Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl


Fig. 1: Satellite photo of northwest area of Jerash
Fig. 2: Survey plan 2011

This report summarizes the excavation campaign which was undertaken in Jerash between 21st July and 30th August 2013 by the team from Aarhus University, Denmark and Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Germany under the joint direction of Prof. Dr. Rubina Raja and Prof. Dr. Achim Lichtenberger.
Following our survey campaign in 2011 and the excavation campaign in 2012 (see our 2011 and 2012 reports) the subject of this year’s campaign was to further investigate particular archaeological remains in the northwest area of the city beginning west of the Sanctuary of Artemis and stretching to the city wall.

The area is the highest within the ancient city of Jerash and it forms a natural hill which slopes to all four sides (fig. 1). The north side is a steep rock, to the east the hill descends considerably towards the Artemision, and to the south several terraces form the sloping hill creating the impression of a smoother descending hill.

In the survey of 2011 our results pointed to mainly late Roman/Byzantine and early Islamic remains in the Northwest Quarter, which the excavation campaign in 2012 confirmed (fig. 2). Through the excavation campaign 2013 we wanted to gain a more detailed insight into the settlement history of the area and especially its possible earlier phases.
On the basis of our survey results of 2011 and the results of the 2012 excavation campaign we chose five excavation areas.

In all trenches no built structures dating to before the Late Roman/Byzantine periods were found. However, scattered remains from earlier periods indicate limited occupation which we want to investigate further in the following years. Furthermore there is extensive evidence for a Mamluk period settlement on the top of the hill as well as in the north part of the area of examination. It is the intention to explore these further in the coming years in order to understand the continuity and change in settlement patterns in the Northwest Quarter of Jerash.


The project team consisted of the two directors in charge of the project, Prof. Dr. Achim Lichtenberger and Prof. Dr. Rubina Raja assisted by Dr. Georg Kalaitzoglou (head of the field) and Dr. Annette H. Sørensen (head of the registration).

The field excavation team consisted of four trench masters and one trench master assistant. The field excavation team was assisted by between 12-16 workers for the duration of the excavation campaign. The documentation in the field was done by drawing profiles and plans/sketches with the help of a pantograph. Photographic documentation as well as geodetic documentation with a total station was also undertaken. All measurements were entered into the CAD during the campaign as well as checked for accuracy. Photogrammetric documentation was also undertaken by the head of the field and the surveyor student. Furthermore special finds were recorded and all ceramic was registered. The latter was processed by the registration team, which was headed by Dr. Annette H. Sørensen. The registration team consisted of, apart from the head, two for sorting and counting pottery, five for drawing it and one in charge of photography. Furthermore, a professional photographer took part in order to document specific finds for publication. In the registration ceramic sherds were washed, sorted, counted and diagnostic sherds were registered, described, drawn and photographed. Metal, stone, bone and glass finds were similarly registered. Some finds required special treatment which was undertaken by the conservator, Helle Strehle. Architectural elements were drawn and documented by the architect, Jens C. Pinborg, using an SMF based computer programme and inked paper drawings. Furthermore a glass expert, Dr. Holger Schwarzer analyzed and diagnosed all glass finds from the campaigns 2012 and 2013. A geologist, Dr. Alf Lindroos (Åbo University, Finland) took mortar samples for further dating analysis with the refined AMS-method.

Trench D

Fig. 3: Trench D
Fig. 4: Small vessel
Fig. 5: Torso of marble sculpture
Fig. 6: Metal knife with large blade from north room (kitchen structure)

The main objective for laying out trench D (Fig. 3) was to further clarify the interpretation of the complex on the very top of the hill, the so-called Ionic building (see our 2011 and 2012 reports in Munjazaat). Trench D was located in the northeast corner of the so-called “Ionic building”, which was measured and described in the survey-campaign of 2011. The location of the trench was chosen due to the location almost on top of the hill and proved to give important information about the use of the area over time. In this building complex trench C had been laid out in 2012 and had revealed various phases including a bottle shaped cistern and a Mamluk building phase (see forthcoming ADAJ contribution).

Excavation and documentation in trench D was conducted from 25th July to 22nd August 2013 and was supervised by Stefan Riedel (MA). Trench D measured 6 x 6 meters and was later extended by 1.0 meter towards the north and east.

