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Khirbet al-Mafjar

Khirbet al-Mafjar is located north of Jericho in the Palestinian territories. Famed as one of the most important of the "desert castles" of the early Islamic period, the site was excavated by Dimitri Baramki from 1934 to 1948. These excavations revealed a palace and great bath, both of which were intensively decorated with fine mosaics and elaborate stucco figures, as well as stone sculpture and frescoes, placing Mafjar as one of the most important monuments in the history of Islamic Archaeology.

Jericho Mafjar Project

The Jericho Mafjar Project (JMP) is the first joint Palestinian-American archaeological excavation, making it a unique milestone for scholarship. The Oriental Institute was involved in support of the original publication by R. W. Hamilton in 1959. This monograph, and Creswell's repetition of its information, remain the scholarly basis for the fame of these monuments. This was assumed to have been the product of a short period of building and occupation in the early 8th century; in the absence of any final report on the site, the archaeology of Khirbet al-Mafjar stands in serious need of revision and presentation.

The iconic importance of Khirbet al-Mafjar carries a responsibility for clear purpose in undertaking further research. The meaning of this estate (diya') has become for many the caricature of a pleasure-dome for a dissolute Arab Caliph. Rather than an achievement of the Umayyad dynasty of Bilad al-Sham, this was the product Byzantine and Persian artisans employed to embellish a whim. There is a felt need to correct this "colonial" interpretation by historians and archaeologists of the early Islamic period, and no less by the Palestinian authorities.

The general goal of the Jericho Mafjar Project is an integrated archaeological re-assessment of the original excavations and architectural studies by Baramki and Hamilton with new archaeological research, based on excavations by Hamdan Taha and studies by Donald Whitcomb.