– AUGUST 19-20, 2015
We arrived in Amman, Jordan at 10pm, as all international flights arrive in the evening to avoid the hot daytime temperatures. After we made our way through customs, we got into a taxi and rode to the downtown area to our booked accommodations at the Amman Boutique Hotel.
It wasn’t a hotel as much as it was a hostel…and when we arrived the guy hadn’t looked at the list of internet bookings and somehow oversold his rooms. We had already paid via credit card, but he didn’t have a room for us. He did have two beds open in his “higher charge” rooftop oasis tent, which he claimed people pay more money for than the air conditioned rooms inside the building. Yeah…riiiight.
So he showed us the room charge sheet, which did show the rooftop tent as a higher rate. He was willing to let us stay up there for the same cost we had already paid, which at 11pm doesn’t really matter as much as just getting some sleep.
We managed to get a bit of sleep, but the next day we moved into a room in the building and it was much more comfortable.
Just a block away from the hotel/hostel was a restaurant who served pitas with falafel, fried and a bunch of toppings. This entire meal filled both of us and it only cost about $2.00 Canadian funds. This place has no walls or doors, so they run 24 hours/day and haven’t closed in the last 22 years.
We did some walking around Jordan, but here you have to start at 6am to get 4 hours of walking in before the heat gets above 33 degrees (and up to 38 degrees by 2pm for the high…that’s when you need to be in doors until the sun goes down at 7pm).
The Roman Theater is the largest theater in Jordan. It accommodates up to 6,000 spectators. It is dated to the reign of the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius (138-161 AD). It is still used today for artistic performances.
We took a tour of the area called the “Citadel”, which contains ruins of Roman architecture from the era where Jordan was under Roman rule.
Masterful in military architecture, the Ayyubids built the guard’s watch tower, which affords an excellent defensive view over the city below and beyond. The tower has a small room with a single arrow-slit on three sides and its staircase is embedded in the fourth wall and leads to the roof. Large drums, once a part of the Roman Temple of Hercules, are integrated into the south or exterior façade.
Material reuse is a typical practice throughout the centuries that can be seen in many buildings at the Citadel such as the Byzantine Church and the Umayyad Palace.
The Jordan Archaeological Museum (1951) is Jordan’s first public museum. An extraordinary range of artifacts are displayed here, many of which were unearthed at the Citadel.
Before the museum was constructed in 1951, excavations were conducted at the site. Every part of the Citadel was occupied or used at some point in history, so it is expected that a disturbance of the foundation may also uncover something. Beneath the museum, an Umayyad residential unit was found. In plan and construction, the house is similar to the ones located behind the museum.
This early Bronze Age Cave Tomb (2250 BC) dates back to the 23rd century. Tombs like this exist in different places in Amman, and they often have multiple burials inside. This cave houses a series of rock-cut tombs, and if you step in through the opening you can see limestone cavities. These were modified for communal burial during the Middle Bronze Age 4,000 years ago.
It was common for such features and structures to be re-used for different purposes in different periods of history or by different civilizations. This tomb was cleared and re-used during the Umayyad period by stonecutters who were preparing the building stones for the massive building program at the Citadel.
The prominent Monumental Gateway/Entrance Hall (730 AD) was the formal entrance to the Umayyad palace. Visitors would be screened here and then wait to be announced to the governor before entering his palace beyond.
Inside, the entrance hall has a crucifix plan with a square central area and four recesses extending outwards from it. The arms of the cross are barrel-vaulted at the north and south ends, and covered with semi-domes at the east and west sides. Windowsills on the upper part of the central area indicate that it was roofed, probably with a wooden dome.
The niches of the interior space are decorated with foliage motifs carved in low relief. These include half-palmettes, oak leaves and vines as well as geometrical patterns, rosettes, trefoils and quatrefoils (three or four ringed shapes). Both the roofing system and the decorative motifs have strong Sasanian influences.
The Temple of Hercules (161-166 AD) was dedicated to a supreme Roman deity. The temple has been attributed to the popular hero-god Hercules due to the discovery of gigantic arms of a marble statue near the temple area. Hercules was the son of Zeus and a mortal women (Alcemene) and was known for his supernatural physical strength. Also, Hercules is depicted on Roman coins minted in the city, which was called Philadelphia at the time.
The temple stands within an immense temenos (sacred precinct) that is surrounded by porticos. It was positioned on a large purpose-built stone podium and was meant to be seem from the lower city. It is thought that it was built on top of an earlier temple associated with the Ammonite god Milkom.
According to an inscription that was at the top of its façade, the temple of Hercules was built when Geminius Marcianos was governor of Provincia Arabia (161-166 AD) in dedication to the co-emperors of Rome, Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus. A second Roman temple was constructed in the north of the Citadel site at the highest point of the acropolis. It was built before the mid 2nd century AD, however its materials were later integrated into the structure of the Umayyad Complex in 730 AD.
