Name of Monument:

Qasr al-Mushatta

Location:

Amman, directly to the north of Queen Alia International Airport, Amman, Jordan

Date of Monument:

Hegira, early 2nd century / AD mid-8th century

Period / Dynasty:

Umayyad

Patron(s):

Possibly al-Walid II (r. AH 125–6 / AD 743–4).

Description:

In plan, Qasr al-Mushatta is a square structure (144 m x 144 m sq) with four circular corner towers and five semi-circular interval towers on three of its four sides. The fourth, or southern side, has four interval towers in addition to two semi-octagonal towers, flanking the main gate. The height of the walls along the best-preserved parts exceeds 5 m. The whole enclosure was subdivided into three north-to-south tracts. Building activities in the central tract were never completed, while those in the side tracts were never started. A courtyard measuring 55 m x 55 m occupies the central part of the middle tract. Two architectural complexes flank the courtyard from the north and the south. The southern complex consists of a passageway that is flanked by the mosque from the east, and a building of uncertain function from the west. This passageway leads to a courtyard with porticoes, which in turn leads to the central courtyard. The palace reception hall is situated to the north of the central courtyard. This hall has a triple-archway entrance and leads to a trefoil throne room. Two residential courtyard houses (bayts) flank the hall on each side. Some of the barrel-vaulted ceilings of the bayts are still in place. Parts of the entablature, capitals and voussoirs can still be found on site lying around their stone columns.
Qasr al-Mushatta was built out of brightly coloured bricks and stone, and in this manner is similar to Qasr al-Tuba. The intricate stone carving along the exterior of the southern wall, part of which was taken to Germany in 1904, shows persisting Sassanid and classical influences. Naturalistic acanthus and vine scrolls, as well as animals and figures carved in stone, all demonstrate the high-quality skills of the builders. It is also interesting to note how animals and human figures were replaced by floral motifs in that part of the southern (qibla) wall of the enclosure that corresponds to the mosque.

View Short Description

Located 38 km south of Amman, Qasr al-Mushatta is a square structure (144 m x 144 m) with a central courtyard that was probably commissioned by al-Walid II. The complex was built with limestone and red brick and included a mosque, but it was never completed. The fine stone carving at the exterior southern wall, part of which was taken to Germany in 1904 and is on display at the Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, has naturalistic vine scrolls with animal and human figures that were replaced by floral motifs in the part corresponding to the mosque.

How Monument was dated:

Qasr al-Mushatta is reliably dated on both historical and stylistic grounds: it is a well-documented fact that al–Walid II (r. AH 125–6 / AD 743–4) built extensively in the area and that his building program ceased after his death. On the basis of stylistic analysis, certain characteristics such as the building techniques used, the interior arrangement and the decoration of the complex, mean that it can be attributed to the reign of Al-Walid II. As Creswell and Allan (1989) pointed out, the mixture of brick and stone in architecture, whereby the bricks are much thicker than the stone joints, is an innovation of the Muslim architects. In addition to that, the pointed arches, whereby the two centres are one-fifth of the span, cannot be earlier than the 2nd / 8th century. Moreover, the location of the mosque, being to the right of the entrance, is similar to that of the Palace of Ukhaidir in Iraq built between 157–8 / 774–5 by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mansur (93–158 / 712–5).

Selected bibliography:

Creswell, K. A. C., and Allan J. W., A Short Account of Early Muslim Architecture, Cairo, 1989, pp.201–14.
Grabar, O., The Formation of Islamic Art, New Haven, 1973, p.197.
Khouri, R. G., The Desert Castles: A Brief Guide to the Antiquities, Amman, 1992, pp.11–12.

Citation of this web page:

Mohammad Najjar "Qasr al-Mushatta" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2022. 2022. https://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;jo;Mon01;2;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 02

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