Fig 9. Modern housing. Photo Credit: Idleb Antiquities Center.

Mount Al-Zawiyah constitutes the Southern part of the limestone massif, and in that broad sector located in Idleb Governorate, there are two archaeological parks:

  • Park No./4/, which includes the sites of Al-Bara, Wadi Martahun “Valley of Martahun”, Majliya, Batrasa, Bashila, Shinshirah or Ruins of Hass ” known as Khirbet Hass”, Rabiaa, Bauda, Dellozeh, and Serjilla.
  • Park No./5/,which includes the villages of Ruweiha and Jarada.

 

The Archaeological Park No. 5

This park is located in Idlib governorate and extends over the Eastern slope of Mount Al-Zawiyah. It includes two villages, Ruweiha and Jarada, and the natural scenery between them preserved the exceptional features of the classical agricultural divisions for several kilometers. These divisions were preserved over a wide area and they are characterized by low walls (less than 30 cm), stretching over straight lines, forming a perpendicular grid. The agricultural scene, which is still visible till today, dates back to a late period after the amendments of the primary grid by the Eighth century and sometimes Tenth century.

Modern divisions can be distinguished easily, they are implemented with higher walls (about 1 m), and they consist of stones stacked on a single row, showing between them multiple voids. The used stones are larger, and the modern paths are either straight or winding.

 

 

 

Fig 1. A Map showing the Distribution of the Park No. /5/ villages.

Ruweiha

The village of Ruwaiha is located on the Northeastern side of Mount Al-Zawiyah near the town of Sarja, and 15 km to the North of Ma’arat al-Nu’man. It is situated on a high plateau overlooking the neighboring agricultural plains, and surrounded by deep valleys separating it from the site of Jarada, which is next to it.

It belonged to Antioch (the first capital of Syria) in the Fifth century AD. This village emerged at the beginning of the Third century AD, but prospered in the Fifth century AD, and it has been assumed that the village was inhabited at the end of the Fifth century AD. During the Sixth century AD, it became inhabited by the major landowners who built huge houses with high walls and this is what distinguishes the village of Ruweiha from the rest of the neighboring ancient villages.

This village is famous by the church of Bissos which is one of the largest churches in Mount Al-Zawiyah and the first Basilica church in the history in general. It is also distinguished by its tombs that are still challenging time. It contains the shrine of Bissos, which is a unique model as well.

Fig 2. A perspective drawing for the church of Bissos in Ruweiha.

(Ref: Les villages antiques du massif calcaire du nord de la Syrie, Maamoun Abdulkarim, Beyrouth, Presses de l’Ifpo, 2011)

Documentation of the Current State:

A small community lives within the archaeological site since the pre-war period. These residents work in agriculture and livestock. The presence of that community and the use of the archaeological buildings as stables or barns helped protecting the buildings from external violations.

 

The main violation acts what affected the archaeological site were identified as the following:

1- Archaeological Stone Cutting:

The team note that there are organized attempts of cutting large stones from the ancient buildings inside the site to use them in the construction of modern buildings. We saw piles of stones cut in separate places of the site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 3. Archeological stones were cut in order to reuse. Photo Credit: Idleb Antiquities Center.

2- Housing and Urban Encroachments:

There are many modern buildings in the site since the pre-war period. They were built with modern stones and cement, and these buildings have maintained their presence without modern additions that offend the general scene of the site

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 4. Modern housing. Photo Credit: Idleb Antiquities Center.

3- Using the Site as a Barn for Animals

As a result of the ongoing war and the absence of the archaeological authorities, part of the ancient village buildings were converted to stables and barns. The owners closed the windows and doors using stones and mud. Some modern amendments such as fences for the animals have been added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 5. Modern amendments such as the fences for animals. Photo Credit: Idleb Antiquities Center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 6. Using the Site as a Barn for Animals. Photo Credit: Idleb Antiquities Center.

4- The Military Presence:

At the Eastern part of the site, there was a military group. Modern additions to the archaeological construction such as cement were added, but there is no demolition of the ancient buildings and their architecture and unfortunately we could not obtain pictures of the violations.

 

The Environmental and Architectural Surroundings of the Site:

The surrounding nature and landscape of Ruweiha has been generally preserved. The surrounding fields are still in their previous state, and although there are some modern buildings and some additions to the old buildings but the site was well preserved until 2019. However, since the beginning of 2020, this entire region has become endangered, and site has become in the front line of fire and armed clashes.

