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Excursion to Jordan: day two (May 10, 2004)

Today our group went to visit Umm al-Jimal, the black city near the border with Syria, the district of Ajlun (the biblical Galaad), Abila and Gadara, cities of the Decapolis.

Umm al-Jimal

In the foreground: the Roman barracks (n.1) of Umm al-Jimal built around 300 A.D., yet still in good shape.

The city of Umm al-Jimal has yet to be identified from ancient sources; it possibly corresponds with Thainatha or Thantia of Notitia Dignitatum 81,29, seat of the "Ala Prima Valentiana". It was founded in the 1st cent. A.D. by the Nabataeans as a commercial station. At the time of Emperor Diocletian, the city became an important military center with the purpose of overseeing the main communication roads btween Syria and Arabia: the Strata Diocletiana and the Via Nova Traiana. At the top of the West Gate, an inscription unfortunately not longer existing, did mention Commodus and Marcus Aurelius as co-Emperors in the years 177-180 A.D. Under the Byzantine Empire, Umm al-Jimal became a Christian town demonstrated by the presences of many churches. Umm al-Jimal was a bishopric dependent on Bosra. Inside the Cathedral, the only dated inscription from Umm al-Jimal shows the date 451 according to the Arabian Province Era, corresponding to 556 A.D.

Plan of the ruins of Umm al-Jimal
1: Barracks
2: Praetorium
3: Gate of Commodus
4: Western Gate
5: South-western gate
6: Eastern Gate
7: North-eastern Gate
8: Nabataean Temple
9: Main water reservoir
10: Aqueduct
11: South-west Church
12: Barracks' Chapel
13: Numerianus Church
14: Cathedral
15: Duplex Church
16: Masechos Church
17: South-east Church
18: West Church
19: Claudianus Church
20: Iulianus Church
21: North Church
22: North-east Church
23: East Church
24: Outer Church

The group of the SBF facing the ruins of the Castellum with its powerful tower.

The Praetorium (n.2). The restoration work is supervised by B. de Vries. The quadrangular layout, the crossed vaults, and the marble revetment make this building one of the best styled of the entire city.

Interior view of the Numerianus Church (n.13).

Our guide, Fr. Pietro Kaswalder (right), points to an hexagonal basalt slab from a church of Umm al-Jimal.
Below: detail of a mosaic floor with the wine motif from the Numerianus Church (n.13).

Row of arches in the West Church (n.18) which is one of the best preserved edifices of Umm al-Jimal.

Double window in the façade of a major civic building of Umm al-Jimal.

A deep cistern which was once covered by means of arches and basalt slabs in the Umm al-Jimal eastern sector.

Abila, Quweilibeh

Quweilbeh, identified with Abila of the Decapolis. The inhabited area once spread over Tell Abu al-Amad, Tell Abil ,and down wadi Abil. In the foreground: the Byzantine basilica of Umm al-Amad.

Archaeological sketch-plan of Abila
1: Theater
2: Basalt paved Street
3: Roman bridge
4: Basilica of the 7th cent. A.D.
5: Basilica of the 6th cent. A.D.
6: Basilica built on the theater cavea
7: Basilica in the valley

Panoramic view of wadi Abil. In the middle is shown the Civic Center of Abila, a city of the Decapolis.

Arch from a building still awaiting excavation near the theater.

View of the interior of a five aisles basilica found in wadi Abil.

The same very large basilica seen from the opposite side. The white limestone columns in the narthex contrast with the black basalt columns of the internal aisles.

Gadara, Umm Qais

Sketch of the archeological site of Gadara
1. The "Germani" and Modestus' tombs
2. Beit Rusan (Museum)
3. North Theater
4. West Theater
5. Basilica
6. Nymphaeum
7. Northern mausoleum
8. Columnaded Decumanus
9. Gate of Tiberias
10. Underground mausoleum
11. West gate
12. Stadium
13. Monumental arch

Umm Qais, Gadara of the Decapolis. Panoramic view of the West Theater, partially excavated.
Rigth: plan of the West Theater after the excavations by the Deutsche Institute für Heiliges Land.

The Cardo Maximus of Gadara looking south. On the left side, a row of shops along one of the most important roads of the ancient town.
Below: sculpted frieze found in the recently excavated Nymphaeum.

The Atrium (n.1) of the octagonal basilica shows white limestone columns, while the columns of the interior are made from black basalt.

The doorway in the center is a later addition made to the apse of the octagonal basilica.
General plan of the Cathedral Complex of Gadara: from the north side, we encounter the Atrium (n.1), the Octagonal Basilica (n.2), and the Baptistry (n.3). Every part of the building was richly decorated with marbles of different colors.

View from the interior of the central octagon with its basalt stone columns.

The octagonal Basilica (left) and its rectangular Atrium (right).

General view of the Decumanus Maximus of ancient Gadara. The west end of the street is marked by two monumental gates.

Two doors made of heavy basalt stone kept in the Museum of Umm Qais.

Portrait of an anonymous individual carved in white stone (Museum of Umm Qais).

Click on the photos to enlarge.

External Links

Umm el-Jimal Archaeological Park Homepage

Abila Archaeological Project Homepage

Umm Qais - Gadara (Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities - Jordan)

Ancient Gadara, City of Philosophers

Gadara and the Water Systems in Antiquity

 SBF main, Index

Biblical Excursions

Biblical World



Umm el-Jimal



W. Kharrar




M. Nebo




Umm er-Rasas





Archaeological Museum

Iraq el-Amir

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