Lost Civilizations: Jerash, the Wonder of Jordan | Full Documentary

Lost Civilizations: Jerash, the Wonder of Jordan | Full Documentary

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Only a short flight away from the major European capitals, Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Israel, and Iraq. As the cradle of civilization, Middle East countries are littered with archeological treasures. Jordan is no exception. Jordan is a living history book.

Although Petra is Jordan's best-known archeological site, the ancient town of Jerash, formerly known as Gérasa, is equally significant. Founded in the 3rd century AD by the Greeks, it reached its prime under the Romans in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. The Byzantine authorities designated it as a bishop's seat.

Faced with the Persian and Arabian invasions of the 7th century and a series of earthquakes, the town was eventually reduced to ruins. Roman Jerash was never to regain its former glory, but today, the site is an archeological gem. At the southern entrance to the town is Hadrian's Arch. It's 25 meters tall and was built in honor of the visit of the Roman Emperor Hadrian in the year 129. What is unusual about this structure is the crown of acanthus leaves sculpted at the top of each of the pillars.

The exquisite detailing. Continuing past Hadrian's Gate, we come to the Hippodrome. It was built at the time of the Severan dynasty towards the end of the second century AD.

The Hippodrome was equipped with ten starting gates called Corsairs, and it could hold 15,000 spectators. It's believed that even in the Roman era, Greek was spoken here during the chariot races. From the Corsairs starting gates, the four-horse teams, led by the charioteers, burst on to the track. The chariot races were a highlight in the cultural life of Roman cities, and bedding was common practice amongst the enthusiastic public. The drivers and the horses were local stars.

The teams belonged to different stables and bore their colors in divine symbols. Today, the site of Jerash's considered to be one of the best preserved archeological sites of the Roman Empire. At first, Jerash was one of the ten towns of the Decapolis. As the name suggests, the group included between eight and 16 towns, according to ancient writers.

It was a group of Hellenistic cities in a Semitic area on the desert border. One of our problems is trying to understand the significance of these ten Hellenistic towns, situated within this zone and grouped together, acting as a remarkably coherent whole. Only one was situated in the west of Jordan, that's Ethopolis. The Decapolis was the fruit of an economic alliance during a period of great opulence.

During this prosperous period, Jerash boasted paved streets with colonnades, immense temples, theaters, vast public spaces, fountains and fortifications complete with towers and grills. It was all carefully planned and laid out. The Jerash site has always been occupied because it is situated in a relatively rich area in terms of water sources. There's one, for example, in the middle of the town. Unfortunately, it passes underneath some major monuments, so it couldn't be used to supply, for example, the thermal baths, apart from those in the east.

There are also many sources scattered throughout the valley. This explains why the site has always been populated. Starting from the middle of the Bronze Age, a small group settled permanently in what became ancient Jerash. By that, I refer to the hill that you see over there with all the trees which is now the site of the museum. It's almost entirely artificial. It was a small hill built up from the accumulation of small villages from the Middle Ages into the present-day museum site.

From the Hellenistic and the late Hellenistic periods, the village started to expand and break its boundaries, spreading to the neighboring hillsides. It happened through the simple process of progressive diffusion. However, we still know very little about the details of more ancient layers of the town. We only have a few small indicators and probes to go by because, as you can see, the quality of the Roman and Byzantine construction here is such that we cannot dig up existing ruins and destroy the paving in order to study what lies beneath. We're forced to look for sites where there are no important ruins in order to carry out probes.

Unfortunately, these are not always the sites which we would most like to study. The oldest dated building in Jerash is the Southern Theater, which you can see beside us, constructed in the year 90, so without a doubt, well into the Roman era. We're in the Southern Theater of the town of Jerash.

This structure was built under the reign of Domitian at the end of the 1st century. Only men were allowed to occupy the first 29 rows of the tiers. Up to 4,000 spectators would enter through the two gates. They used tickets made of clay discs.

