The Karak District in the Madaba Map
|Because the Christian tribes of Iradata migrated from Karak in 1880 (apparently because of a lady called Nijmeh at-Tiwal), I thought it was appropriate to consider the sites of the Karak district on the Madaba Mosaic Map. This district belongs to the land of Moab, a kingdom limited to the north by the Madaba plains and to the south by the Zared or Wadi al-Hasa. It is not clear, however, how much the large valley of al-Hasa was a real border. The recent survey of MacDonald (1988) revealed a difference of settlement between the eastern zone and the western zone, in whose hills the rich agricultural land was located. In this area Macdonald identified Late Bronze-Iron I pottery. But that identification has been challenged by Hart who believes that the Early Iron Age can "be as easily fitted into Iron II" (1992: 97). It is not my intention to deal with the early settlement in Edom but I do want to point out that Iron I and II remains were excavated at Khirbat al--Dharih, on the northern bank of Wadi al-La'ban by Yarmouk University and the French Institute of Archaeology (IFAPO). That site appears to have been a large settlement occupied in the Iron Age, Nabataean through Byzantine periods and up to modern times.
There is in fact confirmed relation between Khirbat al-Dharih and Khirbat al-Tannur, situated on a rugged ridge opposite the extinct volcano of Jabal Dhikr al-Tannur, situated seven km north of Khirbat al-Dharih. The dedicant of the high-place of Tannur was "Natir'el, son of Zayd'el the curator of the spring of La'ban (Starcky 1968), and the god of Tannur was Qos, identified as the god of Harawa, meaning "burnt". Thirty years ago, Starkcy suggested a connection between the Harawa of Tannur and the Horonen of the Mesha stele (1968). The same site has been identified with Hornaim of Isaiah 15:5 and Jeremiah 48:5 and 34. Dönner and Rollig (1968: 179) located Hornaim in the area of Wadi al-Hasa, since Mesha states "I went down to capture Horonen and brought up from there ten ...". In this case I suggest that the real frontier between Moab and Edom was Wadi al-La'aban and the identification of Kh. al-Dharih with Horonen becomes highly probable.
Let us return now to the Mosaic Map. To the north of the Zared, is a city on a mountain, isolated by a valley. The Greek inscription identifies the city as "Charachmoba". It is represented with a gate, flanked by two towers. There is apparently a street bordered by a portico with five columns. That monumental entrance leads to two churches: a large church to the left and a smaller one to the right. It should be noted that the name Karakmoba, which also appears in the Beersheva edit (Clermont-Ganneau 1906), derives from the Aramaic Karka, meaning "citadel" and not from the Kyr Moaba of the Prophet Isaiah. At any rate, the two churches confirm that Karak was an bishopric in the Byzantine period. The large church was in the vicinity of the modern Jami' al-'Umar in Karak and the smaller church was probably the Church of St. George or al-Khadir in the center of the city. There is also a chapel in the Crusader Citadel, but this is probably a Medieval sanctuary.
On the foot of Karakmoba mountain is a building with a dome with a representation of water running from it. The inscription reads: Bethomarsea, h kai Maioumas. The marzeah, which appears in Aramaic and Nabataean at Beida, near Petra (rabb marzeah) was a religious association, well known in Nabataean culture as the Symposium or Thiasis. It is note-worthy that Beth Marzeah in Jeremiah 16:5 is rendered by the Septua-gint as Thiasis. Where is this symposium or bath to be located?In the geographical book of Abu al-Fida (1321 AD), the Taqwim al-Buldan, the author notes, "Below Karak is a valley with a bath (hammam) and gardens planted with excellent fruits of apricots, pomegranates, pears and others". This is no doubt a reference to Wadi al-Karak, where the spring of 'Ain Sarah irrigates the gardens. The remains of a bath were also noticed by the authors who visited the site. The abundant spring of 'Ain Sarah is not a hot spring, and the hammam was most probably in the Wadi al-Karak. But the waters of the spring provided a good water reservoir for the festival of the Maiumas. It is well known that this water festival originated at Gaza where the port (called Maiuma in Aramaic) provided a good place for a water festival. According to Avi- Yonah (1954: 41) there were thirteen such festivals in Palestine. It was a licentious festival in which men and women bathed together, in the night, in torch light. Such a festival is attested at Jerash in the sixth century AD at the water reservoirs of Birkatein, two km to the north of the city. The two basins were surrounded by a portico dated to the time of the Emperor Geta (209-211 AD).
