Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 58.djvu/405

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397
PREHISTORIC TOMBS OF EASTERN ALGERIA.

PREHISTORIC TOMBS OF EASTERN ALGERIA.
By Professor ALPHEUS S. PACKARD,

BROWN UNIVERSITY.

FROM the wonderful hot baths at Hamman-Meskoutine, which are situated near the Tunisian border of Algeria, on the railroad leading from Constantine to Tunis, one can visit the little-known necropolis of Roknia.

On a delightful morning near the last of January, with a Moorish guide, we set out for this locality. We had arrived at the baths only the evening previous, having left Constantine a couple of days before. In passing along the 'Tell' or Algerian highland, the nights had been cool and we saw the hoar frost along the railroad at Setif; the pools of standing water were frozen over and the distant low mountains were capped with snow. But at this early hour flocks of thick-wooled sheep, and long-haired goats and herds of undersized whitish-gray cattle, with long, downy, thick hair, such as one sees on the highlands and elevated plains of Asia Minor, were grazing in the fields, while among them were scattered a few camels bending their tortuous necks over the herbage. Although in some winters an inch of snow may fall in the streets of Constantine, yet the winter climate of Algeria is most delightful. On sunny days the morning soon grows warmer, and by noon the heat is almost summer-like.

We had not heard of Roknia and its dolmens until the evening we arrived at Hamman-Meskoutine, when we at once made arrangements for a horse and guide to the tombs, and for an early start the next morning.

Meanwhile, we found the springs wonderfully interesting. They lie about half a mile from the railroad station, on the edge of a plateau. The water carries lime in solution, is of a temperature of about 220° Fahr., and has deposited on the hillside an elevated platform of calcareous sinter and travertine, with several imposing crater or tower-like cones, six and ten feet high, from which formerly poured streams of hot water and steam. The water of the stream overflows the tanks and natural basins, and passes in cataracts down the declivity to enter the little river, the Oued Chedakra, draining the valley, while clouds of steam hover over the scene. These baths were used by the Romans, and the grounds of the hotel are adorned with the remains of bathtubs, statues and broken columns of marble.

Our way to Roknia lay for six miles through a hilly country, with