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University of Jordan Excavations at Khirbet Yajuz.

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Excavation

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The site is located 11 km north of Amman, and it occupies an entire hillside.  It was first mentioned by travelers such as, S. Merrill (1883), C.R. Conder (1889), C. McCown (1930), and N. Glueck (1939). In 1972, H. Thompson excavated a Roman tomb in the nearby area of the site. During 1994, a rescue team from the Department of Antiquities excavated a large basilica church with mosaic floor, it measures 28X17 meters. It comprises a central hall with two side aisles ending in an apse at the East side, and several adjacent rooms.
Nine seasons of excavations (1995-2003) conducted by the Department of Archaeology - University of Jordan, headed by the author. The main objectives of the excavations were as follows:
1-    To educate and train the BA and MA students of the Department in the field. Various techniques of surveying, digging, documenting and restoring are taught and practiced.

2- To determine stratigraphy and to discover architectural features, thus, to understand the history of the site.

    Many important discoveries were revealed at the different areas on the site (Areas B-E), such as chapel and cemetery, winepresses, residential area, basilica church and stone quarries in the surrounding areas.

The Chapel and Cemetery:
 In area B, uphill from the eastern basilica church, the chapel and the cemetery were excavated.
The chapel consists of an apse with a colour mosaic floor, an altar located in the middle of the apse, a chancel screen and a main hall which measures 15x10 meters, In addition, five rooms adjoin the chapel, one room which is located at the western end of the chapel, it has a colour mosaic floor with geometric pattern and eight lines of Greek inscription. The inscription mentions the "martyrs" Theodore and Kiriakos, and says the chapel was built at the time of the bishop Theiodosius.  A similar dedication was discovered at a church in Yadoudah, south of Amman, also mentions a bishop Theiodosius, known to be the bishop of Philadelphia (Amman) in 502/503 A.D.
    If Theiodosius is the same bishop mentioned in the chapel of Yajuz, it means that the chapel was founded in 508 A.D, which is the second indication year (Pompeian Era) mentioned in the last line of Yajuz inscription.
The roof was built of a combination of ceramic tiles and long stone slabs supported by arches. Above the floor of the chapel, a 15 centimeters - thick layer of ash with sherds of pottery were excavated, perhaps from the building destruction during the 749 A.D. earthquake.
   In the same area (B), an intact cemetery was also discovered beneath the chapel. It was entered via steps and a carved vaulted courtyard. The cemetery was cut into local limestone and two types of burial systems were used. The first burial system consisted of three chambers (B, C and D), with loculi. The second type of burial system was a constructed grave. Six such graves (A1-A6) were constructed of well - dressed limestone, covered with dressed stone slabs.
    Skeletal remains, which include 132 crania, were excavated in the different loculi and constructed graves. In addition, various types of artifacts were retrieved, including 27 pottery candlesticks, 22 oil lamps, 10 glass vessels, bracelets, rings, earrings, anklets, buttons, nails, colored beads and other miscellaneous small objects.
The ceramic candlesticks are rare in Jordan, and are known from only a few sites in central of Jordan such as, Amman - Jila'd - Madaba area. Two burning candlesticks are depicted on the mosaic floor of the priest John's chapel at Mukhayyat, Mount Nebo. Their presence in tombs indicates their roles as religious offerings designed for use in the afterlife of the buried people.
   The collection are a part of the pottery assemblage from the cemetery, they were associated with oil lamps and other types of pottery vessels which were common between the 6th - 7th centuries A.D.
    The glass objects include five jars, two flasks , and a fish - shaped vessel and two miniature jugs . The vessels were either free-blown or blown in a mould, except for the miniature jugs, which were made by core-winding. The fish - shaped vessel is an important religious symbol during the early Christian period. The Greek word for fish stands for the translated meaning in English: "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour”.
Most of the glass artifacts were associated with pottery lamps, these lamp types were current during the 6th century A.D. in Jordan.
     As mentioned above, the chapel has a foundation date of A.D. 508, and is built on top of the cemetery. It is clear that the chapel was founded at later time than the cemetery.
The Winepresses:
    In area C, two adjacent winepresses were retrieved, each consisting of the following: storage and treading basins, treading floor with remainder of mechanical pressing systems installation, and sedimentary and collecting vats. The floors of the different elements of the presses were constructed with white mosaic, and the interior of their walls, which were built by dressed stones, were furnished with plaster.
     Considering the architectural elements, the technological evidence of pressing, and the date of the pottery excavated in the winepresses, the suggested date to the southern press is to the 2nd century A.D. meanwhile, the northern press date to the Byzantine period. In addition, part of the northern winepress was continued to be used during the Umayyad period.
