International Wadi Farasa Project

Preliminary Report on the 2001 Season

by Stephan G. Schmid

III. Upper Terrace

In trench 7 work continued in the bigger and smaller basins in front of the big cistern. In both installations the floor level was reached (figs. 23. 24). The bigger basin, that is fed by two water spouts from the cistern, has three outgoing water channels. The main channel on the bottom of the rock cut basin leads not to the smaller basin but further downwards, probably joining an other channel bringing water to installations on a lower level and eventually to the lower terrace.

Fig. 23: Upper terrace, trench 7, showing bigger (top) and smaller (below) basin in front of cistern (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 23: Upper terrace, trench 7, showing bigger (top) and smaller (below) basin in front of cistern (photo: S. G. Schmid)

A second smaller channel in the retaining wall of the first basin connects it to the small basin. Access to the smaller basin was given by a small podium-like structure that connects it with the „Garden Triclinium“. A third channel, cut in the rock, brought water to a built channel that led to the area of the „Garden Triclinium“ (see below). Both basins – and therefore the huge cistern as well – must have had a long history of use. On the one hand, a pottery fragment of the second or third quarter of the 1st century AD in the hydraulic mortar testifies the initial construction of these installations in the Nabataean period Schmid 2000: 343f.; Schmid 2001A: 179–181. . On the other hand, on the bottom level of both basins medieval pottery of the 11th to 13th centuries AD was found. Further, both basins show different layers of hydraulic mortar applied consecutively and testifying different phases of maintenance.

Fig. 24: Upper terrace, trench 7, showing bigger (right) and smaller (left) basin in front of cistern (photo: S. G. Schmid)4
Fig. 24: Upper terrace, trench 7, showing bigger (right) and smaller (left) basin in front of cistern (photo: S. G. Schmid)

As mentioned above, a channel connected the installations in front of the big cistern with the area of the „Garden Triclinium“. This installation not only occupies a prominent place in the upper part of the Wadi Farasa East, it also remains a kind of an enigma, as its precise ancient function is not known and, therefore, it has been called a temple, a tomb, or a triclinium Schmid 2001A: 163f.; Schmid 2000: 339; Wenning 1987: 252. .

Fig. 25: Upper terrace, trench 5 in front of „Garden Triclinium“ before cleaning from E (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 25: Upper terrace, trench 5 in front of „Garden Triclinium“ before cleaning from E (photo: S. G. Schmid)

In order to better understand this complex, during the 2001 season of the IWFP the area immediately in front of the two rock cut rooms was cleaned (trench 5 on fig. 1; figs. 25–27).

Fig. 26: Upper terrace, trench 5 in front of „Garden Triclinium“ during cleaning from E (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 26: Upper terrace, trench 5 in front of „Garden Triclinium“ during cleaning from E (photo: S. G. Schmid)

Ancient pictures of the area show that since the first modern visitors reached the Wadi Farasa always some dumped sand and stones covered this area, as they did at the beginning of our 2001 season. In contrary to our estimation, below the sand important built structures started appearing soon (figs. 26. 27).

Fig. 27: Upper terrace, trench 5 in front of „Garden Triclinium“ from N. Medieval walls on top of Nabataean rock cut cistern (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 27: Upper terrace, trench 5 in front of „Garden Triclinium“ from N. Medieval walls on top of Nabataean rock cut cistern (photo: S. G. Schmid)

In fact, large walls were built, some of them on top of a refilled water installation (see below). These walls belong to the medieval period, as is underlined by the considerable amount of pottery from the 11th to 13th century that was found, including some handmade painted shards (Fig. 28) of what is usually called Ayyubid-Mamluk pottery For similar pottery see Walmsley – Grey 2001: 153–159; Tonghini – Vanni Desideri 2001; Pringle 1984; 1985; on local aspects of Late Islamic pottery in central and southern Jordan see Brown 1987; 1988; 1991: 232–241; in general terms on that period in Jordan see Walmsley 2001. .

Fig. 28: Upper terrace, Medieval hand made painted pottery from structures in trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 28: Upper terrace, Medieval hand made painted pottery from structures in trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)

More neutrally that painted pottery can be called Middle Islamic Hand-Made Geometrically Painted Ware Johns 1998. . Beside the painted pottery big quantities of plain hand made pottery were found (figs. 29. 30), including a pottery lamp.

