Exploring A Major Complex
Nicknamed by locals Beit Sheikh, or the Home of the Sheikh, so-called House XVII-XVIII is a major mixed-use complex in the southeast section of Byzantine-Umayyad Umm el-Jimal. Howard Crosby Butler, the Princeton archaeologist who first mapped Umm el-Jimal in 1905 and 1909, gave the structure this official name based on his belief that the complex was two distinct domestic buildings. Butler’s interpretation prevailed until 2012, when project archaeologists excavating the structure discovered a doorway connecting both buildings and other evidence demonstrating that it is in fact a single, massive complex. While final interpretation of these results is ongoing, research data suggests that House XVII-XVIII did begin its centuries-long occupation as a home, and later was expanded into an administrative center or possibly even a hotel for caravans and dignitaries traveling through the region.
Fifteen hundred years later, the building remains an impressive structure to discover and explore. The Umm el-Jimal Project’s longtime icon, a beautiful and precariously-perched double arched window, is located in the third story eastern wall. No less than six doorways provide entry into the structure, and its large central courtyard is almost 400 square meters. In antiquity a massive tower was located in the complex’s northwest corner, while cantilevered stairwells provided access to the building’s second and third stories. A large reservoir was located under the eastern wall, which provided a comparatively high volume of water for its occupants.
Due to its representative feature set, size, complexity, and architectural diversity, the House XVII-XVIII complex is a prime focus for the project's current research and conservation efforts. This work has been made possible by 2012 and 2014 grants from the US Department of State's Ambassador Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP). For details about the process of excavating, clearing, and consolidating the site, watch the slideshow above or check out the videos on the Site Conservation page. Academic publication of the grant project results will be completed in 2015.
As House XVII-XVIII is a major stop on any site visit to Umm el-Jimal—and this website's Virtual Tour, project staff are developing a walking tour guide for the complex as part of the AFCP grant's publication process. Scheduled for completion in Fall 2014, the guide will be available for download in the Library.
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