|Salvaged columns on display at Umm el-Qundun.|
Umm el-Qundun lies on a hilltop 13 km SSE of the centre of Roman Philadelphia (Amman). The region all around is fertile red soils and intensely farmed today – all along the roadsides farmers have set up boxes of their freshly harvested tomatoes, beans, melons etc. When we flew over the site on Sunday Mat photographed a large house on the hilltop in which he had spotted what looked like parts of columns lined up along a verandah. Zooming in on the photos in the Institute later that day confirmed they seemed to be parts of ancient columns.
Qundum was our first port of call this morning and easily found. It is a delightful house, seemingly unattended except by some loud (and, happily) enclosed dogs in the courtyard. The walls are largely constructed from what look like re-used squared blocks of ancient stonework – presumably recycled from some nearby ancient site. What caught our attention, however, was first the row of broken columns we had come to see (columns rather than milestone drums as I had hoped might be the case) then all the other pieces of architectural decoration: a few column capitals, piece of architrave, some finely carved pieces. Round the corner was the covered mouth of an ancient cistern and a rebuilt second cistern with a plaque recording it had been done by ‘The Messengers of Peace NGO’ and financed by ‘OME World Organization for Education’ of Geneva.
Of course the place is ‘known’ – a German survey had recorded material there as had a later team of the Madaba Plains Project. They noted the architectural pieces (without illustrating any) but supplied the detail that the farm belonged to Mamdou Bisharat and the pieces had been collected from the vicinity. As it happens I had met Mamdou – a very courtly gentleman, some years ago at drinks in his Amman home then subsequently swum in his delightful natural hot springs farm beside the R. Yarmuk just north of Umm Qeis (Gadara) and near where the Roman thermal spring site lay (now in Israel across the river). Both his town and Umm Qeis houses are festooned with pieces of ancient architecture and sculpture (whose provenance he has reported to the DoA).
|Roman road on the outskirts of Hanafish. © APAAME_20130414_DLK-0075.|
|Roman road near Hanafish at ground level.|