Fig. 29: Upper terrace, Medieval hand made pottery from structures in trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 29: Upper terrace, Medieval hand made pottery from structures in trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 30: Upper terrace, Medieval hand made pottery (left) and lamp (right) from structures in trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 30: Upper terrace, Medieval hand made pottery (left) and lamp (right) from structures in trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)

Medieval household activities are attested for example by a stone mortar (Fig. 31). So far no wheel thrown and no glazed pottery was found. As previously suggested (Johns 1998) this could point to a rather local aspect of that medieval occupation.

Fig. 31: Upper terrace, Medieval stone mortar from structures in trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 31: Upper terrace, Medieval stone mortar from structures in trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)

However, as remains of Red Sea parrot fish from the same layers confirm (the identification of the animal remains was realised by Dr. Jacqueline Studer [Geneva]), this community did maintain some supra-regional contacts. The general date of the 11th to 13th century AD of these walls is confirmed by a painted shard that was actually found built into one of the walls (Fig. 32). So far, all of the motives of the handmade painted pottery seem to fit the know repertoire previously attested for Jordan Homès-Fredericq – Franken 1986: 242f. .

Fig. 32: Upper terrace, Medieval hand made painted pottery from wall in trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 32: Upper terrace, Medieval hand made painted pottery from wall in trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)

A medieval occupation of that part of Petra was supposed since Brünnow and von Domaszewski found what they believed to be a crusader tomb stone inside the „Garden Triclinium“ Brünnow/Domaskewski 1904: 275 fig. 307; Dalman 1908: 196 fig. 117; Brünnow 1909: 249f.; Lindner 1997: 104 with n. 10. . Interestingly, we found five more of them in the medieval structures, including one showing a cross and others showing a kind of symbol of the tree of live (figs. 33. 34).

Fig. 33: Upper terrace, Medieval tomb stone with cross from trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 33: Upper terrace, Medieval tomb stone with cross from trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 34: Upper terrace, Medieval tomb stone with tree of life from trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 34: Upper terrace, Medieval tomb stone with tree of life from trench 5 (photo: S. G. Schmid)

The tomb stones were dumped in that area and it was not possible so far to localise the spot of their primary use and, therefore, the cemetery of the medieval Wadi Farasa community. Rather difficult is also the precise connection and interpretation of these tomb stones. Both the cross and the symbol of the tree clearly belong to Christian funerary iconography (on these see Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie 1, 2. Paris: Letouzey et Ané 1907: 2691–2709 s. v. arbres [H. Leclerq] and Dictionnaire d’archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie 3, 2. Paris: Letouzey et Ané 1914: 3045–3131 s. v. croix et crucifix [H. Leclerq] especially 3054 no. 3362 for a stylised tree as symbol on a tomb stone).

The question remains, however, whether we can connect them to a crusader occupation or to a substrate of a local Christian community. The type of cross represented on the tomb stone fig. 33 does also occur on crusader coins Boas 1999: 183f. , but for the rest, unfortunately, the funerary iconography of the crusaders has been analysed only very summarily so far (in general cf. for example Boas 1999: 226–236. . It becomes, however, all the more evident that an important medieval occupation has to be located in the Wadi Farasa East, maybe connected with a crusader fortress on top of Jabal al-Madbah Vannini – Vanni Desideri 1995: 512. . As the medieval wall in our trench 5 that contains a threshold and, therefore, most probably was the main entrance to the complex during that period, runs in direction of the eastern column of the „Garden Triclinium“, it can be supposed that during this later occupation the space between the columns was closed by secondary walls and access was given just via a small corridor. This hypothesis is confirmed by a 19th century sketch of Linant de Bellefonds that shows the „Garden Triclinium“ still with some remains of walls between the columns Augé – Linant de Bellefonds 1994: pl. 30. and even on photographs published by Brünnow and von Domaszewski as well as by Dalman, remains of these walls still are clearly visible Brünnow – Domaszewski 1904: 276 fig. 308; Dalman 1908: 195 fig. 116. .

