In 1997, the Jordanian government granted the Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino per il Medio Oriente e l’Asia a concession for performing excavations in Jerash, anciently known as Gerasa. The main goal of the research was to better understand the urbanistic and architectonic development of the city. The investigated areas were the column-lined streets and the monumental complex dedicated to Artemis. Excavation and restoration works were carried out between 1977 and 2008. Since 2008, investigations at ancient Gerasa have been directed by Roberto Parapetti on behalf of the Monumenta Orientalia Association.
Archaeological and architectural studies in Jerash
In 1977, the Jordanian government granted the Centro Ricerche Archeologiche e Scavi di Torino per il Medio Oriente e l'Asia a concession for performing excavations in Jerash, anciently known as Gerasa. The main goal of the research, considering the extraordinary state of conservation of the Imperial-era ruins of the ancient city, comparable to those of Palmyra and Baalbek, was that of acquiring new analytical elements that may allow the urbanistic and architectural planning of the Roman Empire’s Middle Eastern provinces to be exactly understood.
The site of the city, 45 km north of Amman, is located on a secondary path of the ancient communications route between the Red Sea and Syria. The inhabited area extended on the north-western side of the dolomitic limestone slopes of the Transjordanian plateau at an altitude ranging from 550 to 650 metres above sea level, to the east and west of the steep banks of Wadi Jerash, the ancient Chrysorrhoas, which, flowing into Wadi Zarqa south of the site, runs into the Jordan. The site, frequented since the most remote antiquity, contains aboveground architectural artefacts from the 1st to the 8th century, the most conspicuous of which were built by the Antonine emperors up to Justinian. In 1878, after 1000 years of abandon, Gerasa was reborn as Jerash, reoccupied by Sunni Circassian refugees, sheltered by the Ottoman government after the Russian-Turkish conflicts.
The earliest studies of most of the Roman- and Byzantine-era public buildings wree conducted thanks to the Anglo-American excavations between 1928 and 1934. From 1977, the Italian Mission updated the topographical survey of the great column-lined roads and of the monumental complex dedicated to Artemis, considered the most important places to examine. The sanctuary of Artemis, which in its mid-2nd century phase was the city’s largest building complex (360m x 120m), straddled the main column-lined north-south road along an ascendant axis perpendicular to it, on three terraces in relation to the gradient of the site’s west side. The Corinthian hexastyle temple and the altar in front of it were completely unearthed. Restorations for the purpose of interpreting the construction phases that followed one another up to the Omayyad period were also performed. On the lower terrace, the rooms/artisans’ shops along the front of the sanctuary on the column-lined road were excavated and their supporting structures were consolidated on the intermediate terrace behind them. The gigantic columns of the West Propylaeum were also correctly recomposed at the centre of the front. To the east of the column-lined road, the remains of the sanctuary’s Trapezia Square were brought to light in the East Propylaeum, occupied in Byzantine times by the so-called Propylaeum Basilica.