2016 Season: Excavating the best preserved mosque in Petra

Micaela Sinibaldi

The third season of the Islamic Bayda Project took place in July-August 2016 and was again affiliated with the Council for British Research in the Levant. The Palestine Exploration Fund has generously co-funded the project since its first season; this support has been essential to reaching our important results. This season, a larger team was in the field than in former years. In addition to a team of international and Jordanian volunteers, archaeology students from Cardiff University joined as part of their courses and trained in the activities of archaeological documentation and excavation. As usual, the project included local team members from the Ammarin tribe from Bayda, whose experience in excavating in Bayda from the former seasons was crucial to the team.

Fig.1: the team having a tea break in the field (photo by Micaela Sinibaldi)
Fig. 2: the team practicing excavation and documentation (photo by Micaela Sinibaldi)
Fig.3:  students excavating at the mosque (photo by Micaela Sinibaldi)

Fig. 4: study of building techniques at the Ammarin village (photo by Sarah Elliott)

This season was very exciting, as receiving funding for six weeks has allowed the team to complete the excavation of Mosque 2, dated to the Late Islamic period, which we had started excavating in 2015, While in 2015 we had uncovered the mihrab of the mosque and its southern part, this season we uncovered the mosque entrance and its northern part. The good state of preservation allowed a detailed reconstruction of the architecture of the mosque. Particularly interesting was discovering that one of the arches supporting the roof had collapsed in such a way to allow reconstructing its height and curve, and therefore the height of the mosque. The evidence from this campaign confirmed the hypothesis that the mosque had been destroyed by an earthquake. The team also carried on a survey of modern villages in the region and visited houses of the modern Ammarin village in Bayda and Dana and observed that there the construction techniques have many elements in common with the buildings excavated at Islamic Bayda. In addition to sampling organic material from selected stratigraphic units, we also took samples for micromorphological analysis of the stratigraphy. We also investigated parts of Mosque 1 and its relationship to the earlier phases, already detected in 2015.

Fig. 5: trip to Dana Natural Reserve (photo by Micaela Sinibaldi)
Fig. 6: the team relaxing at home after work (photo by Micaela Sinibaldi)
Fig. 7: the local community visiting the site (photo by Qais Tweissi)
Fig. 8: presentation on the results at mosque 2 (photo by Qais Tweissi)

The project had numerous visits this season, as the news have been spreading about our important discovery: the first mosque ever excavated in Petra, and, moreover, in very good conditions of preservation. We had visitors from the Petra Park, the Department of Antiquities, the Hussein Bin Talal University in Petra, children from a workshop organized by the Petra National Trust, and a one-day visit by a team by the Council for British Research in the Levant, including Carol Palmer, the Director of the British Institute in Amman, and a group of staff and research fellows, who have helped with their expertise in advising on sampling for laboratory analysis. After the end of the season, a presentation of the Islamic Bayda Project was also part of a special day organized by the Council for British Research in the Levant on the cultural heritage in Bayda and the potential of involving its community in its valorization.

On our day off, Friday, the team was as always free to relax and enjoy several well-deserved trips to Petra and other sites, like Aqaba, and camping weekends in the beautiful Petra region. Congratulations to the team for this excellent season which has allowed accomplishing all the original goals!

Islamic Bayda Project 2016