into place on a gravel bed. It should be "not less than six fingers thick" cautions Vitruvius. The floor above is made in this way; note how white marble tesserae are placed into the ruddy colored matrix to create a pleasing and durable surface.

To get the "six fingers thick" comment and other details see the classic sources on ancient construction. For Pliny the Elder, go to his Natural History (35:46). Read the reference here. For Vitruvius, go to his On Architecture (7.1.1). Read forward from here

The second item of note in this image is the figure placed before the threshold of the room. This is a stylized female character believed to be Tanit, a popular deity of the Phoenician/Punic people. She is there to meet you at the door. More on her on another day.