Monday, December 17, 2007

Excavation of Herod monumental architecture continues in Jordan

With their findings on the mountain Tall adh-Dhahab (West) in the Jabbok Valley the archeologist Thomas Pola could substantiate one assumption: everything points to the fact that the building remains from the Hellenistic and Roman era, found in 2006, were part of a yet unknown monumental building of Herod the Great (73-4 BC).

This assumption is based on the floors of one of the discovered peristyle yards (yards enclosed by continuous columns) which the archeologists were able to excavate. Prof. Pola sees the parallels with the architecture of Herod’s West Jordan Alexandreion as prove that there also was a monumental building of Herod the Great on the plateau of the mountain Tall adh-Dhahab. That would mean that in addition to his reign over the West Jordan Land, the Jewish king had a security system with which he could have controlled the ancient long-distance traffic in the middle Jordan Valley and the access ways to the plateau of the East Jordan Land.

Above that, the team of Prof. Pola for the first time discovered a layer from the late Bronze Age or the Early Iron Age on a natural terrace directly underneath the plateau. The ruins of a tower from the city wall at least show three building phases. “On the level of the oldest building phase we took samples from a burnt layer. A C14-analysis carried out by Prof. Manfred Bayer (Physics at TU Dortmund) showed that the charcoal originates from the time 1300 to 1000 BC. At this location we will continue to work in 2008.”

Finally Prof. Pola’s team discovered the purpose of the monumental military facility half way up the mountain: it is a casemate wall. It is supposed to have been finished in Roman times. This is yet another argument for the identification of the mountain with the stronghold Amathous mentioned in the ancient world. The historian Josephus (37 to 100 AD) described Amathous as the biggest stronghold in the East Jordan Land.

Even reworking the campaign 2006 revealed a sensation: the carve-drawings which had been discovered by Dr. Batereau-Neumann, a sponsor of the project, at that time, were dated to the ninth or tenth century by the internationally renowned specialist for Middle East iconography, Prof. Othmar Keel (Universit├Ąt Freiburg). According to him the two pictures, the head of a lioness and the fragment of a cultural scene, belong together. The sensation: they point to the existence of a temple on the mountain plateau in the New-Assyrian time.
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