In the front rows we can still see the Greek letters' traces that were used to designate places. What is incredible here is the quality of the acoustics within the theatre. A spectator sitting in the tiers' back row would've heard equally well as one sitting in the front row. An incredible feat of acoustic engineering.

Today, during the summer, the theater hosts the Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts. It's a surprise to see Jordanian soldiers playing the bagpipes in the Roman amphitheater in Jerash. In fact, this is evidence of yet another occupation, this time English. In many former British protectorates of the Near-East they still play military music of the Scottish regiments.

Although the performance style has been somewhat personalized over the years. We are in front of the ramparts and fortifications of the town. Most of the research on the town was carried out in the 1930s by an Anglo-American team led by Crawling. The original idea was that, given that Jerash was so well-preserved compared to other towns of the Decapolis, it could be used as a model to understand more about the organization and the history of the other towns. The organization of Jerash is relatively easy to understand, at least when you look at a map. The town was laid out as a grid with orthogonal axes, suggesting that the town was of Hellenistic origins.

The town planning is typically Hellenistic. The town was surrounded by an almost circular rampart. One point to note is that the wall, of which you can see a section here, contains the city's gates. We can see an example behind us now, built at the time of Emperor Hadrian's visit. According to the Americans, this rampart was built in the 1st century.

If the rampart dates from the 1st century, we can infer that the streets were in place in the 1st century, therefore, that the urbanism of the town was already established. This means that, more or less, all the organization of the city was set. Several gates have been discovered among the ramparts' remains, but only the north and south ones are well-preserved.

The caravans from Arabia would've entered the town through the south gate, with its three archways. Here, too, there are many clues to the town's history. We've found some installations from the Roman era, some of which are truly remarkable. Here we have an oil press, quite common in the region, but the form of this particular oil press is unusual. It's a direct-pressure double-screw press. However, the most interesting thing here is the wall itself.

As you see, the rampart partially covers over the equipment of the oil mill. The oil mill would be redundant as it is. Therefore, the building of the rampart must be subsequent to the destruction of the oil mill. As it happens, we found the destruction evidence of each stage of the site, the oil mill, the carpentry stall that was above it, and then of a residential house with monetary units, ceramic objects, etc. Hence, we proved the rampart dates not from the 1st century, but from the end of the 3rd or start of the 4th century, with a pattern of the region whereby towns were fortified at the start of the Byzantine era.

Despite the lack of written records about the history of Jerash, archeological research enables us to unravel the tangled web of events. Because here, generation after generation of men have left traces of their existence in the earth and the rock. This gate was, in fact, incorporated into the fortifications of the town. That is to say, the rampart was built up around the gate rather than the gate being built into the rampart. Following this discovery, we found a series of elements which forced us to requestion the ideas we had about the town's planning and its history. We can now show that the town's structure has been superimposed on top of an older, totally different city plan.

This knowledge shed doubt on many of our previous assessments. Now we've had to start over with each individual monument to try and retrace, little by little, the town's history. We've had to go through the process in reverse.

Instead of looking at the structure of the town as a whole, to draw conclusions about individual elements, we now have to discover the history of the individual elements and build up an image of the town's general history. Unfortunately, we have very few texts on the subject. Luckily, we have one text which provides fundamental information about parts of history.

The text of Flavius Joseph, who wrote about these towns during the first Jewish revolt. The first Jewish revolution was an uprising of the Jewish bands of Jews, as they were called in the text, who came to attack the towns of the interior. The towns of the interior, including Jerash, had Jewish communities who lived among the extremely heterogeneous population. Flavius Joseph writes that the Jewish communities within the towns united with the local population to fight back against the Jewish assailants who descended from Palestine. Flavius Joseph also writes that most of the towns gathered up the local Jewish people and slaughtered them. It's quite clear that only one town withheld from this massacre, and that was Jerash.

Not only did Jerash not massacre its Jews during the first revolt, they went so far as to protect groups of Jews who nonetheless decided to leave the city for further climes. Obviously, in such a case, the Emperor tended to consider his enemies' friends as his enemies. Flavius Joseph tells us that Vespasian came with his troops and razed Jerash. I say razed. They vandalized a number of symbols, captured people, more or less as slaves. Unsurprisingly, the sanctuary of Zeus, which was the most important sanctuary in the town at the time was ravaged.

