International Wadi Farasa Project

Preliminary Report on the 2001 Season

by Stephan G. Schmid

II. Lower Terrace

In trench 1 the main entrance to the entire complex was discovered (figs. 2. 3), consisting of a huge threshold, showing the holes fore placing a double door. This threshold was covered of just a little amount of earth and it is possible that in the early 20th century it was still visible, as Bachmann, Watzinger and Wiegand did locate it correctly (cf. fig. 1), that is a few meters to the East of the modern path leading to the complex of the „Soldier Tomb“ Bachmann – Watzinger – Wiegand 1921, 75ff. .

Fig. 2: Lower terrace, schematic plan of main retaining wall (M1), entrance hall and related structures. Thicker lines: visible or excavated parts; thinner lines: reconstructed parts (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 2: Lower terrace, schematic plan of main retaining wall (M1), entrance hall and related structures. Thicker lines: visible or excavated parts; thinner lines: reconstructed parts (photo: S. G. Schmid)

In antiquity the access to the complex was made possible by a wall that allowed the construction of some steps leading from the bedrock to the door. The door led to a huge entrance hall of about 6 meters width and 9 meters depth that gave access to the peristyle courtyard. The already excavated parts together with some still visible remains allow a first reconstruction of this impressing entrance hall (Fig. 2).

Fig. 3: Lower terrace, trench 1, main entrance and foundations for floor slabs of entrance hall (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 3: Lower terrace, trench 1, main entrance and foundations for floor slabs of entrance hall (photo: S. G. Schmid)

The area of the entrance hall had a floor consisting of big limestone slabs measuring approx. 40 cm x 80 cm. Some of these slabs were found in the destruction debris (cf. also below fig. 41). As was stated during last years excavation, the foundations for these slabs consist of smaller slabs, broken into pieces and bedded into a layer of clay containing earth Schmid 2001; Schmid 2001A: 169. . The level of the foundation is at 930.45 m asl, while the original floor level including the huge limestone slabs was at 930.60 m asl.

Fig. 4: Lower terrace, trench 1, small sounding beneath level of floor foundations; cf. hatching on fig. 8 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 4: Lower terrace, trench 1, small sounding beneath level of floor foundations; cf. hatching on fig. 8 (photo: S. G. Schmid)

On a spot 1.5 meters behind the main entrance some of the big slabs were missing but the foundations were still intact. Therefore, the pottery found in a small sounding dug below the level of the foundations (Fig. 4; hatching on fig. 8) should give a reliable terminus for the construction of the complex. As on similar occasion during last year’s campaign Schmid 2001; Schmid 2001A: 176f. , the few shards found in this sounding belong exclusively to phase 3a of Nabataean pottery (Fig. 5), dating century AD 20 to AD 70/80 and in this case especially to the second quarter of the first century AD Schmid 2000A: 25. 38 and figs. 52. 89. 90 pl. 2, 5. .

Fig. 5: Lower terrace, Nabataean pottery from small sounding beneath floor foundations in trench 1 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 5: Lower terrace, Nabataean pottery from small sounding beneath floor foundations in trench 1 (photo: S. G. Schmid)

To the east of the entrance hall a construction was found that initially was supposed to be a room. However, no floor level was found and the foundations of the deepest wall were reached only six (!) meters below the floor level of the neighbouring entrance hall (figs. 6–8; M 2 on fig. 2).

Fig. 6: Lower terrace, trench 1, wall 2 (left), wall 3 (centre) and wall 4 (right) from NW (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 6: Lower terrace, trench 1, wall 2 (left), wall 3 (centre) and wall 4 (right) from NW (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 7: Lower terrace, trench 1, wall 4 (left), wall 1 (top right) and wall 5 (bottom right) from E (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 7: Lower terrace, trench 1, wall 4 (left), wall 1 (top right) and wall 5 (bottom right) from E (photo: S. G. Schmid)

The analysis of the different walls in that area led to a somewhat puzzling picture. Wall 2 (M 2 on fig. 2) is the earliest of these walls, not counting – for the moment – the main retaining wall of the entire complex (M1 on fig. 2). As wall 3 (M3 on fig. 2) is built against wall 2 but not intertwined with it, it has to be at least slightly later than the former.

The same relationship occurs between wall 3 and wall 4 (M4 on fig. 2), i. e. the latter is built against the former and therefore chronologically later. Wall 4 on his turn is not connected to the main retaining wall but just „leaned“ against it (Fig. 7). The latest of all these walls is wall 5 (M5 on figs. 2. 8) that is built against both, wall 4 and wall 2, while its relationship to wall 1, the main retaining wall, remains unclear for the moment (cf. fig. 7).

