Building Archaeology in Jordan


Spanish historical research is experiencing a phase of critical reconsideration of Islamic culture and its contribution to the formation of Medieval tradition. The period from the 8th to the 12th century, studied through Arabic documentation as well as architectural heritage, shows the strong cultural link between two branches of a single family, the Omayyad, first as Caliphs of Damascus and then as Emirs in Cordoba.

Modern-day Syria, Jordan, Palestine-Israel and Lebanon is teeming with archaeological sites that have been maintained incredibly intact even above ground level, with complex but quite readable stratigraphies, which are therefore analyzable, without the need for excavations. The slow evolution of construction systems can easily be shown over the long period between the end of the 3rd and the middle of the 7th centuries, with periods of increased construction activity and others of conservation of existing structures. The advent of Islam in the 7th century and the Omayyad family’s rise to power brought with it a significant intensification of construction activities in the region.

The convergence of diversified workmen, who brought “new” materials such as bricks or gypsum-based mortar, led to the development of new techniques, such as the pointed arch, and new ways of constructing vaulted roofs. Recording precisely and accurately the characteristics of walls and more complex construction systems, so as to construct a chrono-typological sequence valid for geologically similar areas. In this case, the Building Archaeology proves to obtain information directly from buildings. In every individual case, the B.A. can help to increase the possibility of precisely determining the periods of construction and transformation of built structures, and can create tools that can be applied to a much broader panorama of individual architectural complexes to be analyzed.

The sites reveals a complex stratigraphy. In Jordan, where many sites have surprisingly well-conserved standing structures, stratigraphic reading and the creation of typologies linked to the construction sphere can provide excellent results in terms of our knowledge of the buildings. Relative chronologies can be utilized for better comprehension of the region’s construction history, opening up new perspectives for a re-reading of its architectural complexes and the surrounding landscapes.

Characterizing a wall structure and defining different construction techniques can be an extremely productive path to take. The availability of new digital instruments for photogrammetric three-dimensional recording of standing structures and individual constructed pieces, along with the creation of an easily consultable online database, facilitates our work and makes it immediately utilizable for a typological comparison with architecture from Spain and other cultural contexts.