What is remarkable, though, is that the sanctuary was rebuilt soon afterward, more beautiful than ever. We can get an idea of the town's history, but this history does not appear to be representative of the other towns of the Decapolis. It's a one-off case, as we see clearly in the case of the first Jewish revolt, where Jerash alone behaved differently to the other towns. It was no doubt the case during other important events that struck the region. This means that studies of Jerash help us to understand the history of Jerash, insofar as it's possible, but they can't be used as a role model for understanding the history of the other towns as it had been hoped.

In the Roman era from 63 AD during the conquest of Pompeii, the site passed under direct Roman control and construction was started on major roads linking Jerash to Philadelphia, Peyna, and Basra. Little by little the town started to develop. The center of the original settlement disappeared into the new Oval Plaza, and the town started to spread out over the surrounding hills.

The grand bulk of the development wasn't achieved until the first wave of serious construction in the 2nd and 3d centuries, and then again in the Byzantine era. After this, the city suffered in the major earthquake of 749 and simultaneously, or possibly slightly earlier, sadly we cannot tell from the archeological evidence, a severe plague, or possibly several plagues, i.e., major epidemics, decimated the population, resulting in the start of the decline of the town in the middle of the 8th century.

There was a minor Abbasid occupation, then desertification, and then a temporary reoccupation at the time of the Crusades. A small group of people later built a fort with a small village on the slopes. Following this, the population disappeared completely so that during 7th to 8th centuries, almost a millennium, there was no one present on the site.

This means that the site was free from the evilest predator for ruins, man. The town is wonderfully well-conserved for this very reason. There was no one around to destroy it. That's why Jerash is one of the most beautiful testaments to our ancient past. The decline and eventual abandonment of the site helps us understand the ruins. The Greeks destroyed or displaced traces of the Bronze Age occupation.

Then the Romans did the same with the remains left by the Greeks. Then the Byzantines. For archaeologists, the challenge is to get a sense of the order of things.

For example, on a site right below the temple itself, Paris's Louvre Museum set up an exhibition of an imaginary reconstruction of a part of the first temple, using stones that had been dispersed during the Roman era. Here we have two very important elements. The most significant is no longer visible since the museum installation that was carried out by Paris's Louvre Museum. It is the building itself. We're in the crypto porticos of the sanctuary of Zeus. Built in 27 to 28 AD by Diodorus, son of Zebedas, a fantastic architect who succeeded here in constructing a set of interconnecting arches without support, segmented archways, which were one of the major difficulties within ancient architecture.

Nobody realized it, but what you see here was a major technical achievement. The second element here is the building destroyed during the first Jewish revolt. What is extraordinary is that we've recovered about 80% of its blocks, which shows that they were voluntarily taken down and buried. As well as these remarkable buildings, there was the actual town of Jerash.

The architects of the day designed the town according to plans which had already been tried and tested in other ancient towns. When you look at a site like Jerash today, you see a fossilized hole. You see the final state of the town after a series of modifications. Looking at the town map, you can see the main road running north to south, with a series of smaller roads cutting across at right angles and regular distances.

The town was planned as a grid, as was typical during the Hellenistic era. On the cardo maximus, a route lined with the most elegant buildings of Jerash, is the Nymphaeum, a sacred fountain built in 191 AD. It's a two-storey structure. In the beginning, it was all mounted on a demi-dome. Its existence and its monumental proportions testify to the opulence of Jerash.

It was dedicated to Tyche, the goddess of chance. The building was covered with marble slabs on the lower level and stucco on the upper level. A grand water feature cascaded down in the middle of the Corinthian columns into a large basin, then ran into various pools and trickled out down a network of drains, which ran the length of the cardo. However, recapturing the past is not always so simple.

