ti trovi in:  Home > Archeology > Archeology of the Medieval Society > Urban and rural landscape > Excavations in Bosra


Recent Archaeological Excavations in Bosra (Syria)

The “Syrian European Archeology Exhibition” 1 has been recently organized in the prestigious Museum of Damasco, during wich results of recent archaeological excavations in Syria have been exposed. Even if searches about prehistoric and classical sites are surely many more, there are also interesting news about syrian medieval sites, between which one of the most studied is Bosra.
The city is a very interesting place especially for the continuity of urban development between the hellenistic age and the omayyad age, and the syrian-french archaeological mission, directed by R. al-Muqdad (DGAM) and J.M. Dentzer (CNRS, Universite de Paris I), has studied this particular problem. The continuity of life has been however cause of difficulty during the investigation, because of since the nabatean age the city has never been totally abandoned and consequently materials have been used every time again, and this is the reason why the deciphering of the development of the ancient city has been sometime particularly difficult. First discoveries of the medieval age are dated in the IV-V century, when Bosra was completely renewed and particularly a new floor in limestone was built, for example in the arcades along the streets and in the near-by buildings, like the South Spa.
In the same period monuments in the near-by of the corner of the north-south road and the west-east road are changed, while later, at the end of the omayyad age, the arcades along the north-south road are transformed in souqs, as it is usual in Siria: materials of the imperial age, blocks of walls and also drums of columns are reused in the walls that separate the new shops. During the medieval age there is also an housing-invasion on the streets, and a raising of the level of the buildings along the sides of the street.
Life in the commercial district is an excellent example of the phenomenon of continuity of life: medieval souqs built all around the Mosque of Omar succeed to the roman and byzantin shops situated under the arcades , and this situation last until the beginning of the XIX century.
The results of the excavation confirm a similar development also in the east district, where the principal buildings keep the orientation of the nabatean age, and in the important area of the South Spa.
The syrian-italian archaeological mission, directed by R.al-Muqdad (DGAM) and R. Farioli-Campanati (University of Bologna), has chiefly investigated the north-east district, where the Mosque of al-Mabrak, the Mosque of Fatima and the so-called "complex of Bahira." are built.
The principal result of the searches is, once again, the continuity of the occupation of the area, and it results from the archeological excavations as from the objects of the Museum of the Citadel, that are still unpublished (a catalogue will be published soon).
The monumental remains of the cathedral, which was consecrated in 512-513 to the saints Sergio, Bacco and Leonzio, are part of the “complex of Bahira”. The church has a complex plan (tetraconco), but this is not unusual in Syria.
The excavations have proved that the cathedral was built on roman structures of the III century. The same archaeological situation appears in the area of the Episcopal palace, which was correctly identified just recently (formerly it was called “palace of Traiano”).
The italian archaeological mission will soon publish the topographical map of the ancient and medieval city of Bosra, using the documentation of the recent excavations.

was the chief town of the Provincia Arabia during the Roman age and also the chief town of the Metropolis under Phillip the Arab.Christianism caught on at the very first time and Bosra’s bishops had the title of metropoliti of the Patriarchy of Antiochia since V century. An early adfirmation of Islam has been realized in the city. There are many byzantine and islamic legends about the presence of the young Muhammad beside the nestorian monk Bahira, that would have announced to him his future mission, and about the first copy of the Koran, that the camel of the Prophet would have deposed in the place where the Mosque of al-Mabrak is lately built.

East district
the remains of a monumental nabatean palace surrounded by arcades are a clear example of the continuity of life in the east district.It could be identified with a sanctuary, and Roman buildings of the II century a.C were built on it. An inscription remembers a sanctuary dedicated to Rome and August in the neighbourhood, and always on the same place a palace with mosaics was built during the IV-V century, whose function has not been still identified. It was transformed in a big church with central plan in the V-VI century, and a small basilica adjoined the church in south. Size and plan of the new building allow to identify it with the cathedral of Bosra. For the same reason the "Palace of Traiano" , wich adjoins the church, was recently identified with the Episcopal Palace.

South Spa
built in the II century a.C. with an asymmetrical plan, it was changed in simmetrical plan during the III century. The spa became larger during the IV century and it occupies places formerly public. Changes continued during the omayyad age, because customers were year after year many more. Finally an industrial oven was installed in the central room and the north-east rooms became the place where the flour was produced. The building is preserved particularly well and a lot of materials have been found here, so the searches in this area are extremely good.

the last discoveries of the syrian-italian mission have shown that the big church has an absidal structure and that it has on the outside two esedra, wich are probably the extremities of an arcade. The searches have continued in the area of the presbyterium (closed with a wall until 1978 and consequently unknown until now), where the level of the VI century has been found under the medieval floor (built with slabs of basalt), together with the synthronon (five steps). There are also other discoveries: the base of the ambone, carved fragments of marble and slabs of proconnesian marble used for covering the wall, and a lot of mosaic tesseras in dough of glass, in gold and silver, that document how precious the decoration of the walls and of the presbyterium was.The prestigious church of the VI century, after the collapse of the structures of the tetraconco, continued the liturgical functions in the small basilical building with three naves, wich was documented during the last century by De Vogue. This small basilica was built according to the architectural canons of the Haruan region, and it occupied the area of the ancient presbyterium and of the east esedra of the tetraconco. The floor was later add, so that the first two steps of the synthronon were covered. Frescoes were painted in the presbyterium area during the medieval age and this is the reason why the windows were closed. Today just traces of sacred imagery remain of the frescoes, and they are painted in the absidal body of the wall. They were probably located along the sides of the Virgo, observed by De Vogue at the end of the last century. There are also narrative scenes painted on the presbyterium walls. Unfortunately these frescoes have been seriously damaged during the modern age. This area of the church has been transformed, and a series of transversal arcades cover the wall and its frescoes. Today restorers are working on these frescoes. In fact they are particularly important for two good reasons: because frescoes are rare in Syria and because they prove the continuity of the liturgical activity in the church and the pacific coexistence of Christianism and Islam.

Valeria Beolchini

Top of pageAbout usEdizioni SpoliaJoin the Spolia teamRassegna stampaPartnerIn Italiano