The Colossal Roman Statue, hand and elbow fragments, belonged to a colossal statue from the Roman period and were found near the Temple of Hercules. The statue is estimated to have stood over 13 meters high, making it one of the largest statues from Greco-Roman times. Due to the massiveness of the statue, the temple was attributed to Hercules who was renowned for his physical strength.
The Jordan Museum is in the heart of downtown Amman and is small in comparison to other major city museums.
The history of the Dead Sea Scrolls has been mired by both politics and religion. The scrolls are still a source of controversy and a subject of discord among the specialists of religions, even though more than fifty years have passed since they were first discovered. Till this day, research is still taking place by scholars of the Old Testament as well as epigraphists of the ancient Oriental languages.
The discovery of these scrolls by the modern world happened in 1947. It is attributed to a young Palestinian shepherd, Muhammad adh-Dhib from the Ta’amra tribe of Bethlehem, who grazed his herd around the cliffs close to the Dead Sea, around 12km south of Jericho. He coincidentally discovered a cave by the cliffs north of Khirbat Qumran. Inside it, there were jars containing leather scrolls that were carefully wrapped in linen cloth. He took away seven scrolls and sold them to local dealers. Three of these scrolls were purchased by Professor Eleazar Sukenik for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The other four scrolls were eventually acquired by the Bishop of the Jacobite Community of Bethlehem, Athanasius Samuel, through the cobbler Khalil Kando. The Bishop took the four scrolls to the United States of America where he sold them to help fund his church. Eventually, the scrolls returned to the area, as they were acquired by the Hebrew University.
After a week of exploring the Dead Sea cliffs, az-Zabn found a cave with broken jars inside. He took them to the Palestine Archaeological Museum where they were examined by archaeologists GL Harding (director of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan) and Father de Vaux of the Ecole biblique. The shards proved to be of the same type as the original jars in which the scrolls were found. Afterwards, both archaeologists organized a campaign to explore the Qumran cliffs. They excavated the same cave in which Muhammad adh-Dhib first discovered the seven scrolls; the cave was referred to as Cave 1. They found in it parts of 50 jars, their lids, two oil lamps and no less than 600 fragments of parchment belonging to at least 70 manuscripts. Other caves were later excavated. Cave Q4 had the richest inscribed fragments but was very poor in pottery objects.
Initially, the content of most of the scrolls was not published; it was only 1991, 44 years after the discovery of the first scroll, that general access to the scrolls was made possible.
The Copper Scroll remains a mystery that is difficult to solve. Most of the other Dead Sea Scrolls are of a religious nature and were written on leather or papyrus. This scroll was written on metal and is not religious at all. Instead it contains information about hidden treasures.
When the scroll was found during archaeological excavations in March 1952, it was totally oxidized thus it was impossible to open and read it. It consisted of three separate sheets of 99% copper metal approximately 1mm thick, two of which were riverted together and then rolled up. Archaeologists decided to cut the sheets into strips to reads the content. A special saw was invented for this mission and the scroll, which totals around 2.3m in length, was cut into 23 strips in 1955-56. The wording was hammered into the copper, with each letter requiring several strikes.
The text was written in Hebrew Mishnaic dialect of the first century AD. The copper scroll describes in details the locations of large amounts of hidden gold and silver at different places in Palestine and Jordan. The quantities of the precious metals, around 4630 talents, are enormous and equal around 120 tons. The talent was a unit of weight at that time.
The decipherment, which was initially made by Joseph Milik, considered the treasures as a folk legend or a fabrication from the writer’s imagination. John Marco Allegro, who also participated in the decipherment, had a different interpretation. He described real treasures that were offered to the Temple destroyed by Titus in 70AD, which were salvaged by pious Jews before the arrival of the Roman army.
Different locations were mentioned in the text. One hoard of silver coins was found at Qumran itself. It could be that of the family ‘Ha-Qos’ mentioned in the scroll; “In the cave which is nearby in the vicinity of Bet Ha-Qos, dig six cubits, six bars of silver.” This family was also mentioned in the “Book of Nehemiah” of the Old Testament as a priestly clan who was in charge for the function of treasures. The assumption that some of the treasures of the Temple were hidden by this family is dismissed by many scholars, however, mainly because it was not possible to accumulate such large amounts of gold and silver in Palestine during the first century AD. The village of Nebo in Jordan is also mentioned in the scroll “at the waterfall a short distance from Kefar Nebo, dig seven cubits near its outlet to the east; 9 talents.”
The treasures of the Copper Scroll are most likely legendary and may not have been part of the folklore of the Qumran community of their neighbors. There is no archaeological verification for any of the many interpretations offered by scholars so far. The scroll thus remains an unsolved puzzle till the present day.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were the highlight of the Jordan Museum by far. It was something that was on our bucket lists to see…and now we have checked that box on the list. Now on to Petra!
For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.