When the Americans arrived here, the streets were not visible. Here, for example, there was an enormous wheat field. They saw very little of what we see today, so they had to work from maps. The map seems to suggest that the town is of Hellenistic origins. The first probes and discoveries appear to confirm this notion.

When you first arrive here, there appears to be no reason to doubt the Americans' conclusions. Their evidence is coherent and makes logical sense. The excavations beside the south gate spread the first seeds of doubt. The existence of a burned ruin dating from the end of the third century underneath the town rampart proved clearly that the rampart is not first-century. If the ramparts are not first-century, then we can't be sure about the gates nor the axes, etc.

This detail forced us to requestion everything. What's extraordinary when you look at the four columns marking the entrance to the mausoleum is that one pair is of a different height from the other. The two northern columns are 20 centimeters shorter, which meant that they had to add a prop under the architraves because the horizontal lines are aesthetically very important. If the horizontal lines were crooked, you would notice it immediately. The height itself was not a problem, but given that 20 centimeters were missing the architraves had to be propped up. One side is 20 centimeters shorter than the other.

The one standing is the strangest because it has three sides, the successive surfaces before the external moulding. It's a three-sided architrave on the left side, which is normal, but on the right, it has four sides. The next one there has its two props. It was found on the ground. It's the one that was originally on top and to get it horizontal, they'd used a double prop. Here we have a four-sided architrave, which is totally abnormal, but it's just a cover-up typical of a building built by people who didn't always measure every single centimeter as we do today.

There are still people today who aren't perfectly precise, far from it, and that isn't a bad thing. If you turn around, you can see columns. They're perfectly in place. They haven't been restored.

Those columns were constructed in the second half of the 2nd century. A little further on, you see the same columns, but the vertical mounts are recycled from older columns. If you continue even further, you have more of the same columns, but using entirely recycled material and rebuilt in the 5th or 6th century.

You always have to look closely. Otherwise, you can mistakenly conclude that the street was built in the 2nd century, which is what everyone will tell you. We weren't present during construction nor when the town developed.

We only see the final modified state, which dates from the Byzantine era. The important thing is to bring together all of the contradicting evidence. For example, during the excavations of these houses beside us, they dug under the street and came across the wells of a number of Roman houses, which were filled in, in 170 AD, to make way for the street we see today. This proves that the street cannot be older than the second-half of the second century AD.

It's the positioning of the street, not simply a question of resurfacing or reconstructing the columns. The street itself cannot have existed prior to the end of the 2nd century. In the same way, the pavement you see running the length of the street was built using materials from the sanctuary of Zeus. Therefore, not before the end of the 5th century, although the columns behind it date from the 2nd century. As you can see, it's a big mix.

What's extraordinary is we can see in the 5th century, materials are taken from the higher parts of the building to be used in Byzantine construction, and one century later, the moldings of the foundations are recycled in the triumphal artwork of one of the churches. Still, would we know? Nothing remains on the site. Everything has been removed and we're left with broken remains, fragments of the capitals, bits of molding, etc. When we start the reconstructions, we look for the connections and start to piece together the when. The Temple of Zeus is a prime example of the challenges that archaeologists face in reconstructing the past.

The site is littered with pillars, stones, capitals and collapsed architraves, evidence of the passing of the generations, and of the violent earthquakes and wars that the town suffered. The work of the archaeologists lies in reconstructing the historical puzzle of this forgotten town. We are in the sanctuary of Zeus.

It's a sanctuary built on several levels. We are currently on the podium, part of the facade of the Grand Temple, which was consecrated in 162 AD. This temple was constructed adjacent to an older structure which remains underneath, known as the lower terrace, because of its position below the Grand Temple. This lower terrace is, in fact, the primitive core of the sanctuary, and so, standing on this terrace, we can look back over more than 2000 years of history. Here, we discovered a really extraordinary construction predating the construction of the temple we're standing in. There is a series of buildings built at different moments, stretching over a period of more than a millennium.

