Jordan 1996: Jerash

Jerash had some of the finest Roman ruins I’ve seen. It was one of the 10 great cities—the Decapolis—in ancient times. An earthquake leveled the area in A.D. 747, and Jerash was principally abandoned. Until European archaeologists came along in the 1800s it was almost entirely ignored, remaining largely buried, preserving the old stuff in pristine condition.

The oval above is one of the few non-textbook features of Jerash, distinguishing it from the simple lines of a model Roman city. It was an open market in ancient times, and probably antedated the Romans here. (It better matches the pattern of a Greek agora, though it’s not exactly that either, and probably antedated the Greek conquest too.) In the foreground you see dozens and dozens of pieces of columns and stonework lined up and organized as archaelogists go about the business of fitting the city back together from its fallen ruins. Need a spare section to bring a column to full height? You can probably find one here.

Coming down the steps from the Temple of Artemis to the center of town.

Here’s what’s left of a fantastic Byzantine mosaic floor from one part of a three-part church, installed in three side-by-side temples built by the pagans. Anyone familiar with the Western Wall in Jerusalem will recognize the same type of stonework in the wall behind the mosaic. The mosaic had wonderful detail and, having been preserved under earth for these many years, still had a surprising amount of color in it.

Jerash had gobs of other ruins, all of which excited me tremendously, since they provide real-life demonstrations of many of the features of Roman cities I'd been reading about in books for years. It went way deeper than a simple amphitheater—there was a hippodrome; there were altars at the crossroads; there was a nympharium; ancient plumbing abounded. These are all the pictures I have available for the time being, though. When I get around to prepping a few more, you’ll be able to find them here.

Petra 1 . . . Petra 2 . . . Jerash . . . More . . . Allenby Crossing

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