El Haouaria, which the Greeks called Hermaea, is mentioned for the first time in the ancient Greek periplus of Pseudo Scylax (4th -3rd century BC) who describes it as a polis (city) and considers it to be one of the oldest maritime ports of call in the Cap Bon peninsula.
Byzantine historian Procopius of Caesarea (6th century AD) reports that the Romans called it Merkourion and placed it inside the Promunturium Mercurii (Promontory of Mercury), jutting out into the sea, 280 stadia (52 kms) away from Carthage, and that it hosted a temple of Hermes. The toponym Hermaea is formed from the name of this god.
The history of Hermaeae is closely linked to that of the Carthage metropolis, whose architecture is made of stones extracted from the famous latomies (quarries) mentioned by Greek historian Diodorus of Sicily (1st century BC) and Greek geographer Strabo (1st century BC - 1st century AD).
These famous latomies, which are man-made caves, where Agathocles, Greek tyrant of Syracuse, landed in 310 BC, are located near Ghar El-Kebir, northwest of present day town of El Haouaria.
Thanks to the uniform mining technique, the caves can be identified on ground surface by openings of quadrangular cross-section, set up as shafts leading to a cavity which, through the extraction of stone process, takes on the shape of a carafe.
The calcareous tufa, extracted from the quarries of El Haouaria, can be easily carved. Lifting devices were probably installed above the underground caves at the mouth of the shafts. The blocks of stone that were extracted were transported by sea, weather permitting, to the port of Carthage, on the other side of the Gulf of Tunis, about 60 km away as the crow flies.
The quarries of El Haouaria supplied blocks for the constructions of the Punic metropolis, as early as the 7th century B.C., in particular the oldest burial sites. The friability of the rock dictated the use of plaster as coating, for both consolidation and good finish. The exploitation of the quarries continued during the Roman period.
The quarries of El Haouaria (Hermaea) are a good illustration of the way man grappled with his geographical environment, to write the prestigious history of Carthage.