Fig. 8: Lower terrace, trench 1 (above) and corresponding view of main retaining wall (M1, below) (M. Seyer and Schmid)
Fig. 8: Lower terrace, trench 1 (above) and corresponding view of main retaining wall (M1, below) (M. Seyer and Schmid)

The explanation for this somewhat strange arrangement is related to the construction of the main retaining wall of the entire complex (figs. 8–10). The careful analysis of the outer surface of the wall showed that precisely at the point were it started collapsing five consecutive layers of the wall are levelled vertically, while a small sounding showed that this orientation continues further downwards (Fig. 10).

Fig. 9: Lower terrace, main retaining wall of the lower terrace from N, showing original part on the left, later additions on the right (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 9: Lower terrace, main retaining wall of the lower terrace from N, showing original part on the left, later additions on the right (photo: S. G. Schmid)

This orientation corresponds perfectly with the limits of the outer wall of the entrance hall, that is wall 2 (M2 on fig. 2; cf. fig. 8) and, as no intelligent engineer or architect would construct such a huge wall with five consecutive layers of vertically aligned stones, this must mean that originally the main retaining wall did not continue at this point but turned in a right angle towards south. Only at a later moment it was decided to built the additional part of the wall. This is further confirmed by the fact that the original part (left on figs. 9. 10) is built exclusively from high quality lime stones while the later addition (right on figs. 9. 10) is built from local sandstone that erodes much quicker than the limestone. This, together with the bad joins between the earlier and the new part, led to the collapse of the central part. As an ancient reparation a second wall (M5 on figs. 2. 8) behind the main retaining wall was constructed in order to close the broken out part.

Fig. 10: Lower terrace, main retaining wall from W, detail showing repair and broken out parts (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 10: Lower terrace, main retaining wall from W, detail showing repair and broken out parts (photo: S. G. Schmid)

Although the relative sequence of these phases is clear, their absolute chronology still is rather flue. Below the foundation of the original wall 2, that is in six meters depth from the floor level in the entrance hall, Nabataean pottery of the later 1st century BC was found in layers strongly recalling river alluvia (Fig. 11) Cf. Schmid 2000A: 38. 60 and figs. 220. 394. 395. .

Fig. 11: Lower terrace, trench 1, Nabataean pottery from below the foundations of wall 2 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 11: Lower terrace, trench 1, Nabataean pottery from below the foundations of wall 2 (photo: S. G. Schmid)

However, it is not clear whether this pottery should be seen in connection with the construction of the first wall or whether it simply belongs to seasonal alluvia brought in before the construction of the complex. In the layers above the foundation of the first wall (M2) but still below the foundation of the second wall (M3), pottery of the first quarter of the 1st century AD was found (Fig. 12) Cf. Schmid 2000A: 24. 38 figs. 49–51 88 pl. 1. but again we should be careful in order not to over-interpret the chronological value of this pottery as it may belong to dumped material.

Fig. 12: Lower terrace, trench 1, Nabataean pottery from fill below foundations of wall 3 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 12: Lower terrace, trench 1, Nabataean pottery from fill below foundations of wall 3 (photo: S. G. Schmid)

However, the same loci did contain other interesting material, namely big quantities of tubuli (Fig. 13) and hypocaust fragments. This means that at some moment in the history of the complex of the „Soldier Tomb“ one or more of the rooms behind the main retaining wall were used as a luxurious bathing installation with a floor and wall heating system. This can be seen as a further confirmation for the multifunctional aspect of that big complex that was far more than just a funeral installation On these aspects see also Schmid 2001A: 188–191; 2001B: 398f. .

Fig. 13: Lower terrace, trench 1, terracotta tubulus from fill related to the construction of wall 4 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 13: Lower terrace, trench 1, terracotta tubulus from fill related to the construction of wall 4 (photo: S. G. Schmid)

Also, the fact that this indirectly concluded installation could even be heated points to a regular use during all periods of the year. One of the goals of a next field season would be, therefore, to localise and excavate that installation. The types of tubuli and hypocaust fragments found so far correspond very well to examples found in the rich mansion of az-Zantur some few hundred meters to the north of our site and dated there to ante AD 363 Kolb – Keller 2000: 361–363 fig. 8. .

Fig. 14: Lower terrace, trench 1, water channel built in later phase, seen from S towards the edge of the retaining wall (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 14: Lower terrace, trench 1, water channel built in later phase, seen from S towards the edge of the retaining wall (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 15: Lower terrace, details of construction and first cut off water channel in front of main retaining wall from NW (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 15: Lower terrace, details of construction and first cut off water channel in front of main retaining wall from NW (photo: S. G. Schmid)

In the material dumped after the construction of the latest wall (M5) that was supposed to support the broken parts of the additional part of the main wall, coins of a possible Roman date were found but they need cleaning and restoration in order to be precisely dated. Together with one of the later walls (M4 and possibly M5) a water channel was built, apparently in order to avoid water and therefore erosion and pressure from reaching the repaired main retaining wall (Fig. 14; cf. fig. 8).

