Name of Object:

Ma’in mosaic


Madaba, Jordan

Holding Museum:

Madaba Archaeological Park

About Madaba Archaeological Park, Madaba

Date of Object:

Hegira 100–101 / AD 719–20

Material(s) / Technique(s):



9.5 m x 16.5 m

Period / Dynasty:



Ma’in, Jordan.


Ma`in lies west of Madaba and was the last inhabited village on the road that led to the hot springs of Baaru (modern day Hammamat Ma`in) and Callirhoe (modern day Zara). During archaeological excavations carried out in 1973 by the Department of Antiquities of Jordan a monastic complex with a church was uncovered on a hill to the southwest of Ma'in.

At the site some floor mosaics were found, the most significant of which was that in the nave of the Acropolis Church, dated by its inscription to AH 100 / AD 719–20.

The mosaic measures 9.5 m x 16.5 m and includes a central panel framed by borders of varying widths (some measure over two meters wide). One border consists of yellowish squares and black ellipses; another is composed of acanthus scrolls that depict hunting scenes showing wild animals and pastoral motifs; most of this type of imagery was damaged during the iconoclastic period (carried out by decree of the Emperor Leo in AH 221 / AD 726) and replaced with floral motifs. Another of these borders depicts a series of buildings surrounded by fruit trees; it includes 11 buildings each with a toponym in Greek identifying them as representing the cities on the east and west banks of the Jordan River. These cities were all bishoprics except for Ma'in itself, which was included here purely out of civic pride.

The central field is composed of geometrical designs and figures; the figurative imagery suffered intensive iconoclastic damage and was replaced by motifs such as, for example, a basket filled with fruit and a boat with its sail unfurled; a bull, which was destroyed and replaced with a tree, but its hind hooves and tail, a front hoof and its hump are still visible. To the east of the nave there is a rectangular panel with a flower border, it has an inscription, enclosed in a tabula ansata that sits between a geometric motif and three wreathes formed by a grape vine emerging from a small jar.

There is another less well preserved floor mosaic in the room to the north of the church which measures 6.8 m x 3.5 m. This mosaic once comprised three panels: in the central panel only the upper part of a medallion with interloped circles still exists; in the eastern panel a tail, two paws, a bush, a hoof, a hump and the points of two horns can still be detected, above there is an inscription in Greek. This mosaic was damaged by iconoclasts; in its original state it would have depicted a Zebu and a lion facing a tree, but these were replaced by a bush to the left and a jar to the right. The leaves of the central tree were also replaced.

View Short Description

Mosaic floors of the Acropolis Church at Ma’in, dated by an inscription to AH 100 / AD 719–20. The nave includes depictions of 11 buildings representing cities in Jordan and Palestine, as identified by Greek toponyms. All figures were damaged by iconoclasts and carefully replaced with various motifs.

How date and origin were established:

The mosaic was dated by its dedicatory inscription, dating it to the Umayyad period (100-101 /719–20). Regards the repairs to the original mosaic, the style of the repairs indicates that the artists who laid the original mosaic were also the people who carried out the systematic iconoclastic damage, made obvious by the identical style of the fruit trees in the original mosaic and the tree that replaced the bull in the central field of the post-iconoclast mosaic.

How Object was obtained:

This mosaic floor was found during excavations carried out at the site in 1973. For the purposes of conservation it was lifted from its original site and is now at the Madaba Archaeological Park.

How provenance was established:

The mosaic was found in a church that belonged to part of a monastic complex on a hill to the southwest of Ma'in.

Selected bibliography:

Piccirillo, M., The Mosaics of Jordan, Amman, 1993, pp.195–204.

Piccirillo, M., "Le antichita bizantine de Ma'in e dintorni", Liber Annuus, 35, 1985, pp.339–64.

Schick, R., The Christian Communities of Palestine from Byzantine to Islamic Rule: A Historical and Archaeological Study, Princeton, 1995, pp.398-400.

De Vaux, R., "Une mosaïque byzantine à Ma'in (Transjordanie)", Revue Biblique, 1938, pp.227–58.

Citation of this web page:

Ghada Al-Yousef "Ma’in mosaic" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;jo;Mus01_H;40;en

Prepared by: Ghada Al-YousefGhada Al-Yousef

Ghada Al-Yousef is an archaeologist and the Director of the Friends of Archaeology Society in Jordan. She studied at the University of Jordan from where she received her BA and MA in Archaeology. In 1993 she undertook a course in the restoration and conservation of ancient mosaics held by the Italian government in Jordan. She was affiliated to the Jordanian Department of Antiquities from 1994 to 1997 as a trainee in the restoration of ancient mosaics and the production of modern mosaics at Madaba Mosaic School. In 1995 she opened her own gallery and workshop for producing mosaics. She was appointed as the Director of the Friends of Archaeology Society in 2001. She has carried out excavation work in Amman and Madaba.

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 81


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