Friday, 11 November 2016

Jordan Trip, Day 3 (Oct 30)

We started our third day in Jordan.  Our peregrination started in the Ajlun castle. This was an important site for us with multiple layers of occupancy dated to the Ayyubid, Mamluk and Crusader periods. There, Heba Mostafa gave us an introduction to the history of the site. The castle was originally built by an emir of Saladin, the Ayyubid king. One of the tools for us to understand the multiple phases of the castle was the careful examination of the different construction techniques for the arrow slits- among them was the portable arrow slit detail that was inserted into the window opening at the time of attacks. We approached this interpretation with a certain amount of doubt after strolling through the castle and identifying them on the walls of the towers, we came to a conclusion that this usage would not serve any logic.

                                   Heba explains the history of Ajlun in front of a city model

                                      Approaching the castle with an imaginative cart!

                                                     The beginning of our tour to Ajlun
                                                                Viva la Heba!

                                                        View from the Ajlun castle

Then we drove up to Madaba, a town that was an important early Christian settlement. Our key building was not a Crusader monument but it was an important monument of Byzantine Art and architecture in Jordan. We were quite impressed by the floor mosaic of the Church of Saint George. This one of its kind mosaic depicts a geographical map of the Holy Land by identifying the settlements with their built environment. While the Jerusalem and Bethlehem occupied the central parts of the floor mosaic, we also observed the cities that were located in Jordan and Palestine as well as the geological features such as the rivers of Jordan and the Nile as well as the mountain ranges.

                                 Observing the Madaba floor mosaic up close and personal.

The last stop for the day was the archaeological site of Tell Hisban. It had a lot to offer us. A site which has been excavated extensively and thoroughly published, with Edna's help we were able to study the patterns of inhabitation in the Roman, Byzantine as well as the Mamluk periods. Edna explained to us the role of the site in the sugar trade.

                                       Edna and Suna finding their way at Tell Hisban

                                                      The basilica at Hisban

In the evening we had the presentations by Ebru and Suna. Their theme was “memory.” Suna, in her opening remarks for the session, defined how they applied the word memory to their session. Their aim was to examine how the art and architectural historical information was “encoded, stored and retrieved.” Ebru talked about St. Nicholas, a monumental figure in Byzantine art and his reception and perception by the Crusaders in the eleventh century and afterwards. She elaborated on the Crusaders’ plot to transport his relics from Myra to Italy namely, Bari and Venice. Using manuscripts and other art historical media as well as the material she has worked on at the excavations of myra, Ebru gave us the story of the aftermath of the transportation of the relics. Following Ebru, Suna presented on the Isa Bey Mosque, a fourteenth-century building of the Aydinids, a principality ruled in western Anatolia. Providing us with the character and context of the building she gave us an alternative interpretation of the utilization of the 8th-century Damascene building in the medieval Anatolian context.

Text and Photos by Anthi Andronikou & Suna Cagaptay

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