Hegira 2nd century / AD 8th century
Jarash is located 34 km north of Amman. The city is famous for its Graeco-Roman and Byzantine monuments. It is obvious now that the plan of Gerasa with its broad colonnaded streets in a rectilinear pattern evolved during the course of 150 years extending from the mid-1st to the late 2nd centuries BC. The city had a circuit wall 3.45 km long; 2 km of colonnaded streets, temples dedicated to Zeus, Artemis and other pagan gods, two theatres, two large baths and a hippodrome. All these features attest to the cultural aspirations of its inhabitants.
Excavations carried out between 1925 and 1934 sought Roman-period remains and consequently the early Islamic buildings were treated in a cursory manner if not completely ignored. Excavations in the 1980s by various international teams were different and gave due consideration to the early Islamic period. A particularly important contribution to the understanding of this period was made by Alan Walmsley (forthcoming) who combined the archaeological, numismatic and textual evidence to argue that there was a continuity of settlement at the site throughout the AH 3rd / AD 9th century.
In 2002 Walmsley initiated a project designed specifically to reach a better understanding of the Islamic period and the long-term transformation that characterised it. It now seems that the Umayyad period saw the imposition of peace as solid as the Pax Romana, and was to a large extent a continuation of the preceding Byzantine era.
Jarash is mentioned in the Arabic geographical sources as an administrative district (kura) in the military province (jund) of Jordan whose capital was Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias); its boundaries abutted the important and large province of al-Balqa which was under the jurisdiction of the military province of Damascus, the Jund Dimashq.
During the Umayyad period Jarash issued coins both of the Arab-Byzantine type and of the purely epigraphic type, the latter bearing the mint name, 'Jarash' in Arabic letters. It was also a major centre of ceramic manufacture whose wares spread over much of northern Jordan; moulded ceramic lamps occasionally bore Arabic inscriptions mentioning the potter's name and Jarash as the place of manufacture.
Numerous pottery kilns were found in and around the north theatre, in the temenos (temple) of Artemis, at the sanctuary of Zeus and in the macellum (financial or market centre). All these kilns indicate that by the late Byzantine and Umayyad periods Jarash had changed from a typical classical city into a working-class town. Many of the 14 churches that dotted the city's landscape continued to be used as places of worship throughout the Umayyad period and beyond, as indicated by the mutilation of figurative representations in the mosaic pavements in some of these churches.
Excavations in the 1980s uncovered Umayyad structures located north of the western extension of the south decumanus (street); these consist of shops along the street front, and behind them a residential building with rooms placed on two sides of an irregular inner court. The entire house measured 21 m x 13 m and during the course of the AH 2nd / AD 8th century the residence was subdivided into smaller units by closing some passages and opening up new ones in other walls.
Most remarkable was the discovery, in 2002, of a large mosque immediately west of the south tetrakonia, and south of the south decumanus. The mosque is a rectangular building (44.5 m x 39 m); the walls are double faced with rubble core, 0.70 m thick. On three sides of the courtyard are porticoes 4.80 m deep. The sanctuary (39 m x 13.80 m), paved with stone slabs, consists of two rows of columns running parallel to the qibla wall. In the qibla wall excavations uncovered two mihrabs: a large one in the centre with a diameter of 3.50 m and a smaller mihrab, 4 m further to the east, set in a rectangular salient. The discovery of this large mosque indicates that during the Umayyad period Jarash must have had a sizable Muslim community that co-existed with the Christians who continued to worship in their churches.
Jarash, located 34 km north of Amman, has many Graeco–Roman and Byzantine monuments. The Umayyad period was a continuation of the Byzantine era when Jarash changed from a typical classical city into a working-class town. Settlement continued there throughout the AH 3rd / AD 9th century. Jarash is mentioned in Arabic sources as an administrative district in the military province of Jordan. It issued coins and was a centre of ceramic manufacture. A large mosque and several churches indicate that during the Umayyad period, Jarash had a sizeable Muslim community that co-existed with the Christian.
The monument has been dated through archaeological excavations; material remains, especially pottery and coins, suggest the Umayyad period.
Gawlikowski, M., “A Residential Area by the South Decumanus”, in Jerash Archaeological Project, 1981–3, I, (ed) F. Zayadine, Amman, 1986, pp.107–21.
Pierobon, R., “Archaeological Research in the Sanctuary of Artemis: The area of the Kilns”, in Jerash Archaeological Project, 1981–3, (ed) F. Zayadine, Amman, 1986, pp.184–7.
Pierobon, R., “Gerasa in Archaeological Historiography”, Mesopotamia, XXVIII– XIX, 1983–4, pp.13–35.
Walmsley, A., Searching for Islamic Jarash: A Report on the 2002 Season of the Danish–Jordanian Islamic Jarash Project ' (forthcoming).
Ghazi Bisheh "Jarash (Gerasa)" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2023. 2023. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;jo;Mon01;14;en
Prepared by: Ghazi BishehGhazi Bisheh
Ghazi Bisheh is an archaeologist and former Director General of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. He studied archaeology at the University of Jordan, and history of Islamic art and architecture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, from where he holds his Ph.D. He was affiliated to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan for most of the period between 1980 and 1999, and was its Director General twice (1988–91 and 1995–9). He was also an associate professor of archaeology at Yarmouk University during the early 1990s. He is the author of numerous publications, including The Umayyads: The Rise of Islamic Art (Brussels: Museum With No Frontiers, 2000), of which he is a co-author. He has carried out excavation work both inside and outside Jordan in sites such as Qasr al-Hallabat, Madaba, Carthage and Bahrain. He is a member of the German Archaeological Institute and is the Deputy Director of the International Council of Museums for the Arab countries.
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 14