Archeological Site of Volubilis – Intriguing UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Archeological Site of Volubilis was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in Morocco in 1997. Even though this wonderful site has been looted for granite and marble to build structures in the nearby towns of Moulay Idris and Meknes, the remaining structures and mosaics tell the tale of a city that once thrived. The ruins that have been spared are beautifully preserved relics of the Roman era and it is for its historical value that the Archeological Site of Volubilis was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Morocco.
It is believed that this spectacular city was constructed around 40 AD and that it was built on an old settlement which dated back to the third century. It became the administrative capital of the area and was known as Mauretania. The extremely fertile lands that surrounded the city produced olive oils and grains that were exported to Rome. Archeobotanical projects at the site have proved that two types of wheat were produced here. Scientists have found evidence of Emmer (Hulled Wheat) and of free-threshing wheat. It is suggested that most of the wheat was stored, while the excess was used as a fodder for livestock and animals. Over and above the evidence of wheat being present, studies have identified linseed, melon seeds, grapes and figs. Ongoing projects are examining wood charcoal pieces to investigate the species of vegetation that existed during this time.
It is also known that after the Romans withdrew from Morocco – which happened around the end of the third century – the city was not left uninhabited. An earthquake in the fourth century is believed to have caused extensive damage to Volubilis, but documents have revealed the arrival of Idris I in the year 788. Idris founded the Idrisid dynasty and on his death in 791 he was laid to rest in Moulay Idris. Another earthquake rocked the site in 1755, possibly causing its final abandonment. In the eighteenth century builders started to loot the ruins for building materials.
French archeologists started excavating the site in 1915 and more than 2 000 excavations by numerous institutions have followed. Today visitors will be able to view the Thermae, the Orpheus Mosaic, the Temple of Jupiter, oil presses, the Capitol, the third century Triumphal Arch and the Casilica. Most of the structures are still in impressive condition and the mosaics are as beautiful as the day they were created. This wonderfully preserved site should be visited by everyone who comes to Morocco as it provides a rare glimpse into the past.