New findings on the history of the early-Islamic caliphate palace Khirbat al-Minya
Archaeologists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) started excavations in September 2016 at Khirbat al-Minya, an early-Islamic caliphate palace on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Led by PD Dr. Hans-Peter Kuhnen of the Department of Ancient Studies at JGU, the team is hoping to find out how the site looked before the palace was built and whether the building was used for different purposes after the catastrophic earthquake of 749 AD. The palace, which was still under construction at the time, suffered major damage during the quake. Findings from the new excavations show that the building lost its palatial function as a result of the earthquake and was subsequently only used by craftsmen, traders, and sugar cane farmers.
|Aerial view of the excavated early Islamic caliph's palace Khirbat al-Minya |
[Credit: Yaniv Darvasi, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem]
During in-depth excavation of the ground beneath the foundations of the caliphate palace, project team members discovered evidence of what could well have been dramatic changes to the landscape before the building was constructed. At least twice in the post-Roman period extreme weather conditions had caused disastrous boulder slides that covered what would later be the building site and thus buried the foundation walls of an older, pre-Islamic settlement.
|Early-Islamic glass weight of just 12 millimeters in diameter with an Arabic inscription found |
at Khirbat al-Minya [Credit: Volker Grünewald, JGU]
In addition to the excavations, the Mainz archaeologists are also running a conservation project that has been financed since 2015 through the Cultural Preservation Program of the German Federal Foreign Office. The objective is to prevent the further progressive deterioration of the palace ruins that has been occurring since their exposure in 1939. Therefore, Mainz University has commissioned a German-Israeli restoration team to carry out reinforcement work in November 2016 to shore up some of the walls that are at great risk of collapsing. In preparation for the job, the Laboratory for Building Research at the RheinMain University of Applied Sciences in Wiesbaden has begun a new and precise survey of the at-risk walls in order to get a clear idea of their construction technique as well as to ensure optimal planning for the type and scope of the upcoming restoration work.
"By combining the use of exploratory trenches, the architectural survey, and conservation measures we are setting standards in the research, preservation, and investigation of this important early-Islamic site," said project manager PD Dr. Hans-Peter Kuhnen of the Department of Ancient Studies at JGU, outlining the relevance of the undertaking. "The new excavations and the accompanying architectural survey will provide us for the first time with detailed insights into what happened on the shores of the Sea of Galilee before the palace was built and after it was destroyed by the earthquake of 749 AD. Our results will then contribute to the future development of the site."
Source: Universität Mainz [October 21, 2016]