Finnish Jabal Haroun Project 2000

Press release 11 Oct. 2000


The Finnish Jabal Haroun Project (FJHP) has carried out its third fieldwork season between August 4 and September 21, 2000. The project is directed by Prof. Jaakko Frsn, University of Helsinki, and sponsored by the University of Helsinki and the Academy of Finland. The Project's personnel included almost 30 archaeologists, cartographers, conservators and students from Finland, Sweden, Italy, Jordan and USA. The excavation site is a large, ruined architectural complex located on a high plateau below the summit of the Mountain of Aaron (Jabal Harn) near Petra in southern Jordan. According to the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions, the mountain is believed to be the burial place of Aaron, Moses' brother. The 2000 excavations continued to expose the mono-apsidal, basilican church, the chapel, and other structures, all being the components of a Byzantine (5th-7th century A.D.) monastic /pilgrimage center dedicated to St. Aaron. Simultaneously, the Project's survey team continued its field investigations in the environs of Jabal Harn.

The excavations exposed the western-central area of the church - originally a part of the nave in the early phase - which became an open, paved court in the subsequent phase. The southern half of the church's apse and the entire room flanking the apse on its southern side (= south pastophorion) were also excavated. The apse revealed two well-preserved rows of the synthronon installation but the marble floor of the apse's interior was poorly preserved. Inside the pastophorion, a large, stone-built tomb-like installation was found. Its interior has yielded only some fish bones. The storage function of this installation seems plausible, at least during its later use.

The excavations in the western area of the chapel exposed well preserved interior of the structure, including benches and pilasters for arch springers. Substantial stone tumble inside the structure contained numerous fragments of painted wall plaster with geometric and floral designs but some Greek letters and words were also noted. The sounding against the western bench revealed well preserved remains of a masonry-constructed baptismal font of a cruciform type, which probably belongs to the earliest phase of occupation there. The font was abandoned and backfilled, probably following the first destruction of the church and the chapel. The font resembles that discovered in the Petra church in 1996, and is the second baptismal installation known from southern Jordan.

The excavations on the western side of the complex exposed well preserved remains of a monumental structure forming a large, solid podium or high base for an unknown superstructure. The masonry type and construction material of this structure are not parallelled by any other at the site. This structure, probably Nabataean/Roman in date, was seemingly a component of either a large tower or a sacral building but its function during the Byzantine phase of occupation at the site remains elusive. Farther east, series of flagstone pavements were exposed as well as the remains of an arch. A large, multi-roomed structure located nearby features series of modifications and rebuilding, including the installation of an arch in the doorway, construction of storage installations, wall-supporting buttresses and three water channels.

An intensive archaeological survey was conducted in the area southwest of Jabal Harn, and on the northern and northeastern sides of the mountain, a total of approx. 1 square km. Thirty major sites were recorded in the southwestern area, including more than 200 barrages and terrace walls (in clusters of several structures per site). These water management installations differ with regard to their location and function (slowing down runoff water or supporting fertile surface soil in small terrace fields). Six Middle and Late Palaeolithic sites, including quarries, ridge sites and microlithic sites, were recorded. Also, remains of an ancient road from Wadi 'Araba through Abu Khusheiba to Petra were documented together with several small building sites alongside the road. On the northern and northeastern side of Jabal Harn, six sites were recorded, including a dwelling site which dates from the Nabataean through the Islamic periods.

The Project's cartographers continued activities to produce a three-dimensional computerized model of the entire Jabal Harn mountain and its environs, including the gathering of topographical and locational information, digital photography and photogrammetry, and actual computer-generated modelling of the excavation site and the survey areas. The conservators continued consolidation and repair of walls, wall plaster, marble pavements and stone installations at the excavation site.

The FJHP 2000 fieldwork season has provided a substantial amount of information concering the site and its environs. The general phasing scheme, i.e., three major occupational phases of the basilica, as developed after the 1999 campaign, has been largely confirmed by the 2000 season's results. Also, it is increasingly apparent that the time-span of occupation at the monastic / pilgrimage site may be extended into the early 8th century, and probably later. The next fieldwork season of the FJHP is scheduled for late summer 2001.