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Jordanian archaeologists to investigate biblical connections at Iraq Al Amir

By Hana Namrouqa - Nov 20,2017 - Last updated at Nov 20,2017

AMMAN — A mission of Jordanian archaeologists this week will start excavations on Al Bassah Cave in Iraq Al Amir to unveil whether the site was the cave where Jesus Christ and his followers rested as they passed through Jordan, according to a senior government official.

Located three kilometres from Wadi Al Sir in west Amman, the cave is carved out of rocks, while its arch-like gate is topped with engravings of crosses inside a large triangle, according to the Department of Antiquities  (DoA) Director General, Munther Jamhawi.

The mission of Jordanian archaeologists, which will be led by Jamhawi, will build on studies and excavations carried out by the DoA in 1974, when a mosaic floor was discovered in the cave as well as architectural planning resembling basilica churches, which were common during the 5th and 6th centuries.

The mission also discovered golden and silver coins that date back to the Umayyad era, Jamhawi said, noting that the mission then suspended its work inside the cave because of safety concerns about a possible collapse of the roof of the cave.

In 1996, another mission by the DoA also discovered ruins of a small church with colourful mosaic floors dating back to the 5th or 6th century in front of the cave.

“This theory of a well-known Jordanian archaeologist suggesting that Jesus Christ and his followers used the cave to rest and have dinner is not yet confirmed…, the mission seeks to dig deeper into the history of the cave to confirm or deny whether it is the cave of Jesus Christ,” Jamhawi told reporters during a press conference.

“The DoA is now in the process of appropriating the lands of Al Bassah Cave and Al Bassah Church,” he highlighted.

In addition to unveiling the history of the archaeological site, the mission will also carry out major maintenance to the roof of the cave, stone facades, inner pillars and mosaic floors, according to the government official, who added that the 3D laser scanning of the cave will also be used for documentation purposes.

The excavations and preservation of Al Bassah Cave and Al Bassah Church are all part of a mega-project that targets the archaeological sites of Iraq Al Amir, which also hosts Qasr Al Abd or Al Abd Palace, Al Mullaqa Cave and another 15 archaeological caves that tell different historial stories, Jamhawi said.

“The project is being implemented in strong partnership with the Greater Amman Municipality, which will also assists the DoA in the funding and conservation works of the excavations as well as setting up an advanced safety and protection system for Iraq Al Amir’s archaeological sites,” he said.

Located 15 kilometres from Wadi Al Sir in west Amman, Qasr Al Abd is a two-story castle that features several chambers. Its construction continued between 175 and 187 BC, according to Jamhawi, who said that it was never really completed.

“Qasr Al Abd is one of the very rare and limited structures in Jordan that dates back to the Hellenistic period. The massiveness of the blocks that make up the palace is what characterises and makes it so unique,” he said, stressing that one block of the structure can weigh up to ten tonnes.

Lions, eagles and several other wild creatures decorate the facades of the castle, according to Jamhawi, who said that a JD45,000 tender will be floated to carry out rehabilitation and renovation of the site.

“The overall goal of the project is to put Iraq Al Amir on the tourist map of Jordan. The area has a very rich history and is surrounded by beautiful natural elements, it has everything to qualify as a major tourist destination,” he underlined.

The project targeting Iraq Al Amir’s archaeological sites is scheduled to be completed by 2018, according to Jamhawi.

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