JMP Area 2 Excavations - The Stairway

In 2006 Hamdan Taha placed two trenches immediately north of the bath (i.e., the rooms of the actual bath, which are north of the great audience hall). These revealed later walls, some of which went quite deep; one seems to be the corner of a larger building to the north and east. In 2011, a new trench, 2300, was placed in line with this wall, about 20m north of the rooms of the bath.

A series of later walls were found with materials indicating Abbasid occupation, perhaps late but none of the Ayyubid expected. The walls seem to enclose what proved to be a stairway, almost 2.5m wide with plastered surfaces (and chevron scoring for a final surface treatment). A considerable amount of fallen stones filled the are with early Abbasid materials.

A second trench 2400 was placed east of the stairway, with the same late, rather fine glazed (sgraffiato) ceramics in upper levels. The lower levels down to a bricky surface contained Umayyad materials with two pits filled with debris and plaster coating suggesting a preparation/construction area. Cut into this bricky surface was the curving line of a deep drainage channel, very similar in construction to that passing in front of the North Gate (and in fact possibly the same). There were remnants of an earlier channel below this and, at the north and south ends were the square stone structures of possible "man-holes" for access and cleaning.

The enigma of the stairway required further investigation. For the 2012 season, a new trench, 2500, was opened immediately south of trench 2300. It consisted of a similar stratigraphic profile, with the upper levels showing a substantial occupation with walls, ovens, and living surfaces in two phases of the ninth and early tenth centuries. This is extremely important evidence of Abbasid occupation of this portion of the site (Baramki 1944). Beneath this was the massive stone collapse which filled the stairway which continued down nine steps to a stone paved landing. South of this landing was a symmetrical set of stairs rising upward; this could not be excavated, but its upper steps appear on a plan in Baramki's dissertation (1953). The landing from the two stairways appears to enter through a single doorway into a rubble and tile-filled room (partially excavated in 2006). According to the suggestion of Arce, this should be a large hall with arches made of tiles. Whether this was a simply a wood storage area or had some other function needs to be investigated.

JMP'13 Area 2 Excavations

Area 2 was first investigated by Hamdan Taha in 2006 as two deep trenches. In 2013 we excavated the 1 m by 5 m baulk between these trenches.

The stratigraphy was similar to that above the stairway. Upper stone construction belonged to the late Abbasid period. Occupation layers and fill showed abundant ‘Abbasid ceramics, including fine glazes and sgraffiato wares. Below this was a massive collapse of rubble debris and, beneath this, was a double arch of fine masonry. This was one of the supports of a large underground hall. Around and beneath this structure were masses of burnt bricks, apparently fallen vaulting, but many lying flat on the floor. Two possible interpretations have been suggested: 1. That this was a large storage for fuel to be used in the bath furnaces located immediately to the south. 2. An alternative suggestion is that this was a large ceremonial hall attached to the Audience Hall, into which a bath was later inserted. Further excavations are necessary to determine this mysterious Umayyad structure.

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