Wednesday 17 April 2013

Flight 20130414, Field Trip 20130416 - al-Muwaqqar

Cropped section of RAF Topographical photograph dated 14 September, 1948 showing Al-Muwaqqar before the modern village was built.
Looking at the site of Al-Muwaqqar on historical RAF photographs from the 1940s, we were puzzled by a rectangular dark shape that resembled the outline of a small reservoir, south east of the known desert castle and south-west of the known large reservoir. Overlaying the photograph in Google Earth allowed us to pin point a GPS coordinate to investigate from the air, which was done on our second flight of the season - 14 April, 2013.
Aerial photograph taken 14 April 2013 with features indicated. © APAAME_20130414_DLK-0013
During our flight we thought we did not find the site, suspecting it had since been built over or buried by time. We did see exposed walls and mosaics of a recently excavated site - possibly a mansion or bath building, which we did photograph (Mega-J 58371 'Mwaqer Mosaic House'). Upon a closer look at the photographs post flight, a large wall to the west of the 'mansion' was clearly evident. We had indeed found the site we were looking for - but was it a reservoir wall?
Exposed section of 'reservoir' wall. © APAAMEG_20130416_MND-0013.
'Mansion'? © APAAMEG_20130416_MND-0016.
A quick ride in the car east of Amman on the road towards Azraq enabled us to follow up what we had photographed. Indeed, the wall west of the 'mansion' was substantial, moreover, the possible evidence of waterproofing with cement was apparent - though ancient or modern we do not know. An associated double wall was just evident on the surface running off diagonally from the south-western corner of the structure to the north-west. The eastern extent of the reservoir was not readily apparent. The section of excavated 'mansion' next to it had a beautifully paved floor, at least three mosaics (one almost complete), and evidence of at least two building events - one with large square stone paving blocks, a later one of tile and mortar. The whole site unfortunately was being impacted by construction waste being dumped in the area, and was cut by a road, drain and the construction of a neighbouring house.
Aerial photographs taken by the AAJ in 1998 and 2008 (Click to enlarge).
We also visited Qasr al-Muwaqqar, an Umayyad Desert Castle now overlain by the modern town. This site had also been much impacted by modern use; new concrete houses have encroached on this site, and some of the vaulted rooms appear to have been converted into early modern houses (complete with traditional reed and mud roofs), much like what has occurred as Qasr Azraq. These houses are now used as livestock pens by local residents. Rubbish is also dumped on the site. Sandstone columns and a regularly paved floor attested to the Qasr's former glory. The numerous ornate column capitals from the site have long-since been removed, as has the stone water-gauge.
Goat pens at Qasr al-Muwaqqar.
© APAAMEG_20130416_DLK-0052.
Paving Qasr al-Muwaqqar.
© APAAMEG_20130416_REB-0026.

The large reservoir of el-Muwaqqar is visible from the road. The site has been restored and is functional - still half full from the season's rains.
Large reservoir at Al-Muwaqqar. © APAAMEG_20130416_DLK-0058.
All photographs from the flight and ground visit will be available on Flickr shortly. Follow us at @APAAME on twitter for updates.

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