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Early Islamic cultural heritage preservation

Interdisciplinary research conducted on the early Islamic complex of Khirbet el-Mafjar (Jericho) on the West Bank can help ensure its preservation and public enjoyment. It also exemplifies how cultural heritage can become an engine of socioeconomic development.
Early Islamic cultural heritage preservation
Khirbet el-Mafjar is a well-preserved Umayyad Palace in the Near East and represents initial development of early Islamic architecture. It is currently an essential constituent of the Palestinian identity, and an important landmark of their cultural heritage.

JERICHO (Understanding and preserving early Islamic Jericho: Towards a management plan for the site of Khirbet el-Mafjar (Palestine)) was an EU-funded project that conducted interdisciplinary research on this complex. It also assessed its present condition. The team created an analytical strategy based on the methodological principles of archaeology of architecture. This was done through excavation and documentation campaigns, including remote sensing survey and drone flights for aerial photogrammetry.

This resulted in discovery of the first Umayyad congregational mosque within the Palace building (Qasr). In so doing, the work completely changed understanding of the phasing of the building of the Palace itself, as well as of the entire complex. Another main building of the Umayyad complex was analysed, which produced remarkable results.

An occupation of the site during the post-Umayyad period was revealed through excavations in the ‘northern area’. The finding shows a continuity of occupation as well as existence of structures from the Umayyad period. Results from a remote sensing survey bring to light new questions about the existence of Roman structures underneath the Umayyad complex.

JERICHO drafted a management plan in order to promote the socioeconomic development of the local community through responsible development of cultural tourism. Furthermore, it is important in preservation of the site and identification of the cultural and historical values it represents. A plan for the presentation in the visitor centre at the site through ortho-photography, photogrammetry and 3D virtual reconstruction has been made in a recording. Partners also produced a computer-generated 3D model of the buildings.

Project work has resulted in new insights into the history of Khirbet el-Mafjar, and the Palestinian Department of Antiquities has received help in the development of the local tourist industry. The work also helps provide identity values for the Palestinian people to articulate their historical and cultural narratives. This will be useful to, among others, architects, archaeologists and cultural heritage professionals who will benefit from the analytical and scientific methods.

Related information

Keywords

Early Islamic, cultural heritage, Khirbet el-Mafjar, Jericho, Umayyad Palace, archaeology
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