Djemila Museum

© Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock

Djemila Museum


Djemila Museum, which is within the ruins complex, is best visited before the ruins. It contains many of the wonders dug out of the ground here but the real highlight are the extraordinary number of beautiful mosaics (around 1700 sq metres of them, which together cover all the floors and walls of the museum). Among their number are some considered to be among the finest yet found in North Africa.

Outside the museum building there are many tombstones and other funerary sculptures, the outer walls lined with mosaics salvaged from the site, the covered court housing busts of the emperor Septimus Severus and his wife, Julia Domna.

The mosaics lining most of the interior walls are hugely impressive. Highlights include a mosaic showing a hunting scene; the 10m-long so-called Mosaic of the Donkey, which shows a range of local animals; and the inscription of Bishop Cressonius, a statement of faith lifted from the floor of the South Basilica.

The masterpiece – one of the greatest North African mosaics – is of the Legend of Dionysos, brought from the House of Bacchus and now in the third hall. The mosaic shows four scenes in the legend of Dionysos: being nursed by the nymph Nysa; being carried on a tiger; an offering made at a cult festival in winter; and an initiation scene during which a woman turns her head from a phallus. The mosaic’s central panel shows another scene from the Dionysos myth in which the nymph Ambrosia is murdered by King Lycurgus. The design and execution suggest the level of sophistication achieved in ancient Djemila.

Also in this last room is a 4th- to 5th-century mosaic of men on foot and horse, hunting lion, boar and panther – note the kneeling hunter levelling his spear at a leaping lion.

In the cabinets, a range of objects found at the site, including medical instruments, door locks, jewellery and pottery objects, help to give an idea of how life was lived. Also worth taking in here is the scale model of the ruins, which gives a useful overview of what is to come.

At quiet times, the museum might be kept locked, but it will be opened if you ask at the main entrance to the site.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Algeria attractions

1. Djemila

0.06 MILES

The spectacular ruined Roman town of Djemila (or Cuicul as it was then known) is small enough to breeze around in half a day. But spend longer here,…

2. Sétif Museum

20.17 MILES

This central museum is one of the better museums in Algeria and it alone justifies a stop in Sétif. Displays are well laid out, lit and labelled (in…