These structures do not conform at all to the classical canons of 2nd-century architecture. We refer to this style as Oriental, for lack of a better word, because these are elements of the later Hellenistic tradition. It's all a bit unclear. In the middle of the courtyard stood the element of the sanctuary, the temple itself. The inscriptions tell us that more than a dozen divinities were worshipped in the town.

Only the remains of the sanctuaries to Olympian Zeus and Artemis, his daughter, are still visible today. The ruins of the monuments to Zeus and Artemis have always impressed visitors, but our real interest is in understanding the chronology of their development, which is linked to transport networks, urban expansion, and the city's history. The excavations have shown that, at the time, the two temples were in competition with one another. The most important sanctuary, which prevailed in the hearts of the residents of Jerash, was the sanctuary of Zeus. The temple of Artemis remained unfinished, despite the fact that 12 years later, they started and completed the building of a massive temple, larger than that of Artemis. Archaeology tends to deal with large monuments.

Occasionally, we have texts which are highly detailed, but we almost never have access to the information that most interests us. For example, we'd love to have a text which explained to us, "It was I, Emperor X," "who financed the construction of the Temple of Artemis," "because I wished to demonstrate" "that the imperial power was absolute in Jerash." However, we'll never have that. The situation is complicated by the fact that building materials from the deserted temples were later used to build new monuments in the town. We are once again in front of a portico, which seems to be of good quality with the pavement in front which has been rebuilt, projecting out into the street.

Again, entirely using blocks from the sanctuary of Zeus. You can see the blocks of white limestone, the little palm-shaped cornice there, as well as blocks from an ornamental altar which once stood in the courtyard of the sanctuary. All of that was demounted and reused here, as well as in the Saint Theodore Cathedral and the thermal baths, etc. Nothing is left at the sanctuary, so our task today is to try and discover its various parts scattered around the town. We're helped by the fact that we know to look in buildings dating from after 450 AD because excavations showed that the demolition of the building started in 450 AD.

We look in all buildings of the town built after 450 AD. Sometimes blocks are relatively easy to find, and sometimes, it's more complicated. For example, the Italian group excavating further down from here, recently found 19 architraves altogether. They'd been used in the portico of a church. We're standing under the portico in the atrium leading up to the propylaeum Church church, which is behind us.

Underneath the basis of the columns, you see here, are a series of blocks. The architraves of the house of Zeus, which disappeared from the sanctuary of Zeus. They've been recycled to make up the foundations of the portico of the Byzantine church.

You can see one here and another over there on top of the door. These blocks are easy to spot because they are very particular. They're the only ones made of pink limestone with a molding and very specific dimensions. Above all, we can see these dovetail tenons or clamps. These have recently been excavated by the Italians.

We have 19 more blocks of the sanctuary which have suddenly come to light. The other major temple is the temple of Artemis, a Roman temple built in 150 AD under the reign of Antoninus the Pius. The portico of the building consisted of 12 Corinthian columns. They are so tall that on a windy day you can see the pillars swaying. Eleven of them are still standing. This is the city's important monument, partly because of its significance as the temple to the patron goddess of Jerash, but also because of its proportions.

The whole construction spreads over almost 650 meters. This is the entry to the sanctuary of Artemis. This street is the cardo, the famous North-South access road. We are at the foot of the propylaeum, the gate which leads up to the sanctuary.

The Sanctuary of Artemis is a very ordinary sanctuary. There are no great surprises. It's a large 2nd-century structure. You won't find any unusual capitals or moldings here. This is a classical architecture in its full splendor.

However, one remarkable thing is the use of the topography and how the different spaces are set in a progressive perspective. We're currently in the area surrounding the sanctuary, which was built up on the hill. It is invisible from here. Although here we're already in the middle of the site, which extended all the way to the swamps on the other side of the wadi. There was a street, a bridge, a first gate onto the street, followed by a section of road. Then, a narrowing as you pass through another monumental gate, and then, a trapezoid-shaped plaza giving onto the cardo, where we're standing now.

