BAJR gets ready for Jerash, Jordan

 The southwest and west sides of Jarash beyond the walls of the ancient city were surveyed in 2005 from the Hippodrome to the so-called Tomb of the Councillor. The project in 2008 will aim to complete the survey around the north, east and southeast sides of town. Three weeks in the field will be followed by up seven days post-survey work in Amman to prepare the report and finalize the archive.

The archaeological park at Jarash encapsulates the western half of the Graeco-Roman city as defined by the ancient city walls. Within it the remains are protected. The eastern half of the ancient city has been largely overbuilt beginning in the late 19th century when the modern town of Jarash was established. Individual monuments are protected there and efforts are made to monitor and investigate when development takes places. Ancient cities, however, included more than just the area within their walls or official boundary – beyond the town proper lay extra-mural settlement, “industrial” areas and the “cities of the dead”. At Jarash, this extra-mural area has received attention where a high-profile monument such as the two large hypogea on the west is concerned or when development has encountered significant remains and the DoA has been notified. Most, however, has been neglected: the numerous traces of quarrying, rock-cut graves, large artefacts such as sarcophagi and the widespread traces of lesser artefacts from pottery to tesserae. This is doubly unfortunate: first, it deprives us of evidence for what was a part of the ancient city; second, development beyond the ancient city walls has accelerated in recent years as population everywhere has increased and places within an hour of Amman have been especially attractive for development. In short, we SHOULD know what lies outside the walls and we MUST record it now as it is disappearing rapidly.

In 2005 a programme of survey – The Jarash Hinterland Survey 2005 – was initiated. The intention was to survey and record ancient remains and collect artefacts beyond the city walls in a square represented by 10 x 1-kilometre squares of the 1: 50,000 map. A total of 10 sq km minus the area at the centre which is the intra-mural ancient city. That proved over-ambitious and the survey concentrated on the rich remains surviving along the west side of the ancient city, c. 2000 x 400 m. An indication of the wealth of remains in that area can be seen from the outcome of the survey: 217 features/ major items were recording including at least 31 quarry sites, 67 rock-cut tombs and 17 rock-cut graves, 5 mausolea, 26 sarcophagi and 8 inscriptions. Especially interesting was the thick scatter of kiln wasters and vitrified kiln fragments suggesting ceramic production just beyond the West Gate.

It had been hoped the survey would continue in 2006 but funding was not forthcoming then or in 2007. Funding has now been guaranteed for the 2008 season.

The objectives in 2008 are essentially those outlined above. The survey will continue in and around the houses and development beyond the city wills. The records will rescue rapidly disappearing data and support the work of the Department of Antiquities in its own efforts to manage development in the immediate vicinity of the ancient city. Many of the teething problems of the project were resolved in the 2005 season so that the process of survey in a semi-urban environment can proceed more smoothly in 2008.

The 2008 Survey Area and Methodology

The extent of the survey will remain at 10 sq km (minus c. 3 km already under Gerasa or the modern town and roads). The slowness of progress in 2005 was partly a factor of having to devote much time to overcoming the mapping/ database/ GPS difficulties and a small team; partly that we began in one of the most difficult areas. On the north and east the scope for survey is far more limited because of the extent to which modern Jarash has already densely outgrown the ancient city walls and largely obliterated the archaeology. Also, test-exploration in 2005 revealed a swift falling away in site survival as one moved further from the city walls.

The methodology involves a systematic exploration of each piece of waste ground, garden, open space and field. “Sites” and major artefacts are recorded by GPS and a proforma record is made together with digital imagery. Where appropriate sketches or measured drawings are prepared. Every site and item is then mapped on the computer database from which maps can be generated.

Of particular interest will be the so-called Tomb of the Councillor which might be the subject of excavation in 2009.

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