Below the medieval walls a water installation was discovered that was fed by a partially rock cut and partially built water channel bringing water from the basins discussed above (top left on figs. 35. 36). Excavation of that structure revealed a cistern measuring 4 m x 4.20 meters, covered by three massive vaulted arches and connected to a smaller water basin to the west of it (right on figs. 35. 36).

Fig. 35: Upper terrace, trench 5 from N. Nabataean rock cut cisterns and water channels (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 35: Upper terrace, trench 5 from N. Nabataean rock cut cisterns and water channels (photo: S. G. Schmid)

Although excavation reached 1.60 m from the top of the cistern, its original level was not yet attended. The covering of the cistern and its considerable depth show that drinking water in big quantities was needed for the „Garden Triclinium“. The used water later reached again the cistern using a rock cut channel starting immediately in front of the rock cut façade in the middle between the two columns (bottom centre on figs. 35. 36).

Fig. 36: Upper terrace, trench 5 from N. Nabataean rock cut cisterns and water channels (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 36: Upper terrace, trench 5 from N. Nabataean rock cut cisterns and water channels (photo: S. G. Schmid)

The clearly indicated use of big quantities of drinkable water strongly points to a rather profane use of the entire complex and against a cultic or funeral aspect. Since the work of Bachmann, Wiegand and Watzinger it is known that the area of trench 5 once was at least partially covered by a roof in the manner of a peristyle courtyard, indicated by similar rock cuttings as on the lower terrace Bachmann – Watzinger – Wiegand 1921: 85–87; cf. arrows on fig. 37. .

Fig. 37: Upper terrace, „Garden Triclinium“ and related structures (rock cuttings for upper floor etc.) from S (photo: S. G. Schmid)
Fig. 37: Upper terrace, „Garden Triclinium“ and related structures (rock cuttings for upper floor etc.) from S (photo: S. G. Schmid)

Furthermore, steps leading from above, i. e. the upper level of the huge cistern, towards the area once covered by a roof, as well as a door with a joining doorway that shows rock cuttings for a roof too (arrows on fig. 37), connecting the area of the roofed peristyle with the zone of the basins in front of the big cistern, show that we probably have to imagine a entire first floor above the small peristyle with the rock cut cistern. With the first floor, the peristyle courtyard, the cistern hewn into the rock and the additional two rock cut rooms, the entire installation becomes a very good parallel for rich Hellenistic houses like the ones known from Delos or for Roman villas as seen in Pompeii For the Delian houses see for example Kreeb 1988; Trümper 1998; on Pompeii see Zanker 1995 and generally on Italian houses Clarke 1991. . More specifically, a type of Roman house prominent in the western empire shows a strong axial alignment Meyer 1999; Kreeb 1988: 99. , that in our case, however, may be due rather to the specific circumstances of the partially rock cut installation. The profane aspect of our complex is further supported by its opening towards south. Such an orientation, combined with the courtyard in front of it, guarantees less heat in summer and less cold in winter. Therefore, according to Vitruvius, such was the location of the most important rooms in the Greek house, the triclinia or andrones (Vitr., de archit. VII 149, 3f.). Indeed, similar arrangements were identified within rich houses and palaces of the late Classical and Hellenistic periods in Greece Reber 1998: 166–169; Zoppi 1991–1992. .

The chronology of this primary function of the „Garden Triclinium“ is difficult to establish, mostly due to the intensive later, i. e. medieval re-use of the area. However, the small rock cut channel leading from the rock cut rooms towards the cistern (bottom centre on figs. 35. 36) did contain exclusively Nabataean and no later pottery. Most of the fragments belong to an almost complete plain bowl of Nabataean fine ware that can be dated to phase 3 of Nabataean pottery and, therefore, from century AD 20 to AD 100 Cf. Schmid 2000A: 9 [type E 1c 8] figs. 52. 53. . The broken remains of that bowl covered two bigger fragments of camel bones. Most interestingly, the detailed statistic analysis of different bone material from all over the Petra area by Dr. Jacqueline Studer (Geneva) showed that the camel was exclusively consumed during the Nabataean and Roman periods, while in later periods it disappeared from the local menu (oral communication by J. Studer For some preliminary thoughts see J. Studer in Frösén et al. 2001: 385. . It would seem, then, that we have not only a hint for the chronology of the „Garden Triclinium“ but also for its rather profane use, including drinking and eating.