Hegira, after 92 / AD 710
Probably al-Walid I (AH 86–96 / AD 705–15).
Qusayr ‘Amra, which was rediscovered by the Austrian scholar A. Musil in 1898, lies about 85 km east of Amman, beside wadi al-Butm (Valley of the Terebinth [Pistacia atlantica] Trees). The complex comprises two principal components, the first being a three-aisled hall which is bordered from the south by an alcove, which in turn is flanked by two side rooms comparable to the Roman apodyterium (dressing room). The alcove is believed to have functioned as a throne-room. The second component of the monument is the bathhouse, which is located to the east of the hall. It consists of three small rooms: the frigidarium (cold room), the tepidarium (warm room), and the calidarium (hot room). The complex is (approximately 120 m sq) and is built of locally available hard reddish limestone. It is best known, however, for its extensive frescoes, which represent an important formative stage in the development of Islamic art. These frescoes are also amongst the most significant secular paintings to have survived anywhere from before the Romanesque period. The walls and the ceilings of the complex are completely covered with depictions of a great variety of activities including bathing, hunting, and relaxation. The last room of the bath complex contains a representation of the northern sky with signs of the zodiac. The frescoes were executed in the tradition of oriental classical art and show the influence of the Sassanid tradition. Qusayr ‘Amra was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986.View Short Description
Qusayr ‘Amra lies about 85 km east of Amman, at Wadi al-Butm. The complex, around 120 m sq, comprises a hall bordered by an alcove that may have been a throne-room and a bathhouse of three rooms. It has extensive frescoes, which represent an important formative stage in the development of Islamic art. The walls and ceilings are completely covered with depictions of a variety of activities including bathing and hunting. The last room of the bath has a representation of the northern sky with signs of the zodiac. Qusayr ‘Amra was declared a World Heritage Site in 1986.
Qusayr ‘Amra has a few fragmentary and illegible inscriptions in Arabic and Greek but has been dated primarily by its frescoes which date to the Umayyad period, the most important being the fresco panel depicting six rulers; 'The Family of Kings'. Their names, written above their heads in Arabic and Greek, identify them as: 'Caesar', the Byzantine emperor; 'Kisra', the Sassanid emperor; the king of Abbyssinia (Ethiopia); and 'Roderick', the Visigothic king of Spain. Historical inference has established the identities of the other two as the emperor of China and the ruling prince 'khaqan' of the Turks. Since Roderick ruled for only one year before he died in a battle against Arab-Muslim armies in AH 92 / AD 710–711, this date provides a terminus post quem for construction of the palace.
Almagro, M., et al, Qusayr 'Amra: Residencia y baños omeyas en el desierto de Jordania, Madrid, 1975, plates XXII–XX; XXX–XXXI, p.61.
Creswell, K. A. C., and Allan J. W., A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture, Cairo, 1989, pp.105–17.
Grabar, O., The Formation of Islamic Art, New Haven, 1973, pp.154–56.
Khouri, R. G., The Desert Castles: A Brief Guide to the Antiquities, Amman, 1992, pp.22–6.
Musil, A., Kusejr 'Amra, Vienna, 1907.
Mohammad Najjar "Qusayr ‘Amra" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;jo;Mon01;4;en
Prepared by: Mohammad NajjarMohammad Najjar
Mohammad Najjar is an archaeologist and has been Director of Excavations and Surveys at the Department of Antiquities of Jordan since 1988. He studied archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology in Moscow from where he holds his Ph.D. He was affiliated to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan in 1982 as Curator of Jordan Archaeological Museum. He was the Technical Director of Cultural Resources Management (sites development) at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities between 1994 and 1997. He is the author of numerous publications on the archaeology of Jordan.
Copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: JO 04
Islamic Dynasties / Period
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