The structure was based on a progressive enlargement and, as you can see, the effect is increasingly strong. Here, we're at the foot of the propylaeum and you can see the triple-on behind us and behind that, a staircase that is only 34 meters wide. The staircase led to an intermediary terrace. It's a progressive buildup with an expansion spreading out in front of the facade of the sanctuary.

The composition's extraordinary, as you'll see when we get to the summit. Although dedications to the goddess refer to a place of worship dedicated to her in the middle of the 1st century AD, these current structures only date from the middle of the 2nd century. Here, you can see some freestanding columns. It's a colonnade, not a portico, meaning that the columns were purely decorative rather than structural. In terms of its decoration, the sanctuary of Artemis is extraordinary. First, the triple-on, the three monumental doors which we're now passing through.

You have to imagine that there were ventails, doors that could be closed or opened at will. Behind that, was the first series of steps, separated by small landings, which leads up to the first terrace, with, we believe, an altar. I say we believe because there is still a major discussion as to whether the altar was part of the staircase or something else. From here, you start to get a glimpse of the columns of the sanctuary, columns of the temple itself. The Temple of Artemis was intended to be the most beautiful and the most important temple in ancient Jerash. It contained panels of fine marble and a decorated cult statue in the cellar.

Only the best sufficed when honoring the town's patron. In fact, this vision is deceptive, because you would not have had this view at the time. When you arrived on the intermediary terrace, you would have been faced by a staircase more than 100 meters wide, apparently blocked in by two large towers. Between these two, another colonnade, behind which stood a large wall, which hid everything from view, and probably a triple-on with three large doors.

Up to this point, you would still not have seen the temple. You really have to try to imagine that on arrival, you would be faced with something three times wider than what you see now. With a rise of more than 40 meters between the lowest and the highest point, this was a stunning architectural backdrop for the playing out of a symbolic and mystical journey.

Processions would start at the river and travel up to the temenos. Now we're arriving at the summit. Our vision of it today is not at all what it would've been. Here, you should see a series of columns, which have now disappeared. The only ones left standing are over there, on the left hand side.

In front of us, you can see three blocks. These are the remains of the threshold of the original doorway. You have to imagine an enormous wall hiding everything. You can't see any of it unless, obviously, the door is open.

Otherwise, the wall hid everything. One has to be wary of the impressions that you get when you visit sites. Partly because elements have disappeared and also because elements have been added to the site in later years and do not correspond to anything which dates from the ancient era. We're now in front of the Temple of Artemis, which was the major temple of the town, and which, from the 2nd century onwards, became the principal sanctuary. The temple was built within the sanctuary.

A typical classical sanctuary, with a courtyard surrounded by columns, with a chamber of the god, for example, the temple itself, in the middle. This temple is very typical of the second century. It has a podium and a massive foundation, on top of which is a series of columns surrounding a central box. What is unusual here is that the podium was hollow. It contains a series of underground rooms.

We don't know yet what their purpose was. There are many plausible suggestions. Bearing in mind that access to the rooms was uniquely from the Ethiton, the raised platform at the end of the cellar, and the most sacred part of the temple. The other feature of the temple is the staircase in the editon leading to the roof.

Given that the priest alone had access, we can infer that, like in Palmyra in Lebanon and other such sites, some activities took place on the roof. This indicates that the roofs were probably flat, despite the existence in places of pediments, which would be more typical of sloping roofs. The pediments were false, as much as in Palmyra, where we know there were pediments with flat roofs behind and even the cellar which was raised up higher. The temple is beautiful, and the capitals, as you can see, are magnificent.

They're amongst the beautiful existing 2nd-century capitals. The reason is simple: nothing was ever placed on top of them. I mean that the building was never finished. There should be architraves and pediments, but none of these existed because the building was abandoned halfway through, with only the temporary roofing in place. A series of columns lay ready to be mounted.

You can see the shafts on the ground alongside others left unworked, stone fresh from the mine. Over there, you see one of the shafts, the others have been found. We found the mine on the sulfur road.

The shafts had remained there, and never even brought to the site. The project was interrupted. We can see clearly that the temple was built directly onto the rock. The rock shows traces of excavations dating from various different eras. There are hydraulic installations to go with the baths, which were added when the temple started to be used. However, they also intersect with a series of graves, which were cut into the rock.

