School of Humanities

2008 survey

Further information

Team leaders

Field and finds processing team

Ceramicist and finds specialist

Jordanian representative

A three-week season of field survey of the Jarash Hinterland was carried out between 6 September and 25 September 2008.

  1. The project
  2. Survey
  3. Preliminary report

The project

The 2005 survey area covered the area to the west of the ancient city – the 2008 survey area consisted of the largely developed hillside to the north and north west; the northern Wadi Jarash or Wadi Deir as far as Birketein; the developed hillsides to the east of the Wadi, and the southern Wadi Jarash. The 2008 survey area covered a total area of 1.9 sq km and recorded 402 sites.  As in 2005, the most common sites were quarries and rock cut tombs, although in 2008 there was an increase in the proportion of artefact scatters and architectural fragments recorded.

The project was directed by Professor David Kennedy of UWA and Fiona Baker of the Firat Archaeological Services with a team from Australia and the UK.


The survey has shown that intensive urban development on the east and southeast sides has destroyed many of the sites that could have been expected to be here, especially quarries, tombs and artefact scatters. To the far east of the survey area east of the city, there was a fall in the number of sites, even artefact scatters, despite the fact that this was a more open area, indicating that we were reaching the outer limits of the activities of the inhabitants of Gerasa (such as burials, rubbish dumping and industries such as tile-making).

The South Wadi Jarash with its mills and the Wadi Deir were the areas with the greatest survival of least damaged sites. The Wadi Deir contained evidence of one of the major water supplies to the Roman city and of monumental structures.The presence of such significant buildings is not surprising, given the importance of the road from Gerasa to Birketein.

Rock-cut tombs of various kinds often overlooked roads out of Gerasa and the major tombs and mausolea are very close to these thoroughfares. A review of sites indicated that 30 per cent of the sites recorded in 2005 had been damaged or destroyed. We could extrapolate that 10 per cent of the archaeological sites within the immediate environs of Jarash are being destroyed every year, due largely to the fast pace of development.

Rock-cut graves

A total of 64 rock cut tombs were recorded in the survey including two hypogaea and one arcosolium, although some of these require further evaluation  to confirm the nature of the site. The largest tomb was Site 486, a multi-chambered tomb cut into the limestone edge forming the west side of the Wadi Deir. It seems likely that the chambers were reused for storage associated with the olive press and wine installation and there are external features that are likely to be associated with this also.


Some 45 quarry sites were recorded in the 2008 survey season. Most of these sites were simple cut edges, dispersed along the natural limestone terrace outcrops, with very few providing evidence of step quarrying, block cutting or block sizes.

Architectural fragments

Architectural fragments were located throughout the survey area and Roman masonry had been reused in many structures, such as field terrace walls, in both Wadi Deir and in South Wadi Jarash, which probably date from when the Circassians settled in Jarash in the late nineteenth century or later.

A total of 98 architectural fragments were recorded. The most numerous types of fragments were limestone pieces from door frames, usually jambs, lintels and thresholds, but there were also a few pieces of a moulded architrave from around a doorway.

It is also of note that there are two columns, one limestone and one red granite, outside the entrance to the Jerash Ladies Society complex and these are believed to have been found during the construction of the new building. It is possible that there was a monumental structure located here, just outside the City Wall, perhaps a church.

Water management

Although the evidence for water collection, supply and management at Jarash has been much truncated by modern development, enough has been discovered so far to indicate that it is typical of what one could expect from studies of other areas in Jordan. There appears to be three levels to the system at Jarash. The first is at a municipal level, where the water from perennial springs and rivers is collected. At the second level, water was led through channels to the centres of population. Smaller channels appear to capture surface water, or divert water from the perennial supplies to be used for irrigation purposes or powering mills. At the third level, water was used at a domestic scale, with supplies being diverted or collected in cisterns.

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Preliminary report

The JHS 2008 season preliminary report consists of a printed version plus an electronic version accompanied by a project database and digital photographs.

A copy has been archived to the Jordanian Department of Antiquities and summary reports of both the 2005 and 2008 seasons have also appeared in Munzajat.

For a copy of the report, contact Winthrop Professor David Kennedy.

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