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Mediterranean marble in the White House

The extraordinary development of the mining sector since the promulgation of the Mining Act of 2001 in Algeria has had the effect, in addition to attracting unprecedented investments, both national and foreign, of attracting researchers, geologists and chemists from various parties of the world, mainly Americans and Europeans curious to know better a mine inheritance invaluable but hitherto little known.

It was known, of course, that the marble mines of Filfila (Skikda, Eastern Algeria) had been abundantly used by the Roman Empire to embellish its palaces and villas. Invited by the National Agency for Geology and Mining Control (MEM), American researchers, recently on a mission to Algeria where they took samples of marble in the veins and quarries of Algeria, but also on relics preserved in the museums where the ancient vestiges of the country have established unexpected, if not surprising, correlations.

 

marble column

   Streaked and spotted column shaft of Filfila marble, Boutiques of Old Forum, Khemissa, Algeria (USF10850)

This team, which is interested in the history and geography of marble, has been able to determine that the so-called marble “greco scritto”, a white marble used as a coating of the ancient Roman baths of Chieti in Italy, actually comes from several quarries from Algeria. Besides, the marble of the Cape Guard in Eastern Algeria, has equally been found in ancient sites of Tunisia (Kef, Kairouan, Carthage …) as well as in Italy (Cinitile, near Nola, Campania and Saint Agatha in Ravenna and Ostia).

marble panels

The marble panels in the Mihrab of the Great Mosque of Kairouan

 

spotted marble column

Streaked and spotted column shaft of Cap de Garde marble, Byzantine church, fortress of Haïdra, Tunisia (USF8715)  

 

greco marble column

 Above: Greco scritto marble Column

 

marble column

 Marble column at the Roman site of Antonine Baths, Carthage, Tunisia

Even more surprising, and more recently, “Bouhanifia Marble” had served to embellish a prestigious skyscraper, the Chrysler Building in New York, although this marble was then labeled “Marocco Marble”. Moreover, marble siding, extensively used during the 1814 renovation of the White House buildings in Washington D.C.  bears the shimmering colors of Ain Smara’s onyx. Still in the United States, the marble decorating the famous Rockefeller Center comes from the quarries of Kristel (West of Algeria). Finally the marbles of Filfilla, notably known, were sought during the Roman period for their exceptional quality in the field of sculpture. These findings have entailed a great interest among cross-cultural research and engendered various international conferences.

Source : article translated from « Du Marbre Algérien à la Maison Blanche » By Nedjoua LATIF, posted in L’Expression- 07/29 /2008