The trench was mostly excavated to bedrock. Its latest phase was Mamluk and consisted of one large room in the southern part of the trench. In this room some small vessels were found (fig. 4). The Mamluk room was set on top of an in its latest phase Umayyad structure whose floor was well visible at the western side of the trench. However this earlier phase was nearly completely cleaned away when the Mamluk house was built. To build the house the walls had been set on bedrock edge in the Umayyad period and then backfilled with material from different periods in the Mamluk period. In the eastern part of the surface of the bedrock quarry marks were visible, hinting at this area in its earliest phase was used as a quarry. In the westernmost wall a large fragment of a Roman period female marble sculpture was built into the wall (fig. 5). This almost life-size torso probably belonged to an Artemis, maybe of the type Rospigliosi.

North of the Umayyad and later Mamluk room, another room was encountered, in which well- preserved kitchen installations, such as a basin and a hearth (most likely from the Umayyad period) were found. In this room a complete metal knife with a large blade was also found (fig. 6).

The overall picture gained from the finds in trench D fits well to what we encountered last year in trench C at the southwestern side of the so-called Ionic building where massive Mamluk period reconstruction of former Umayyad buildings, using the Umayyad walls as fundaments for Mamluk walls, took place. The so-called Ionic building is definitely one of the most important Mamluk structures in the Northwest Quarter.

Trench E

Fig. 7: Trench E
Fig. 8: In-situ water pipe, southwestern part of trench E
Fig. 9: Fragment of “Kerbschnitt” pottery

The main objective for laying out trench E was to clarify the relation between the so-called “Ionic Building”, the large terrace in front of this building as well as the structures northeast of the “Ionic Building”.

Trench E was excavated and documented between 25th July and 24th August 2013. It was supervised by Cathrin Pogoda (MA). Trench E was located on the north side of the large terrace of the “Ionic Building”, on the corner of the structures northeast of the “Ionic Building”. It measured app. 5 x 5 meters. The geomagnetic survey of 2011 in this area displayed broad north-south running anomalies and one intention was to clarify the nature of these. Already on the surface an east-west running wall was seen. This after cleaning proved to connect the structure in trench D (“Ionic Building”) with the structure in trench E. This wall seems to have been the limit of the large rectangular structure (terrace) centrally situated on the hill extending towards the east. To the south of the main east-west running wall in the eastern part of the trench parts of a room set on bedrock cuttings was unearthed. The bedrock carried traces of quarrying. The bedrock walls were partly plastered. To the west of the bedrock wall a wall was set against it. This turned out to have a heavily mortared layer which contained an in-situ Byzantine water pipe running north-south (fig. 8).

Around the two walls dense areas filled with stone, mortar and pottery were found, which are probably the reasons for the anomalies in the magnetogramme. The extension of the water pipe in the southern part of the trench was found in the east profile of sector A in the trench (the northern part). In the area extending to the west of the water pipe in the southern part of the trench the bedrock was reached. There were partly quarrying marks in this area as well. In the northeast corner of the trench a north-south running wall adjoining the terrace wall forms part of a room. The latest phase of this room seems to be Mamluk.

The overall picture gained from the excavation of trench E points to the conclusion that the structure had several phases the latest of which seems to be dating to the Mamluk period. The earliest phase is connected with the use as a quarry, which cannot securely be dated. The next datable phase was probably Byzantine connected to the water pipe. In a fill layer a piece of Abbasid “Kerbschitt” pottery was also found, attesting to the presence of material dating between the Umayyad and Mamluk periods (fig. 9).

Trench F

Fig. 10: Trench F
Fig. 11: Sector i: Well head and cistern
Fig. 12: Drawing of mould depicting a face

The trench (Fig. 10) was laid out in the large rectangular cistern on the southern slope of the Northwest Quarter. The trench was excavated and documented by Anne D. K. Høj (BA) in the period between 25th July and 29th August 2013. The aim of the trench was to investigate strategically selected parts of the cistern – both concerning the general use of the cistern and its later re-use.

The trench was laid out as a cross section traversing the cistern in north-south direction and measured app. 1.5 x 17 meters. Furthermore a sounding, measuring 2.5 x 2.5 meters, was laid out around the area in the eastern end of the cistern, in which the well head was placed. The structure was already surveyed in the 2011 campaign (see our 2011 report in Munjazaat).

