Letture

Inside Machaerus


 Terrasanta.net |  3 luglio 2013

Click on the cover and browse the photogallery.

The eagle's nest of the Machaerus archaeological monument complex, the former Herodian royal seat, in the first rays of the rising Sun. (photo: Jane Taylor)

A 15.5-meter-deep plastered cistern, where a serious quantity of ancient and modern debris had accumulated.

The room No. 3. after excavations, view from the northwest.

The Herodian, royal Mikveh. View from inside.

A September 2006 aerial photograph on the unguarded and abandoned archaeological site of Machaerus.

Another panoramic view of the site of Machaerus (center).

All things considered, the life of the fortified complex of Machaerus was of short duration: built not far from the eastern bank of the Dead Sea in around 90 BC, it was razed to the ground less than two centuries later, in 72 AD, by Roman troops. Today the hill of Machaerus is one of the most interesting and finest archaeological sites in Jordan. The Hungarian archaeologist Győző Vörös has devoted a richly illustrated book to it, which reconstructs both its history and the development of the archaeological investigations in situ.


(g.s.) - All things considered, the life of the fortified complex of Machaerus was of short duration: built not far from the eastern bank of the Dead Sea in around 90 BC by the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus, it was razed to the ground less than two centuries later, in 72 AD, by Roman troops intent on sedating the first Jewish Revolt.

The fortress had already been destroyed in 57 BC by Gabinus, a general under the orders of Pompey, but in 30 BC it had been rebuilt by Herod the Great, who wanted it to form the eastern bulwark of his dominions. In 4 BC, Machaerus passed into the hands of one of his sons: Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. It was here, according to the historian Flavius Josephus, that John the Baptist was imprisoned and then beheaded. A few decades later, the stronghold succumbed once and for all.

Today the hill of Machaerus is without any doubt one of the most interesting and finest archaeological sites in Jordan and the whole region. The Hungarian archaeologist Győző Vörös has devoted a richly illustrated book to it, which reconstructs both its history and the development of the archaeological investigations in situ. It is published in English by Edizioni Terra Santa, the Italian publisher which belongs to the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land.

Vörös coordinated a team of Hungarian, Jordanian and French archaeologists on an excavation and research project in Machaerus between 2009 and 2012.

Father Massimo Pazzini, ofm, dean of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of Jerusalem, in his Foreword to the volume explains that the Studium “is linked, from its beginnings, in a very particular and deep way with the land of Jordan and with some of its most significant places from the point of view of landscape, history, archaeology and religion: Mount Nebo, Madaba, Umm al-Rasas and the baptismal site of Jesus on the east bank of the Jordan River. Besides these at the site of El-Mishnaqa–Machaerus, the Studium conducted two digging campaigns, the first under the direction of the Franciscans Virgilio C. Corbo and Stanislao Loffreda (1978–1981) and the second under the direction of Michele Piccirillo (1992–1993). Several professors of the Studium have breathed the air of Jordan taking part in the excavations on this site, all of this in terms that recall the heroic days of archaeology".

"This is why," writes Pazzini, "we are pleased to participate in the co-edition of this book together with the Hungarian Academy of Arts. We are also confident that the book will represent a valuable contribution to the revival and development of this area rich in history and human affairs".

The richly illustrated volume is the first academic monograph dedicated solely to the Machaerus archaeological site.

“During the 21st century archaeological research of the Holy Land,” explains Professor Vörös in the Introduction, “no-one can forget, that all of us are inheritors of previous generations’ academic legacies. The scientific results have been accumulated, and generations are standing on the shoulders of each other, like circus artists. I felt it would have been impossible to write the first volume of the Machaerus final report series on our excavations and field surveys, as it is only the result of the last four years. The scientific surveys with new discoveries started in 1807 at Machaerus, along with the archaeological excavations in 1968”. The author lists the names of all those who preceded him in the studies, paying them due tribute, then goes on to illustrate in detail the various phases of the history of Machaerus.

Enthusiasts of the subject will find in these pages a mine of precious information which makes the volume essential reading.

(In addition to the photo gallery above, we would like to offer our readers a preview of some pages of the book in Pdf format. Click here)

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Győző Vörös
Machaerus I.

History, Archaeology and Architecture of the Fortified Herodian Royal Palace and City overlooking the Dead Sea in Transjordan
Edizioni Terra Santa, Milan 2013
400 pages – 120.00 euros

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