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One thousand years of slumber
  Volubilis appeared in the first Arabic texts and on coins that were minted in the city during the 8th century, under the name Walila.

Islamized during the 8th century, Walila in 789 AD hosted the founder of the Idrissid dynasty, Idriss I. The latter’s successor, Idris II, chose to settle in Fez in 808 AD, and from that time, Volubilis began to fall into oblivion.

Arab authors only cited Volubilis in their texts to remember that Idris I became   the leader of Volubilis. In the 16th century, Volubilis appeared under the name of Pharaoun Ksar (Palace of the Pharaoh)

In 1721, on the occasion of a meeting between Commodore Stewart and Sultan Moulay Ismail at the British Embassy in Meknes, John Windus, member of the mission, spotted and then drew the ruins visible of the Basilica, the Triumphal Arch and the gate called Tangier.  The drawings of J. Windus and those of the Austrian Baron Von Augustine, who visited the site in 1830, later showed that the earthquake of Lisbon in 1755 affected the site.

Charles Tissot, Plenipotentiary Minister of France, visited the site in 1878 and identified the ruins of Ksar Pharaoh in the ancient site of Volubilis, and between 1888 and 1890, Henri de la Martinière launched two missions of excavation on the site.

In May 1915, under the leadership of General Lyautey, the scheduled excavations began with the excavation of the area between the Triumphal Arch and the Basilica.


A city out of the ground
The first excavations in Volubilis were undertaken by the French Minister at the Legation in Tangier, Henri de La Martinière between 1888 and 1890.

The excavations that began on May 25, 1915 were held under the auspices of the Department of Antiquities, Fine Arts, and Historical Monuments, and were led by Maurice Tranchant de Lunel, consulting architect of the Protectorate. They were entrusted to Lieutenant-Colonel Boin, then to Captain Hénissart who worked with a reserve lieutenant and member of the French School of Rome, Louis Chatelain. The workers were largely composed of German prisoners of war of the World War I.

The first excavations that uncovered around the two main monuments, the Triumphal Arch and the Basilica, which were then visible, allowed to quickly uncover a large part of the monumental center (Forum, Capitol,  Rostrum, baths of the capitol), and the neighboring buildings.



The most important excavation and restoration projects
From May 25, 1915 until the early 50s, excavations were carried out uninterruptedly on the site. The first excavations allowed the uncovering of the monumental center, the southern area of the site, and the area surrounding the Triumphal Arch.  The second part of the excavations focused mainly on revealing the great houses of the northeast neighborhood. Since Morocco’s independence, research on the site was designed to better understand the different phases of the evolution of the city, and to explore and distinguish not only the Roman level, but Mauretanian and post-Roman levels as well.


Large restoration operations took care of the Triumphal Arch between 1930 and 1934 and it took until the 1960s to see the full restoration of the Capitol (1962), the Basilica (1965-1967) and the Tangier door (1967).


Today’s archeological research
 Several research programs have been launched at Volubilis to valorize the site and its surroundings. Some of the major research programs conducted over the past thirty years in Volubilis are:

The exploration campaigns carried out by the French-Moroccan mission “Sebou Basin” between 1982 and 2001 was to identify all of the archaeological areas on the site and to get a better understanding of the territory of the city.


From 1988 to 1992, the excavations under the auspices of the National Institute of Archaeological Sciences and Heritage near the Triumphal Arch analyzed more closely the stratigraphy of the post-Roman and Islamic occupations of the site.


Between 1996 and 2001 the mission of French-Moroccan “religious monuments in Mauretania Tingitane” devoted part of its work to the study of the temples of Volubilis.


Since 2001, a French-Moroccan mission carried out excavations in the south-west part of the city with the aim of finding new evidence of post-Roman and Islamic occupation. With the same purpose, a plan for the management and conservation of the site is about to be developed, and several pilot projects were carried out for the restoration of the Idrissid baths.


Between 2002 and 2005, archaeological excavations in the program “PROTARS” were conducted on the east side of Volubilis to better understand the pre-Roman occupation in this area of the city.

In addition to these research programs, several excavations and studies on monuments and  objects are conducted annually by Moroccan and foreign students and researchers. Today dozens of articles and books are published in several languages about ​​Volubilis.



Actual techniques research tools and contemporary management system
Current research at Volubilis is based on modern scientific methods. Researchers use   tools such as maps, aerial photography, Total Station and GPS, databases related to geographic information system (GIS), and finally, varied computer programs. Researchers also digitalize monuments and mosaics and make geomagnetic prospections. Advanced diagnostic operations were conducted at the site to assess the state of conservation of the remains and to prepare adequate methods of intervention and restorations. Operations for restoration, weeding, and cleaning are organized to proprerly preserve the site.


In order to manage a site worthy of a World Heritage title, Volubilis is equipped with a large structure built over a length of 200 meters and a depth of eight meters from the current ground level. It was built to improve the management and presentation of the site and to replace the previous dilapidated buildings.


This structure includes the interpretive center, administrative offices, a research center, apartments for researchers, and the curator’s house.


These buildings were designed in the spirit of ameliorating the perspective of the site so as not to impose a visual barrier on it. They are, thus, located on the slope of the left bank of the river and remain invisible to the small town of Fertassa. To ensure the stability of the buildings, which are built on plastic and clay soil, particular attention was given to the foundation as well as the elevation of the strong concrete.



The UNESCO classification: Volubilis World Heritage of Humanity
Volubilis is among one of the richest archeological sites of the Roman period in North Africa. Its history spans over 15 centuries during which several successive civilizations inhabited it: from the Mauretanian period to the Roman, early Christian and Islamic periods.

The richness of its history, the preservation of these remains, and the uniqueness of the landscape prompted UNESCO to include Volubilis in their World Heritage List in 1997.
In order for an archeological site to be preserved by UNESCO, four criteria are to be met by the site:

• Criterion ii: outstanding example of a city witnessing an exchange of influences from the High Antiquity until the Islamic period.
• Criterion iii: outstanding example of an architectural, archaeological, and cultural landscape providing testimony on several cultures many of which are now extinct.
• Criterion iv: outstanding example of an outbreak of various forms of immigration, cultural traditions and cultures that have disappeared from High Antiquity until the arrival of Islam
• Criterion vi: a site full of history, cultural events, ideas, beliefs, and artistic works of universal significance.


The site is surrounded by a protection zone that covers 4,200 hectares and is one of the largest protected areas of World Heritage sites approved by the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO. Volubilis also has a land number and cadastral plan covering the remains of the site and its buffer zone.


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