The trench was divided into sectors (A-H) of app. 2 meters length running from the north to the south. The large rectangular cistern in the northern sector (A) was excavated to a depth of app. 4 meters, reaching the floor. The cistern wall was mortared and followed the natural shape of the rock. At a later point (probably Byzantine time) the cistern fell out of use as a water reservoir and was turned into an area with several built structures. The most prominent feature was a wall running east-west app. 2 meters from the northern enclosure of the cistern. Between this wall and the northern bedrock-wall of the cistern rubble stone fill almost without finds had been intentionally deposited in one go when the wall (app. 0.55 meters in diameter) was constructed. This fill continued to the bottom of the cistern.

In the southern part of the trench (sector G and H) room-like structures were excavated. The southernmost wall in the east part of the trench (sector H) was set against the plastered bedrock wall. In front of the plastered bedrock wall structures belonging to what were most likely rooms of a building were situated. In sectors E and F east-west running one-course high structures were excavated. The interpretation of these is not clear yet, but one might have been an entrance to the structure in sectors G and H. In sector B, C, D the massively plastered cistern floor was found in-situ and it seems that later structures in the cistern were set directly upon this plastered floor, partly covered with smaller-sized stones. 

In the area where the well head was located (sector I) excavation was also undertaken (fig. 11). This area shows that after the large cistern fell out of use water was drawn on a smaller scale from the natural cave below the rock cut cistern. On the floor of the large rectangular cistern, a round well head was constructed. This well head had been enclosed by a semi-circular retaining wall (two phases), which closed off the area primarily towards the north. A channel found in-situ coming from the upper east end of the cistern was leading water to the cave cistern. South of the well head walls running respectively north-south and east-west (set against the plastered bedrock wall) were found. The original function of these walls is not yet clear. In the fill of sector I was among other finds parts of a mould depicting a face (fig. 12).

The relation of the many features excavated in trench F needs further investigation in order to be understood properly. The cistern structure, which is the largest until now found in Jerash, will reveal important information about the settlement history of the Northwest Quarter, but possibly also about the general water supply of further areas of Jerash.

Trench G

Fig. 13: Trench G
Fig. 14: Kernels
Fig. 15: Coin from Philadelphia

The trench (Fig. 13) was laid out at the northern slope of the Northwest Quarter in line of the presumed course of the North Decumanus between the line of the Tetrapylon and the Northwest Gate of the city wall. The trench was excavated and documented by Anders Olesen (BA) in the period between 25th July and 28th August 2013.

The trench measured 5 x 5 meters and was later extended to the south with 2.5 x 2.5 meters. The aim was to determine whether there was a street in this area and whether this area, within the city wall, was settled in antiquity. All sectors were characterized by thick layers of fill. App. 1.5 meters below the surface in sector B and partly in sector A a leveled area was detected which at some point might have been a simple street. Wall structures were found in sector C; they seem to stem from more recent times and some stones carry ploughing traces. In sector B at the level just above virgin soil an east-west running mortared structure in two bands was situated. Only in the southern extension (sector F) at a depth of app. 2.5 meters an older wall was found. This was placed in the contact zone between the bedrock and virgin soil app. 1 meter above the contact zone. At a depth of 3.0 to 3.8 meters residual clay was encountered in all sectors and in sector F in the southern part bedrock was reached a bit deeper than the level of the virgin soil. The fill layers in all sectors contained organic material, in particular olive kernels. Another sort of kernels was also found in sector D (fig. 14). Analysis is in progress.

Surprisingly the natural clay and the layers above were in antiquity descending southwards towards the hill against the outline of the modern topography, which slightly descends towards the north. 
The finds in the fill layers covered the period from Roman to Umayyad times. Among these finds is a nice example of a bronze coin from Philadelphia from the reign of Elagabal (fig. 15). The evidence from this trench, despite the nature of the mixed fill and the lack of traces of an ancient street, provides us with information about the nature of this unexplored area indicating that no settlement is to be found here but that this might have been an area used for agricultural purposes. Even in Islamic times no or hardly any built structures were in this area.