 

Jarada

Jarada is located about 12 km away to the North of Ma’arat al-Nu’man, and 1.5 km to the East of the village of Ruweiha. The site is located within the residential houses on a hillside, on the road between Ruweiha and Ma’arat al-Nu’man. The buildings are distributed from the North to the South and are still well preserved.

This village flourished in the Fifth and Sixth centuries AD. Many towers from that time have survived. Some of them were used for religious purposes, others served as observation towers, and some were used as shelters during the invasions and attacks on the village.

What makes Jarada very special is the nature of its agricultural lands that are suitable for the production of many crops. This helped the diversity and wealth reflected in the nature of buildings that are characterized by richness and magnitude, and indicates that the rich class were the owners of the mentioned luxury houses.

Fig 7. An image for a tower in Jarada site. Photo Credit: Idleb Antiquities Center.

Documentation of the Current State:

Jarada site is characterized by the presence of locals within a small rural gathering which helped preserving and protecting its archaeological identity but this didn’t prevent some violations from happening.

 

The main violation acts what affected the archaeological site were identified as the following:

1- Archaeological Stone Cutting:

The cutting of large stones from the ancient buildings inside the site to suit the modern building have been already registered and identified. There are also piles of stones separated in order to transport them to other places. The stones are supposed to be used in the construction of modern building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 8. Archeological stones were cut in order to reuse. Photo Credit: Idleb Antiquities Center.

2- Housing and Urban Encroachments (Modern Buildings):

There are some modern buildings located on the borders of the site in separate places, which ruined the archaeological cultural scene of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 9. Modern housing. Photo Credit: Idleb Antiquities Center.

3- Using the Site as Ranches:

Because of the increased population on the borders of this site, some buildings have been used for animal husbandry. Animal remains, or droppings etc. are clearly seen and spread throughout many parts of the site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 10. Using the Site as ranches. Photo Credit: Idleb Antiquities Center.

4- Illegal Excavations:

The team note that there are a few recent and not deep random excavations in the site. The few superficial pits indicate secret excavation work, but they did not cause any damage to the site’s buildings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 11. Secret excavations in Jarda site. Photo Credit: Idleb Antiquities Center.

The Environmental and Architectural Surroundings of the Site:

The natural landscape surrounding the site of Jarada has been well preserved. Although there are some minor encroachments such as the cutting of ancient stones and modern urban sprawl, the site was still good preserved until 2019. But with the beginning of 2020, the area became vulnerable because of the clashes and armed forces invasions. The Syrian regime forces and its militias took control of the village of Jarada at the beginning of 2020, and the village today is in the line of fire and airstrikes.

 

Conclusion:

This report shows the extent of the damages the archaeological villages (that are recorded on the World Heritage lists) have been exposed to. However, we confirm that most of these damages neither affect the importance of these villages nor reduce their cultural and archaeological status contributing to be classified on the list of the most important international heritage. We exclude from this summary the location of Al-Bara, which was exposed to a greater damage, and we will explain that in the report of the Idleb Antiquities Center later.

In Addition to that, it is important to note that we couldn’t release a documented report on the Valley of Martahun, but it is likely that the site suffered extensive damages and vandalism acts which might have distorted its distinguished archaeological status and affected its cultural function.

The remaining sites are in a good status, most of the detected damages are small and can be removed over time. Some exceptions lie in some acts of vandalism that lightly harmed certain decorative elements, but mentioned acts remain limited and did not spread dangerously.

The results of this report remain confined in the period leading up to the military operations that started with the first three months of this year, as these villages were exposed to new damages caused by air shelling in addition to the increased military deployment in the region. Some of these villages are also under the control of the Syrian regime forces and its supplemented Militias, like Shinshirah (Khirbet Hass) and Jarada. While all remaining archaeological villages fell within the areas of battles and fighting.

We hope that the current changes will neither affect the current situation of these ancient villages nor make the situation worse. We also hope for the return of the local people to their towns and continue living near that archaeological sites, so that the region is a perfect example of the patterns of coexistence between human and historical and environmental surroundings.


This report is part of the Archaeological Park Documentation Project has been executed under the scientific supervision of Dr. Abdalrazzaq Moaz and was funded by the Gerda Hankel Foundation – Germany.

 

 

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