Name of Monument:



Pella, Jordan

Date of Monument:

Hegira 41–132 / AD 661–750

Period / Dynasty:



Pella is a huge site with a long history of occupation. It comprises a flat terrace, 400 m long and a largely natural hill of Tell al-Husn across the wadi to the south. The site has been occupied almost continuously since the Stone Age. Islamic occupation was concentrated in area IV (on the flat terrace). In AH 13 / AD 635 Islamic forces defeated the Byzantine army at the Battle of Fihl near Pella and thenceforth Christians and Muslims lived together in the town.
Two earthquakes of AH 98 / AD 717 and AH 131 / AD 749 caused severe damage, but there was still some occupation of the site in the Abbasid and Mamluk periods. On the top of the terrace in area IV a complex of Byzantine–Umayyad houses was excavated. The walls had been consolidated and a few columns reset. These houses were two-storeys high, with walls of unbaked-mud bricks on stone foundations. The upper storeys were used as living quarters, while the ground level was used for the animals. Skeletons of people and animals trapped during the earthquake of AH 131 / AD 749 were found at the site. A second complex of Byzantine–Umayyad houses has been excavated below to the east above the Civic Complex Church.

View Short Description

Pella in the Jordan Valley has been inhabited since the Stone Age. In AH 13 / AD 635 Muslim forces defeated the Byzantines at the Battle of Fihl near there and thenceforth Christians and Muslims lived together in the town. The earthquakes of 98 / 717 and 131 / 749 caused severe damage, and skeletons of people and animals trapped during the latter earthquake were found, but occupation continued in the Abbasid and Mamluk periods. Several Byzantine–Umayyad houses were excavated at Pella. These were of two storeys built with mud brick on stone foundations, where people lived upstairs and kept their animals below.

How Monument was dated:

Archaeological excavations uncovered a wealth of material especially Umayyad pre-earthquake ceramics which suggest Umayyad occupation at Pella.

Selected bibliography:

Mcnicoll, A., Smith, R. H., and Hennessy, B., Pella in Jordan, Canberra, 1982.
Sheedy, K., et. al., Pella in Jordan 1979–1990: the coins, Sydney, 2001.
Smith, R. H., Pella of the Decapolis, Vol. 1, London, 1973.
Smith, R. H., and Preston Day, L., Pella of the Decapolis, Vol. 2, London, 1989.
Walmsley, A. (ed.), Australians Uncovering Ancient Jordan: Fifty Years of Middle Eastern Archaeology, Sydney, 2001.

Citation of this web page:

Mohammad Najjar "Pella" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024. 2024.;ISL;jo;Mon01;3;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 03


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