Trench H

Fig. 16: Trench H
Fig. 17: Hellenistic Black Glazed pottery base

Trench H (Fig. 16) was laid out on the ridge of the hill southeast of trench G. The aim was to clarify the relationship between the hill, the partly visible terrace walls, the sloping terrain (above ground towards the north) and the bedrock.

Trench H was excavated and documented in the period between 18th and 28th August 2013 by Stefan Riedel. The trench measured app. 3 x 6 meters and at a later point it was extended with 1 meter towards the north. In the southern part of the trench an in-situ west-east running water pipe was found. Next to this there was a neatly plastered water canal also running west-east. This plastered channel was formed by an older terrace wall (which can be traced also further west and east of the trench), and a wall of spolia. South of these channels a plastered area was excavated.

North of the channels bedrock is descending and the rock was vertically roughly cut. Along the edge of this rock an app. 1.5 x 1.5 meters sounding was made. At a depth of app. 5 meters virgin soil was reached. The edge was formed in its upper part by the roughly dressed rock and above virgin soil a wall in 4 preserved courses was found. This wall probably reached further up the rock as the simple stone beddings indicate.

This evidence, together with the observations from trench G considerably alters our understanding of the ancient topography. It is clear that the area north of the Northwest Quarter was far steeper than is visible today. It is not clear from which period the wall is. Due to erosion we encountered an inverted stratigraphy in the sounding with some Hellenistic stamped black-glazed (fig. 17) and Roman pottery in the upper layers and Byzantine pottery at the foot of the wall. The pottery from the Hellenistic period attests to an earlier occupation on top of the hill.


All trenches were backfilled after excavation apart from sectors B-I in Trench F, were the intention is to continue next year.
The conservation campaign ran from 6th August to 23rd August 2013 staffed by M.Sc. in conservation Helle Strehle from Moesgård Museum, Aarhus University, Denmark.

All in all the following objects were treated: 12 coins and 1 other object of copper alloy, 1 remains of a copper-object on a marble high relief, 1 lead object, 2 iron objects, 2 items of painted as well as unpainted ceramic, 1 ceramic figurine and 1 amber object. 1 gold object was detached from the corrosion matrix in which it was imbedded.

Summary of excavation results 2013

The results of the 2012 campaign showing an intensive Late Byzantine and Islamic settlement in the Northwest Quarter of Jerash was substantiated by the research undertaken in the 2013 campaign. We now have a clearer vision of the small Mamluk settlement on top of the hill and in 2013 we gained important information about the water supply of the ancient city. Also concerning the topography of the Northwest Quarter important new insights were gained: Firstly concerning the course of the surprisingly steep valley on the northern side of the Northwest Quarter and secondly the proof that in Trench G no North Decumanus or later streets were detected.

Cooperation with the DoA

The directors and the team were supported by members of the DoA throughout the campaign. We thank the acting general director, Fares A. K. Hmoud, for facilitating our preparations for the campaign. At the Department of Antiquities in Jerash especially Dr. Rafe Harahsheh and Dr. Mohammad A. Abileh as well as Adnan Mujalli supported us scientifically and with the practical organization and infrastructure. We were able to reach them anytime and they accompanied our work. Also the stay in the Archaeologists’ Camp contributed to efficient workflows and we thank Mohammed Ghazi for his competent and efficient help in all matters concerning these issues. We would also like to thank Jihad Haroun and Khalil Hamdan for professional and friendly advice and guidance. We would like to thank the DoA for its good cooperation, which we hope to continue in the future. We would also like to mention that the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology in Amman has supported us with considerable help.

Dr. Mohammad A. Abileh (21st July until 19th August 2013)
Adnan Mujalli (20th August until 30th August 2013)


The team consisted of the two directors Achim Lichtenberger and Rubina Raja, head of the field team Georg Kalaitzoglou, head of the registration team Annette H. Sørensen, architect Jens C. Pinborg, conservator Helle Strehle, photographer Michael Benecke, geologist Alf Lindroos, glass specialist Holger Schwarzer and the field and registration team: Anders M. Bjerggaard, Dorothea Csitneki, Philip Ebeling, Eicke Granser, Anne D. K. Høj, Hans-Peter Klossek, Signe Krag, Signe B. Kristensen, Nadia S. Larsen, Anders Olesen, Cathrin Pogoda, Anne Riedel and Stefan Riedel.

Team 2013