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Umm Al-Rasas

Where to go in Jordan Umm Al-Rasas

Umm al-Rasas is an important archaeological site that was declared a World Heritage Site in 2004. Its structures date from the 3rd. to 9th. centuries and most have not yet been excavated. The site is especially known for its magnificent Byzantine mosaics, which have been uncovered in two churches dating from the 6th and 8th centuries.
 
This site has been inhabited since at least the Iron Age (7th century BC), as attested by artifacts such as a basalt pillar base and a stone scarab. In ancient times, it was a Moabite town called Kastron Mefaa. The prophet Jeremiah mentioned the city (as "Mephaath") in his condemnation of Moab (Jeremiah 48:21). The 4th-century church historian Eusebius recorded that a Roman army unit was stationed here.

The jumbled ruins of Umm al-Rasas are enclosed inside a wall with gates on the north, south and east sides, with more structures spreading outside the walls to the north. Archaeologists have focused their work on the Byzantine churches, of which four inside the walls and 11 outside the walls have been discovered so far. In addition to the churches, two oil presses and a winery have been uncovered.

Inside the walls, the most notable ruins are two churches built into the east wall, the Church of the Rivers and the Church of the Palm Tree. Both are named for their mosaics and date from the 6th century. The area around the churches has also been excavated, revealing several arched rooms and a courtyard with wells and basins.

Outside the northeast corner of the walls is the Church of the Lions, named for its mosaic that includes two lions. Finally, at the northeastern corner of the site, are the two most famous churches at Umm al-Rasas - the Church of Bishop Sergius and the Church of St. Stephen - which are sheltered under a green hangar.

Bishop Sergius' Church (587 AD) lies to the north. Next to its altar is a rectangular mosaic floor decorated with rams, pomegranate trees, and an inscription dating the mosaics to the time of Bishop Sergius. The nave mosaic has portraits of donors and personifications of the Sea and Earth, but these were badly damaged by iconoclasts.

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