Here, for example, there was a funeral chamber and another one there, and another behind that on this side. Others have been filled in for a number of years. It's clear that we're on the site of an Acropolis that was desecrated to construct the sanctuary. We can see that for certain parts of the foundations, you have to go and search for the rocks where you find them, which is at the bottom of the tomb. Later on, all this was leveled out, and then pipes were run over the top, either to feed or to empty the baths, which were used in the construction of the temple.

The sanctuary had several large baths, like many other sanctuaries in the area. When you look upon this tableau of stones and monuments, you tend to forget the techniques and the human investment which went into creating it. This was the era of the stone industry. By looking at relics and customs, archaeologists have reconstructed a machine that would have been used during the construction of the site of Jerash. I'd like to show you the little monster.

During the excavations, researchers came across the remains of a machine which corresponded to descriptions and archive documents, and the discovery amazed them. The technologies being used here were very advanced for the period. We're in front of a reconstruction of the oldest known machine in the world, a hydraulic saw used for cutting hard stones.

It's a truly extraordinary machine. At first glance, it looks like a monster, but it's the prototype of all future mechanical development, because it allows continuous circular movement to be translated into alternative longitudinal movement. It's the basis of mechanics, with a motor that uses hydraulic and not muscular power. It works obviously by means of a crank and connecting rod. This was thought to be a European or Chinese discovery from the 14th century.

However, here we are in the middle of the 6th century AD, and a machine exists in Jerash that can cut up to eight slabs of hard limestone in one go. We have proof the machine worked in the traces left in the blocks that you can see here. It was very sophisticated. One of the branches of the main aqueduct of the town and, in fact, this one has been conserved, fed into the enormous tank over there, which today is totally in ruins. The tank provided water for the fountains, which we saw on the street.

The overflow from that tank fed into the smaller bath at the back over there, from where the water fell four meters onto a turning wheel. This type of wheel fed from above requires very little water, but produces a great deal of power. In this case, roughly two tons of power. The water was finally evacuated into the canal and then flowed into the main drains. We are extraordinarily lucky here in Jerash because the supports for the wheel were made of stone.

At the two ends of the short axis are plaques on which you have the centric axis, which is a fixed metal piece. The centric axis rubbed against the walls, leaving traces, which remains proof to this day. We know very well that it was a short axis and that things were attached to the two ends with the two column shafts. An American photo was found which shows the two-column shafts in exactly the same position as the blocks, which have been restored today.

Looking at the blocks here, we know that each saw had four blades. We found all the elements, the distances, the hubs, the width of the wheel, and the height from which the water fell; everything was there. At Hafez, the Austrians excavated a sewing machine, but they couldn't understand how it worked, so they didn't publish anything. That was more than 20 years ago, but I was invited to Hafez, where I was able to visit and talk to the Austrians.

There was also a second machine showing that this was no case of trial and error. It shows that although we look for themes in the research lines, the one thing an archaeologist needs is to keep one section of his brain empty. To be sensitive to any detail anywhere because you never know what you're going to find. I tell you, during 20 years, I passed right in front of it. For the moment, it's still the most important discovery, the one which has caused the most sensation.

The site of Jerash and Jordan is a great example of the ups and downs of archeological research. A wealth of mysterious clues, which we piece together to form an intelligible historical account. A great deal of knowledge combined with a little good luck. Jerash has revealed some of its secrets, but not all.

There is still debate about the details of the evidence found here. However, the fact remains that almost 2,000 years ago, Jerash was one of the prosperous places on the Earth, flushed with the innocence of success. The people of this area were extremely inventive and very pragmatic. The decor was not fixed, as in the Greco-Roman world, with standard decorative styles and architectural rules. They noticed things that existed here and there and played with ideas. You might say that the style was already quite Baroque, with things being done in unusual ways, It's fantastic because we're always discovering amusing things.

2023-03-14 21:59

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