Jarash Water Project: Report on 2013 field season

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Despite the frequent references to water installations in publications describing the results of excavations within the Decapolis city of Gerasa (modern Jarash), very little has been published on the sources and water management system that sustained them. The purpose of the Jarash Water Project is to fill this knowledge gap through the analysis of historical records, photographs and archaeological reports and by conducting new field surveys. The 2013 field program included a pedestrian survey of selected areas in the valley and hills to the north, south and west of the city to locate and trace the historic aqueducts to the city and its hinterland, and a preliminary survey of selected areas within the upper Wādi el Majarr-Wādi Tannur valley to gain an understanding of water management in the rural context. A total of 36 elements were recorded at 35 sites during the survey.
A potentially significant aqueduct has been confirmed approaching the city down a steep gradient from the north-west, and there is evidence from carbonate sediment deposits within this aqueduct of its use over a period of about 100 years. This aqueduct would have entered the city close to the North-West Gate. It is not known what this water was used for, or the period it was in use, but the high elevation of its likely entry point into the city (ca. 630 m) means that - theoretically - its water could have been delivered to virtually any point within the city. Earthquake damage at one location points to a possible reason for its ultimate closure. Several aqueducts approach the city from the north on both sides of the Wādi ed Deir valley; aqueducts on the west side are sourced from 'Ain esh Shawāhid and possibly 'Ain el Birketein, and an aqueduct on the east side sourced from 'Ain Bisās er Rūm may have supplied the eastern side of Gerasa. A masonry aqueduct of likely Roman-Byzantine date that crossed the central part of the valley immediately north of the city may have been sourced from Birketein, however its function and destination remain uncertain. None of the northern aqueducts can be observed to enter the city; however, reuse of several of these aqueducts in the late Ottoman period to provide irrigation water for fields in the northern valley and within the city walls points to the possibility of the original aqueducts having the potential to deliver water to the city at a level that could have supplied the major water installations on the west side of the city. There is evidence of rock-cut aqueducts on both sides of the Wādi Jarash south of the city, including a rare section of tunnel, that would have provided irrigation water to the rich soils of Wādi Jarash valley south of Jarash; a function that some of them still fulfil today.
While the results to date are sufficient to show that water from Birketein was not the sole source of water supply for the water monuments on the west side of the city, many uncertainties remain. Future work will seek to determine when the main aqueducts to the city were in use and went out of use, their ultimate destinations, the consumption requirements of the main water installation within the city and the importance of irrigation requirements in the overall water management system.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages36
Specialist publicationAnnual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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