Understanding an ambitious architectural project in the Roman city Gadara

Claudia Winterstei1
The area of the Perystile Court in Gadara features an unusual octagonal vestibule of approx. 20m width. Photo: Claudia Winterstein

Just ten kilometres southeast of the Sea of Galilee, close to the modern city of Umm Qays in northern Jordan, lie the ruins of the important ancient city of Gadara. They were described as early as the 19th century, but despite repeated investigations on site, many questions about the former urban structure of Gadara remain unanswered. From 18 to 24 September, ROOTS member Patric-Alexander Kreuz together with Brita Jansen from the German Protestant Institute for Archaeology in Amman and Claudia Winterstein from the Technical University Berlin visited the site to investigate the so-called Peristyle Court and adjacent structures in the western parts of ancient Gadara immediately inside the Roman fortification. They sought to contribute to a better knowledge of this important, yet neglected monument of Roman Gadara from the Roman to Middle Islamic period.

With the permission from the Department of Antiquities of Jordan the team established a scaled layout plan of the so far excavated structures supplemented by a short description. The documentation was done with a Total Station and it recorded walls and foundations, wall seams, door openings, stairs, niches, thresholds and postaments of columns, i.e. remains that can be connected to the Roman period-architecture of the area (which also served as the built framework for later reuse).

The analysis of the data allowed the team to study and identify all architectural units of the area, among them the monumental main gate, an unusual octagonal vestibule of approx. 20m width, and the huge peristyle court of 54x45m, comprising also several architectural units of different size and design, among them a lavish public latrine, a 20,5m wide hall with a podium along the inner walls, a row of shops and workshops, and the remains of a podium architecture, probably a small temple. A long-lasting use of the area up to the medieval period is obvious in numerous later modifications, installations and appropriations of the former architecture.

The Peristyle court complex was clearly one of the most ambitious architectural projects of Roman Gadara and must have had an enormous impact on its urban life. Patric-Alexander Kreuz and his project partner Brita Jansen from the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology seek to develop a project to better understand the monument in its urban setting against the background of the changing urban culture not only of Gadara itself, but of the Levant region in general up to the Middle Islamic period.

Claudia Winterstein
The actual Perystile courtyard in Gadara measures 54 x 54 meters. Photo: Claudia Winterstein

Claudia Wintersetin 3
Structures in the Perystile Courtyard area were accurately surveyed. Photo: Claudia Winterstein


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