Below the Maiumas, is a valley which empties into the Zared. Two sites are indicated at the foot of the valley: Tharais and Aia. Tharais was identified with Ain Tara'in by Alt (1937: 244) and Musil (1907: 262, n. 4). But the identification with Dhat Ra's by Germer-Durand is more plausible. The site of Dhat Ra's is well known for its two temples, probably of Nabataean origin, a Nabataean-Roman mausoleum, and a large birkeh in the middle of the village. The Roman road passed by Dhat Ra's, Shuqairah and descended to Wadi al-Hasa by Khirbat al-Mudaineh, avoiding al-'Ainah.
Aia on the slope of the valley is depicted as a citadel with a gate, protected by two towers on both sides. This site was identified with various cities in the land of Moab: especially with the village of Ai, south of Karak. But this site is unlikely, as Avi-Yonah indicates. The ancient site of al-'Ainah, ancient Ainuatha in the Notitia Dignitatum has also been proposed. The site is known for its rich olive groves. However, the modern village is completely abandoned and there are no ruins to support a fort. The site of Muhayy east of Dhat Ra's was recently surveyed by Miller as part of his archaeological survey of the Kerak plateau and he recognized it as an important settlement with Iron Age to Byzantine and Islamic occupation. It occupies a high mound, with impressive ruins. Numerous Byzantine tombs were unfortunately looted in modern times (Miller 1991: 163-166). The site of 'Ainun, south of Kerak, is where im-portant Byzantine artifacts were found in 1938, during the construction of a modern house.
Mention should also be made of Jebel Shihan, ''which overlooks the Wadi al-Mujib (the Arnon) and the Dead Sea. It rises to 965 m above sea level and its summit is occupied by ruins and caves. This mountain was famous in the medieval period because of Moses. According to Yaqut al-Hamawi in his Mujam al-Buldan (1868: 3:346), Moses overlooked Jerusalem from the top of the Mountain. He was disappointed and said to God, "Is this your sanctuary?" with disdain. God replied, "You will not enter into it", and he died there. This tomb is also reported by al-Harawi (died 1215 AD) in his Kitab al-Ziyarat. Under Maab (or Rabba/Areopolis) the author notes: "There is in this country a village called Shihan famous for a tomb where light descends and is observed by the people. It is situated on a mountain, and people pretend it is the tomb of Moses son of 'Imran, peace upon him, and God knows better" (1953: 18-19; 1957: 46-47). The same tradition is also reported by al-'Umari in al-Ta'rif (1347). The tomb was visited in the vicinity of Jericho and Moses appeared to a shaykh by the name of Ibrahim and announced to him his marriage to a women who was a descendent of the Prophet. A monastery on Jabal Shihan occupied by Russian/Georgian monks was mentioned in the last century by travelers. The tradition of a tomb of Moses on Jabal Shihan could be an ancient tradition based on the similarity between the name of the mountain and Sihon the Amorite, who refused passage across his kingdom to Moses and the Israelites. At the foot of this mountain lie the famous ruins of Khirbat al-Balu' where a stele, dated to the time of Ramses II was discovered in 1924 and is now preserved in the Archaeological Museum in Amman. The site of al-Balu' is under excavation by Udo Worschech from Germany and his excavation has revealed an important casemate wall and a citadel.
A deep valley separates Karak and its villages from the Dead Sea. The Madaba Map mosaicist records three appellations for it: Alyke e kai Asphaltitis limnis e kai Nekra Thalassa. Eusebius in his Onomasticon (100,4-5) records the three appellations. Asphaltitis lacus is attested by Pliny (NH V,15) and by Josephus (War IV, 474).
To conclude this contribution, the topography of the Karak district has different sources. The Biblical narrative for the Zared (Deuteronomy 2:13) gave this order to the Israelites: "Forward then. Cross the Wadi Zared". An Aramaic tradition is confirmed by the name of Karakmoba "Karka of Moab" and Beth Marzeah, the Maiumas. Tharais is also a local Aramaic name: "The one on the edge" adapted by the mosaicist as Tharais. Aia, either 'Ainunah is of Aramaic origin. The two first appellations of the Dead Sea: Salt or Pitch Lake appear in the classical authors, such as Josephus and Pliny.
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|This contribution was first published in: The Madaba Map Centenary 1897-1997, Jerusalem 1999, 229-230.|