     The presence of the two large size winepresses, and the elaborate methods of pressing, indicate that Yajuz was an important public
     wine-making center in the Late Roman- Byzantine period. It must have been surrounded by vineyards that supplied the presses and probably exported wine during the settlement height in the 6th-7th centuries A.D.
     In the same area (C), a grain mill was discovered, it consists of a grinding stone and a core made of basalt and a limestone basin to collect ground flour.
     To the west of the winepresses, the walls of two large rooms were revealed, they are with internal arches. One room measures approx. 15x6.5 meter, its orientation is east-west and it has seven arches. The other room is oriented north-south and measures approx. 12.5x6.3 meter and has six arches. The arches and the vaulted room have collapsed above the room’s floors, probably because of the 749 A.D. earthquake.
    The preliminary study of the pottery and coins from various layers date to Byzantine- Umayyad periods. Therefore, it may be deduced that both rooms were founded during the Byzantine period, and might have been used as living quarters or for storage purposes in relation to the winepresses and flour mill .
The residential area:
    In area, D, a residential unit was revealed. It measures approx. 27x20 meter. The main entrance of the unit is at the south side, its width measures approx. 1 meter. The walls of the building is constructed from dressed stones, their foundations are built on the bedrock, their width about I meter. This residential unit consists of 11 rooms, two caves and a courtyard with a cistern and Taboun. There are two types of rooms, they are either measures 5x5 meter
or 11x5 meter, and two types of internal arches were used in construction of their ceiling. The first type of arch is built next to the wall of the room; meanwhile, the second type is constructed within the wall of the room. Stone slabs were built on the vaulted arches, and a thick layer of local clay (hawar) was added on the top. The layer of clay was hardly pressed by a rolling stone to make it compact and sealed the ceiling.
The pottery including lamps, coins and other finds which were excavated in the area stratigraphy, date the foundation of the residential complex to Late Roman, it was continued to be used during the Byzantine period. The destruction of the building was heavy which date to the end of the Umayyad period.
Western Basilica Church:
     In area E, on the west side of the site, basilica church was excavated, it measures 27.70x12.60 meters. The sanctuary area consists of an aspe, reliquary, liturgy table and chancel screen. The floor of this area is furnished with color mosaic. The main subject of decoration is a ram standing under a tree. In addition, the architectural elements of the two ails and the nave were discovered.
The 6th century can be suggested as the date of foundation of the church, similar decorated mosaic floors with the same subject were found at Madaba area, and they date to same century.
The building of the church was destroyed as result of the 749 A.D.earthquacke.
 Later than the earthquake, the collapsed arches were inforced and strengthened and dividing walls were also added. In addition, a layer of compact clay was put on the top of the irregular pavement of stone which was part of the church, and that in order to use the area as a residential area during the Abbasid Period.
      Distinguished types of pottery were associated with theabove mentioned stratigraphy and architecture .For example, pottery oil lamps decorated with grapes and vine leaves or with birds looking back ward are common. In addition, red painting or creamy slip and ware decoration of Abbasid period were found. 
Stone Quarries:
During the survey of the 2003 season, nineteen quarries were identified and recorded at khirbet Yajuz, Shafa Badran and Madhaba. The quarries content one of the largest exploitation area in Jordan, they represent a large scale production which is related to the building activities at khirbet Yajuz and Amman.
There are two main types of quarries as following:
1-open- cut with a linear development following the Hummar formation which consists of the limestone.
2- Amphitheater (step-like) shape working area.
All the phases of the process of extracting stones such as outlining, grooving, wedging and detaching are present at the sites. In addition, stone chips, quarried blocks and evidence of transportation of the blocks are discovered.
According to the technique of extraction and to the comparative study of the tool marks, it is possible to date the quarries to Late Roman-Byzantine Periods.
    In conclusion, Khirbet Yajuz was founded during Late Roman period on the main road between Amman (Philadelphia) and Jerash (Gerasa). Two milestones discovered in the area date from the 2nd century A.D., suggesting that the town served as a major way station on the principal Roman road (Via Nova Trajania). The city was continued to flourish during the Byzantine and the Umayyad periods. Inspite of the destruction caused by the 749 A.D. earthquake, evidence of occupation during the Abbasid period is presence.
 
Prof. Dr. Lutfi Khalil.

 

Department

Management And Conservation Of Cultural

Is Faculty Project?

No

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Created at 9/25/2012 11:49 AM by Ola Alja'afri
Last modified at 12/18/2012 11:04 AM by Ola Alja'afri