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Director: Michele Piccirillo
Field equip: John Abela, Carmelo Pappalardo, George Bugeja
Sections: Samanta Deruvo, Maria Rosa Patti
Plan: Samanta Deruvo, Maria Rosa Patti
Photographer: Michele Piccirillo
Work force: 12 local workmen

The Umm al-Rasas 2001 Archaeological campaign focused on the area to the south of the Tabula Ansata Church to clarify the existence of an entrance to the city in that sector. More precisely work was carried out in the area adjacent to the southern wall of the Church between the western and central doors. The excavations were extended to the south towards the north west corner of the castrum. Two rooms adjoining the southern wall of the church came to light, of which one was directly connected to the church through the western door, followed by a second room with two doors. The door which opened towards the east had been blocked in a later period, while the southern one led to a courtyard of irregular shape. At the end of the excavations, the courtyard resulted at the centre of several rooms functionally differentiated.

(for reference see sketch here)
Of the two rooms adjoining the Church, the first one (R1005) with an arch sustaining the roof, had two niches set in the eastern wall, one niche in the southern wall, and two small windows on the western wall. The room has been only partially excavated. Near the door, which connected the room with the Church, the excavations reached the floor level. Close to the door there was a small stone basin buried under the collapsed stone slabs of the roof. The walls of the room were preserved up to a height of about 2 m.

A second room (R1106) was unearthed to the east of the above room having also a central arch supporting the roof. In the eastern sector of this room, excavations were stopped at the level of a floor of beaten earth which was 0.60 m higher than the threshold of the doors. The eastern door was found blocked with stones. The blockage was clearly visible externally. The second door which opened on the southern wall near the south- western corner was excavated up to the threshold. A stone lintel was found nearby decorated with an incised cross, unfortunately partially destroyed.

This door led to the open air irregular courtyard (R1108) upon which opened several rooms: R1106, R1107, R1110, R1112 together with the narrow elongated space still to be excavated, between R1105 and R1107, of which the door and lintel were brought to light. This courtyard was connected through an arch to R1111 and the area to the east that has not yet been excavated. An earthen oven was found near the south-eastern corner to the north of R1112. A substantial amount of pottery shards were unearthed throughout the southern area of the courtyard and near the oven.

R1111 is a trench which was opened near the central door of the southern wall of the Church stretching along the eastern wall of R1106 a little wider than the church door. The threshold of the door, the beaten earth floor and the blockage of the eastern Church door of room R1106 were exposed. Near the threshold of the Church door, an ash heap connected with the ash layer found inside the Church was brought to light.

R1112 is a small room measuring 2 x 1.5 m. that opened on the western side to the courtyard in front of the mosaiced room R1107. Two small semicircular niches plastered and reused as fire places came to light in the eastern wall. At the floor level many pottery shards mixed with ashes were found. The walls were preserved up to a height of 1.5 m.

R1113, a small room which was only partially excavated in the southern zone, is set to the east of R1112. Here a tabun, ashes and pottery shards were found. Shards of a cooking pot were found in the ashes of the tabun. A cupboard-like structure was found in the southern wall.

Along the wall that most probably was the south perimeter of the complex, a door was opened and two irregular walls to the south and west were built to obtain R1110. The room turns out to be a later addition. Clearly the door is a late addition as one of its jambs is a reused stone from a chancel post from the presbyterium. Two superimposed floors were found between which there was a layer of 15-20 cm of ashes mixed with pottery shards.

R1107 opened on the western side of the courtyard. Rectangular in shape it had three arches sustaining the roof with a mosaiced floor. In a later phase benches were added in the spaces between the arches. A single door on the east wall gave access to the room. The floor mosaic, having a geometric pattern of diamonds and flowers, was substantially damaged in the eastern zone, while it was almost intact to the west.

The large room R1109 attached to the preceding one, had three arches stretching in a north south direction. The floor was partly paved irregularly with pebbles, while in the western area it was paved more regularly with stone slabs. During the paving of the floor two of the arches werw removed leaving only the central arch. The walls were preserved up to a height of 1.60 m without any trace of an entrance.

Sounding to the north of the Church
Two trenches were made along the northern wall of the Church. Excavations were carried out up to a depth of 2 m. without reaching any floor level. The eastern trench brought to light the door of the Church which was intact with its lintel still in situ. On the other hand the western trench was rich with pottery shards. Possibly the area originally was inside a closed room adjoining the church.

© Michele Piccirillo
Franciscan Archaeological Institute
Mount Nebo


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