The Royal Mausoleum of Mauretania is a tomb located on the road between the cities of Cherchell and Algiers, in Algeria. It is the final resting place of Berber Juba II and Cleopatra Selene II, who were the last king and queen of Mauretania. Cleopatra Selene II was the only daughter of the famed Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and her husband Mark Antony. The mausoleum was built in 3 BC by King Juba II himself intended not just for him and his wife, but as a dynastic funeral monument for their royal descendants.
The tomb is known by various names. It is sometimes referred to as the Mausoleum of Juba and Cleopatra Selene. The French call it Tombeau de la Chretienne or "the tomb of the Christian woman", because there is a cross-like shape of the division lines on the false door. In Arabic, the mausoleum is called the Kubr-er-Rumia or Kbor er Roumia, which means the tomb of the Roman woman.
The mausoleum was constructed according to ancient mausoleums found in Numidia and their architectural design originated from mausoleums found in Egypt and Anatolia. The circular mausoleum is built from stone and stands on a square base with a pyramid or cone like structure at the top. The tomb measures between 60 to 61 meters in diameter and was originally believed to be 40 meters tall. Time and natural elements have reduced its height to about 30 meters.
The monument has been the victim of pillage very early on. The base of the monument was once decorated with 60 Ionic columns whose capitals were stolen. In the center of the tomb are two vaulted chambers (whose contents were probably also plundered by treasure seekers), that can be reached by a spiral passage nearly seven feet in height and 489 feet in length. The burial chambers are separated by a short passage, and are cut off from the gallery by stone doors made of a single slab which can be moved up and down by levers.
Early rulers tried to destroy the monument. In 1555, the Pasha of Algiers gave orders to pull down the mausoleum, but the effort was abandoned when large black wasps swarmed out and stung some of the workers to death. At the end of the 18th century, Baba Mahommed tried in vain to destroy the monument with artillery. Later, when the French occupied Algeria the monument was used by the French Navy for target practice. Finally, in 1866 it was explored by order of the Emperor Napoleon III, after which the site was ordered to be protected and preserved.
In 1982, the mausoleum along with nearby archeological sites containing monuments from the Byzantine and the Phoenician ages, were recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Although these archeological remains are protected, the ruins face constant threats from urban construction and expansion, open sewage drainage run offs, poor maintenance, and constant vandalism. Due to these ongoing problems, these archaeological remains face an uncertain future.
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