Report 2009

Annual Report 2009
Under the auspices of the convention between the Moroccan Ministry of Culture and the Aghmat
Foundation, the 2009 campaign was held this year from 29 May to 22 June. The archaeological team
consisted of Ronald Messier, Abdallah Fili, Loukili Montaser, Walid Saad and Abdessalam Zizouni. In
charge of inventory was of Hassan Limane and Hafsa El-Hassani.
The primary objective of this mission was to continue the exploratory soundings and archaeological
diagnostics begun in 2008 in the property of Ahmad Benabad, across the road from the hammam,
property which is now owned by the Ghamat Foundation. Those soundings (2008) revealed a series of
pillars that led us, referring to oral tradition and medieval textual sources, to interpret these vestiges to
be the great mosque of the city. This interpretation was further indicated by remote sensing (ground
penetrating radar and magnetometry). The 2009 mission, therefore, opted for an extensive area
excavation, expanding unit 1200 of the 2008 campaign in order to define the pillared structure.
As the search progressed, more pillars appeared to reinforce the initial interpretation. But with the
discovery that what we initially thought to be the mihrab (prayer niche) was in fact a massive doorway
leading to a rectangular shaped chamber, combined with the absence of other pillars in the middle of
the building, we soon gravitated toward another interpretation.
We judged it to be equally important to continue archaeological diagnostics in other parts of the
property (2.5 hectars). We therefore decided to do a couple of soundings in the area between unit 1200
and the hammam.
In addition to this work in the field, we also set as an objective to inventory the material of the past four
seasons. An inventory had been carried out each season, but it no longer meets the broader objectives
of our work. It is for this reason that a team was formed to carry out this task, a task which will
continue next year and as long as excavations occur.
Preliminary results
Unit 1200 met its expectations. The excavation has revealed part of a rectangular building organized
around a central courtyard with basins themselves surrounded by a row of pillars forming galleries on
the east, west and south sides. On the south side of the building, a room extends the whole length of the
facade. It is accessible through a large doorway. The rectangular basins form the center of the peristyled
courtyard. It is difficult at this point in our research to determine whether this tripartition of the basin
(s) is the result of the evolution of this structure or whether it is part of the original plan.
What we have, then, is a solid, symmetrical palace plan. What we have excavated so far covers an area
of over 250m ². It is astonishing in terms of its sobriety and rigor; so far, no decorative forms have been
found in the area. In this regard, it stands in contrast with the sounding # 1300 where several fragments
of zillige (glazed tile) and carved plaster were found.
It appears that this palatial structure was abandoned in the late 14th century along with the hammam. It
appears chronologically homogeneous and, like the hammam, it appears to have undergone major
changes over time. The date of construction is unknown for now, but its architectural character refers us
to similar buildings, including the Merinid palace of Balyounech in northern Morocco. Following the
abandonment of the structure, there is a level of deposit in which the material has a vague timeline of
15-16th century. It does not appear to have had any significant occupation until its relatively recent use
in agricultural production.
Archaeological diagnosis
Given the fact that the Aghmat Foundation has acquired the entire field around this structure, in order
to facilitate the planning of a strategy for future archaeological research both in the short term and
medium term, we opted to open two soundings in the area between the palace and the hammam. The
first (1300) 5m by 5m unit revealed a thick wall (90 cm thick) made of mixed materials (stone and
brick). The stones and bricks are arranged in alternating layers. Against the wall which has an opening
(a kind of canal with a base of fired bricks), another thinner wall abuts perpendicularly east-west and
joins another wall of the same type running north-south to form “rooms’ whose limits have not yet been
The stratigraphy of this unit is particularly disturbed because of the clandestine excavations of Glaoui
Pacha during the colonial period. Nevertheless, we have collected numerous fragments of plaster wall
surfaces covered in zillige, undoubtedly of the Merinid period. They are accompanied by a few
fragments of carved plaster from the same period.
In the second unit (1400), a lime plaster floor associated with a wall running east-west was uncovered.
At this point, we are unable to speculate as to the size and nature of the structure(s) exposed in these
two soundings.
If the analysis of this archaeological zone (units 1300 and 1400) brings forth an assemblage of material
culture of medieval Aghmat different from the "palace", it opens up very promising prospects for
archaeological research in this great medieval city. But there remains the possibility of finding in these
places, a stratigraphy very disturbed by former treasure hunters the memory of whom remains very
much alive among today’s villagers.
The three weeks of the 2009 archaeological mission in Aghmat have achieved the stated objectives.
Gradually, thanks to the investment of the Aghmat Foundation in terms of both purchasing the property
and financing the archaeological research, the medieval city continues to reveal its major components.
It should be pointed out that the major elements and fragile components of the palace have been
protected against the weather by installing zinc coverings on the top of these elements and plastic
covering on their sides pending the resumption of the excavation of this monument and its future