Within the framework of the Training in Action project, training and work has been carried out at the church 3 at the site of Iunca- carried out by the team of Durham University in collaboration of the Institut National de patrimonio in Tunisia INP (Dr Ammar Othman). The church No. 3 was excavated in the’50s and then abandoned. Since 2018, the aim of the project has been to rescue the monument through cleaning and restoration. Walls and parts of mosaics have been restored and a new correct plan of the church has been produced. During the cleaning was uncovered a tomb, and it was necessary to excavated it. The excavation of the tomb has been very complex, as it contained a minimum of 60 bodies which are now in the process of being analysed. The excavation of the tomb and its analysis are generously funded by the Ruddock Foundation for the Arts.
The site of Iunca preserves three churches which were excavated during the colonial period. They are located respectively to the south-west and the west of the fort of the ancient town. Unfortunately, after the non-stratigraphic excavations carried out respectively in the ‘20s (church 1 and 2) and the ‘50s (church 3) the monuments were mostly neglected. The monumentality of the 3 churches reflect the importance of the site of Iunca especially in the 6th and 7th c.
Church No. 3
The church 3, located to the south west of the fort, was in danger of being lost, due to the invasive vegetation and the modern activities. Including planting olive trees and digging a well. In accordance with the INP the first intervention took place, which included removing the vegetation, cleaning and assessing the condition of the monument. This church is a unique example of a transept basilica in North Africa, the preliminary plans of the structure published in the ‘50s and the ’60 are, however, incorrect and the work conducted in the project has allowed the creation of new plans.
The condition of the church before cleaning (July 2017)
The church has been used as a training hub for archaeologists and conservators. They have in particular worked in defining the stratigraphic sequence of the standing structures and the on-site conservation of the structures.The church in the current statue was built around the mid of the 6th c AD and a later transformation occurred in the southern part. In proximity of the south west apse was uncovered and excavated a grave containing a minimum of 60 individuals.
The excavation of the tomb (June 2019)