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 Mount Nebo - P.O.Box 2 Faysaliyah - 17196 Madaba - JORDAN - eMail: mtnebo@go.com.jo

 

EXCAVATION CAMPAIGN 1999 - UMM AL-RASAS
  Church of the "tabula ansata"


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This year we were obliged by "grave digggers" to move our excavations to the ecclesiastical complex which we had already identified outside the north west corner of the "castrum". The Church of the "tabula ansata", which was partially excavated during the campaign of 1992, was dug up by the "grave robbers". One of these pits , dug along the step of the presbytery, evealed the presence of a mosaic floor just under the floor slabs with which the church was paved. Other pits were opened, one on the western wall, another one on the eastern wall of the southern nave, another one in the same nave next to the central door of the southern wall and another one in the north nave in front of the service room. Cleaning the area of the presbytery, already partially excavted in 1992, we realised that all the floor slabs had been removed. About 15cm under these slabs, a mosaic floor came to light, belonging to a more ancient phase. The mosaic was already opened by the grave robbers who even opened up a rectangular trench in front of the altar area. Proceeding in the escavation of the apse area, which was not excavated in 1992, there appeared that the stratigraphical situation was very strange. First of all the floor slabs were completely out of place, especially comparing the perfect state of the slab floor of the whole church as it presented itself in 1992. These slabs laid scattered in a casual and disordered manner under the debris. A fact that could not be explained neither as an effect of the fall and neither with the later use of the building. The confrontation with the pictures taken in 1992 make us suppose that these were also opened up by the "grave robbers" in the presbytery area.

Structures
The debris which covered the church arrived in many points to over three metres height. This keeping in mind that all the stones on the surface were removed with the aid of a cane in 1992. The removal of the debris and the fall revealed an ecclesiastical edifice of a three naved basilical plan 21 by 11.60 metres. The perimiter walls has been preserved fort heights varying from 3.80m to 1.2m. The three naves were divided by two series of three pillars and two semi-pillars attached to the walls. These supported four arches. One of these arches (the third one of the north nave) was discovered directly laying on the slab floor of the central nave in a southern direction. Another arch lying directly on the floor slabs was discovered in the central nave at the height of the second pillar running in a north-south direction indicating that it ran across the central nave.

In the northern nave, next to the north-west corner, where steps led to a door which opened up in the small church of the Priest Wa'il, a huge arch was attached to the walls and on which rested a flight of steps which led from the nave to the first floor (at a height of about 4 metres) of a rectangular building which communicated also with the church through a door under the stairs/arch at groundfloor level. In the central nave, at about 2.10 metres from the western wall and at the level of the third pillar the opening of a cistern came to light. The said cistern is about 7 metres deep, had its walls plastered and whose opening was closed by a well-curb measuring 125 x 152 x 20 cm. This rectangular stone had a square opening at the centre of 60cm and rests on the circular opening of the cistern. Three water channels poured into the cistern. The north-west channel is 3 metres long and has been preserved even in its vertical part attached to the north half pillar in the south wall. The south-west channel is 2.30 metres long. Both these channels came from the two half pillars in the southern wall. The third channel, about 6 metres long, which was blocked when the floor slabs where laid, came from the east direction.

The stone slabbed church was widely re-used as a dwelling place after it had been abandoned but before its definitive collapse. Witness to this is a wall which delimited about three fourths of the southern nave comprising the second and third pillars and having an opening in front of the cistern. Two ovens were discovered in this area. One is situated attached to the south west half pillar and is made up of a refractory ring on which rested a circular thin stone slab. The other oven was situated in the space between the entrance to the Wa'il church and the arch which supported the stairs in the northern aisle. From this same period come a fireplace set up at the level of the central door in the southern aisle. A rectangular basin made from fossil stone was placed at the level of the second south pillar of the central nave. A plastered stone niche with traces of red paint was discovered in the re-used space of the southern nave. The said niche had been transformed into a basin.

 
 


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