Hisham’s Palace-Jaricho

Hisham’s Palace The site of Hisham’s Palace is located on the northern bank of Wadi Nueima, ca. 2 kms north of Jericho in the Jordan Valley (Fig. 1). It is identified with the ruins of Kh. el-Mafjer. The site was attributed to Caliph Hisham bin Abed el-Malik (724-743 A.D./105-125H) on the basis of some epigraphic materials, but today it is believed that his heir el-Walid II built the palace between 743-744 A.D. (Hamilton 1969: 61-66, 1993: 922-929). The site was not the official residence of the Caliph, but was used as a winter resort. The spectacular palace, which was never completed except the bath, was destroyed in a severe earthquake ca. 749 A.D/131H. The site is composed of a palace, a thermal bath complex, a mosque, and a monumental fountain within a perimeter wall. The first three principal buildings were arranged along the west side of a common forecourt, with a fountain in its centre. The area to the north was partially excavated and revealed a series of rooms that was identified as a core of Umayyad probable caravanserai. The palace was a two-storey square building with round towers at the corners. The entrance to the palace was through a vaulted passage that was lined with benches on both sides. It was planned around a central courtyard that was enclosed by four arcaded galleries. The arrangement of the rooms suggests that it was used for guests, servants, and storage. On the southern side, a small mosque with a mihrab was found. Stairs on the two opposite corners of the courtyard gave access to the second storey, which, as the evidence indicates, houses the living quarters. In the western gallery of the central courtyard a stairway led to a mosaic-paved antechamber, leading to an underground vaulted room, sirdab, with a waterspout, wall benches, and a mosaic floor. The common mosque is attached to the northern wall of the palace, with a niche mihrab. The mosque was planned as a rectangular structure. The large bath is located in the northern part of the palace. It consisted of a domed porch to the east, a hall (frigidarium), a domed reception room, and a series of small bathing rooms and a latrine. The frigidarium, the main feature of the bath, was about 30 m2, its roof rose to a central dome. The vaulting system was of brick and rested on sixteen massive stone piers, in four rows. In the southern part of the bath, a 20-metre long and 1.5-metre deep swimming pool was found. It was filled from a spout higher than the surviving masonry. The style of the western central exedra, facing the entrance to the bath, has horseshoe-shaped niches. The architecture and the decoration of the palace were influenced by both Byzantine and Sassanian traditions. This is represented by the architectural style, paintings, fine stucco ornaments, and rich mosaic pavements. One statue, probably representing Caliph al-Walid, stood alone fully dressed, with a sword in his hand, black eyes, and covered with golden-brown hair. The coloured mosaic floors uncovered in the bath frigidarium, the diwan, and the sirdab at Hisham’s Palace represent a distinctive feature of early Islamic art. The main entrance to the bath from the east side was through a high open archway covered by a hemispherical dome resting on a cylindrical drum that was lightened by fourteen niches containing plaster statues. The interior of the porch was covered with stucco. Beside the frigidarium four small rooms were found, two of which were unheated. Two furnaces, whose pipes were concealed in the thick walls, heated the two other rooms. At the northwest corner of the frigidarium is the diwan, a small guest room with an apsidal raised platform at the northernmost end of the chamber. The room had wall benches on both sides. The floor of the diwan was paved completely with fine mosaics, with geometric motifs and the famous nature scene with animals and a stylised tree symbolising the tree of life. In the forecourt of the palace a pool covered with a pavilion built on eight piers was found. The palace was supplied with water through an open channel from the double spring Ein Deyuk and Ein Nueima at the foot of Mount Quruntul, eight kilometers to the west. The channel crossed the wadi at two different points over arched bridges and led to a large reservoir at some distance from the palace

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