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Virtual Karak Resources Project - VKRP
Virtual Karak Resources Project - VKRP
Virtual Karak Resources Project - VKRP
Virtual Karak Resources Project - VKRP
Virtual Karak Resources Project - VKRP
Virtual Karak Resources Project - VKRP
Virtual Karak Resources Project - VKRP
Virtual Karak Resources Project - VKRP

Joel Drinkard

Click for a larger imageMudaybi Gate Complex. Let us now turn for the remainder of the article to Mudaybi`, Jordan and its gate complex as evidenced after three seasons of excavation. Mudaybi` is located on the Karak Plateau of central Jordan, approximately 21 km southeast of Karak. This aerial photograph made by Richard Cleave in 1980 shows Mudaybi` in the center; it is made from the north facing southward (i.e. north is at the bottom) showing the modern dam in the right center. In this photograph the inner and outer structure and their wall lines are both very evident. The site is approximately 88m x 83m in size and lies near the edge of the desert marked by conditions too arid to support regular agriculture. The site also sits on top of a low hill that protects access into the interior of the Karak plateau. Mudaybi` is an Iron Age, Moabite fortress dating to approximately 800-600 B.C. The interior structure is a Late Byzantine-Early Islamic structure whose function is unclear because it has not yet been excavated. Mudaybi` has been excavated since 1997 as a part of the Karak Resources Project, an interdisciplinary study of resource utilization, past and present on the Karak Plateau.

Click for a larger imageClick for a larger imageThe close-up aerial photo was made during the winter of 1997 by David Kennedy and first published in Aramco Magazine. This photo is oriented with north at the top. It shows the site after the first season of excavation. Again, clearly visible in the picture are the inner structure and the outer walls. To give a better idea of the layout of the site, a second copy of the aerial photo has superimposed a drawing of the inner fortress and outer fortress walls on the aerial photograph, and also indicates the location of the fields of excavation. Areas A and B have been excavated each season since 1997; Area C was excavated in 1999 and Area D was opened in 2001.

The gate complex is located in Area B[ Photo 1 & 2]. Even before the excavation began in 1997, a probable gate opening was evident, as seen in both in views toward the east and west. Remains of towers flanking the gateway were evident. Also visible on the surface was a large upright gatepost. The excavation team assumed all these items belonged to a later time period rather than the Iron Age. In addition, several lintels and one complete volute capital, one half capital and a capital fragment were visible on the surface. The capitals were known to belong to the Iron Age from similar capitals found in datable contexts elsewhere, but the team assumed they were present on the surface from secondary use. Based on these surface finds, the team decided to locate one of the excavation fields in the gate area, especially due to the presence of monumental architecture.

Click for a larger imageAfter three seasons of excavation we have excavated portions of five of the six pier walls of the Iron II gate complex. We clearly have a four-chamber gate. The complex is nearly 20 meters wide and 14.5 meters deep. The gate opening is 4.1 meters wide. The pier walls are each 1.65 meters wide. The two towers outside the outer pier wall are approximately the same width. The four gate chambers are 3.5 meters wide. The chambers on the south side are 6.7 meters long; we assume that the north chambers were approximately symmetrical. In addition we have at least four volute capitals) [ Photo] three nearly complete and one half, and a fragment that may well be a fifth capital. All of these capitals were found in the immediate area of the gate. We also have found numerous lintels long enough to run from across the chamber width from pier to pier, including one that was still laying on top of a pier wall in Square N8. We also have the threshold stone for the outer gateway still in situ, pavement outside the gateway, a bench outside the gateway, and a gatepost at the gateway all belonging to the Iron Age Moabite gate complex. The Mudaybi` gateway is a very large and well preserved gate complex. When we look at other Iron II sites, we have one of the largest and best preserved gate complex found in Israel and Jordan.

Click for a larger imageFrom the table on the next page, it is clear that only the gate complexes at Tel Dan and Bethsaida/Geshur are significantly larger than our gate, even though all the sites are much larger than our site. And our gate complex is by far the finest in terms of workmanship and monumental architecture of any yet discovered in Jordan.

Each of the pier walls thus far excavated is approximately 1.5 m in height. The walls are constructed primarily of fossiliferous limestone, apparently from a quarry several kilometers from the site. The walls are of semi-dressed stones laid in header-stretcher construction. There is no evidence of mortar in the walls, but chink stones were present.

The gate opening of 4.1 meters would allow easy passage for animals loaded with goods, as well as for wagons or chariots. In the table below all the towns have relatively similar openings, but the fortress at Tell el-Kheleifeh has the much smaller passage one might expect at a military outpost, or just for pedestrian access. The implication based on both size of the gate opening and presence of monumental architecture is that our site served as more than a military fortress, perhaps as a regional administrative center.

 

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