Outside the main retaining wall cleaning of the area immediately in front of it resulted in some observations about the construction of the wall. Towards the sides of the valley, the foundations were put directly on the bedrock that was cut in shape of steps in order to allow a better emplacement of the blocks (Fig. 15).

Precisely at this point, that is towards the north-eastern side, the main retaining wall did cut off a previous rock hewn water channel of rather small size. The same sequence was observed at the other end of the main retaining wall, where an other rock hewn water channel was cut of by the later additions of the main wall (Fig. 16). As this is one of the two main channels that follow the lower parts of the Wadi Farasa East on its sides, this means that the construction of the later parts of the main retaining wall resulted in some important changes within the water supply of the lower parts of that area of the city.

Fig. 16: Lower terrace, second cut off water channel in front of main retaining wall from N (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 16: Lower terrace, second cut off water channel in front of main retaining wall from N (photo: S. G. Schmid)

In trench 2 the foundation for the original floor slabs were found (figs. 17. 18) and, as last year, most of the slabs themselves were not anymore in situ due to re-use already in antiquity Cf. Schmid 2001; Schmid 2001A: 166–169. .

Fig. 17: Lower terrace, trench 2, foundations for floor slabs of central courtyard from N (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 17: Lower terrace, trench 2, foundations for floor slabs of central courtyard from N (photo: S. G. Schmid)

However, the same foundation consisting of smaller slabs as described above apparently covered the entire area, and, as in trench 1 they are on 930.45 m asl. In a sounding below that level the same types of pottery belonging to the second quarter of the 1st century AD were found (figs. 18–20), confirming the results of trench 1 and of last years excavation regarding the chronology of the complex Schmid 2001; Schmid 2001A: 176f. .

Fig. 18: Lower terrace, trench 2, detail showing small sounding beneath the level of the floor foundations from NW (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 18: Lower terrace, trench 2, detail showing small sounding beneath the level of the floor foundations from NW (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 19: Lower terrace, trench 2, Nabataean pottery from small sounding beneath the level of the floor foundations (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 19: Lower terrace, trench 2, Nabataean pottery from small sounding beneath the level of the floor foundations (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 20: Lower terrace, trench 2, Nabataean pottery from small sounding beneath the level of the floor foundations (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 20: Lower terrace, trench 2, Nabataean pottery from small sounding beneath the level of the floor foundations (photo: S. G. Schmid)

The stratigraphy of trench 2 showed that during a long period of time the seasonal rain water brought just sand but no stones down the valley (Fig. 21) what means that the big retaining walls higher up still must have prevented bigger stones from being carried on, while only on top of the stratigraphy layers containing smaller and bigger pebbles were found.

Fig. 21: Lower terrace, trench 2, S-profile showing alluvia and dumped material (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 21: Lower terrace, trench 2, S-profile showing alluvia and dumped material (photo: S. G. Schmid)

An other observation may be worth of being mentioned. As stated above, the foundations of the original floor contain big quantities of smaller, mostly broken remains of slabs. Below these, in the small sounding that contained the pottery just described, a fragment of a column drum was found as part of the foundations (Fig. 28 bottom left), measuring 60 cm in diameter and therefore being of the same size as the columns of the courtyard Schmid 2001; Schmid 2001A: 169–171. . The question, therefore, is where did all these elements such as floor slabs and column drums come from? Where they simply defective elements that fell apart during the construction of the complex that we dated to about the middle of the 1st century AD, or do we have to reckon anearlier, probably smaller installation at this spot? For the time being it is not yet possible to give a convincing answer, but the observations made above on the different subsequent walls built in the area of the main entrance, together with the early pottery from the lower levels of these walls (figs. 11. 12) as well as the broken architectural elements beneath the floor of the courtyard, could point in favour of a predecessor of what has been considered so far the one and only complex of the „Soldier Tomb“.

Trench 4 was opened just on a part of its initially installed surface and it was not excavated until the ancient floor level. The goal of that small sounding was simply to verify whether it would provide the same rock cuttings for placing a half column as were discovered in 2000 in trench 2 (Schmid 2001; Schmid 2001A: 169–171 fig. 14).

Fig. 22: Lower terrace, trench 4 with rock carvings for half column from NE (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 22: Lower terrace, trench 4 with rock carvings for half column from NE (photo: S. G. Schmid)

And indeed, although they suffered much more from erosion, the space for the capital and the beginning of the column are still visible (Fig. 22).