News & Upcoming Events
Capitalizing Jerusalem: Mu’awiya’s Urban Vision – 638-680
By Helena Flusfeder
On Monday, June 8, the Albright Institute hosted a workshop on “Capitalizing Jerusalem: Mu’awiya’s Urban Vision 638-680,” organized by art historian and former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, Professor Beatrice St. Laurent of Bridgewater State University and her colleague, Isam Awwad, Chief Architect and Conservator at the Haram al-Sharif from 1972 to 2004, who is also an Albright Associate Fellow. Eight other scholars, including specialists in the Islamic and Byzantine periods, participated in the closed workshop.
In their presentation on the influence of Mu’awiya’s Urban Vision on the construction of the buildings in the vicinity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, St. Laurent and Awwad identified the building known as Solomon’s Stables in the southeast corner of the Haram al-Sharif as a mosque, proposing that it was originally built by Mu’awiya, the first Umayyad caliph in 639 CE. They further suggested that this Mosque of Mu’awiya might have been the prototype for the first al-Aqsa Mosque.
The researchers proposed that it was “part of Mu’awiya’s grander religio-political urban scheme in Bayt al-Maqdis, as Jerusalem was known at the time, thus re-sacralizing an already significant sacred precinct and proclaiming dominion of that space for early Islam.” They are also convinced that, “prior to his death in 680, Mu’awiya planned and began construction of the Dome of the Rock in the area northwest of his mosque and the reconstruction of the Double Gate as an entrance to both the upper area of the precinct and the Dome. In addition, having already built his palace outside the precinct he also initiated construction of the administrative structures west of his palace establishing Jerusalem as his capital.”
Prof. St. Laurent further pointed out that one of the models for the Dome of the Rock seems to have been “the commemorative early Christian octagonal church, including the Kathisma Church on Bethlehem Road which was built around a central rock and discovered in the mid-1990’s.” She proposed that Mu’awiya was also strongly influenced in his plan for the Dome of the Rock by the church built on a Herodian platform overlooking the harbor at Caesarea. The researchers also proposed that Mu’awiya was instrumental in planning the administrative complex south of the Haram; and that there was a link between South Arabia and Jerusalem’s urban plan. Prof. St. Laurent has been researching the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock for the last 25 years.
Participants in the workshop included Gideon Avni, Head of the Archaeological Division, and Jon Seligman, Director of the Excavations, Surveys & Research Department both of the Israel Antiquities Authority; Meir Ben-Dov, a pre-eminent archaeologist and co-director with Benjamin Mazar of the first Israeli archaeological expedition in Jerusalem from 1968-78; Shimon Gibson of the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem; Miriam Rosen-Ayalon, the Leo A. Mayer Professor Emeritus of Muslim Art and Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Milka Levy-Rubin of the Rubin Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Curator of the Humanities Collection at the National Library in Givat Ram, Jerusalem.
“The survival of the Mosque of Mu’awiya raises an important issue. Up to now, the Dome of the Rock was considered the oldest surviving Islamic monument in the world. The rather plain mosque of Mu’awiya displaces by fifty-one years the physically imposing Dome of the Rock adding an entirely new gloss of simplicity, benevolence and quiet diplomacy to the early Islamic period in Jerusalem,” St. Laurent said.
A lively discussion ensued with not all of the participants agreeing with the presenters.
St. Laurent was recently awarded a Seymour Gitin Distinguished Professorship at the Albright and will be in residence at the institute for four and a half months in early 2016.
By Helena Flusfeder
Albright Associate Fellow and a young archaeologist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Shlomit Bechar has been awarded a Reuben and Edith Hecht Fellowship at the Albright Institute. Bechar is in the second year of her Ph.D. at the Hebrew University and is working on the transition from the Middle Bronze Age to the Late Bronze Age in northern Israel, a period of great importance when the Egyptians’ rising power loomed large, resulting in the establishment of their empire in the area.
Bechar has been excavating at Tel Hazor in the Upper Galilee for the last eight years with Professors Amnon Ben-Tor and the late Sharon Zuckerman who recently passed away. In an interview at the Albright Institute, Bechar said: “Hazor changed my life. It’s a home for me. Being an area supervisor, I’m in charge of recording the artifacts, the architecture, and all of the scientific stuff. Since Hazor is home to me, I try to convey the same idea to the volunteers. Actually, most of our volunteers are `returning volunteers’ so we were able to create a home and family with them.”
Regarding her PhD research, she explains, “I’m looking at the relationship between historical and archaeological periods. My test case is the transition between the Middle Bronze Age and the Late Bronze Age in northern Israel. I’m looking at what’s going on at Hazor with pottery and architecture — Hazor is my `jumping-off point’ to other sites in northern Israel, Lebanon and southern Syria. All of these sites have the same material culture.”
Bechar originally signed up for a degree in Law and Archaeology at the Hebrew University, thinking that “archaeology was just for fun. Law was to make a living.” However, in her first year of archaeology, “we had a tour of Hazor with Doron Ben-Ami. We were standing next to Area M (the area I am in charge of now). Doron pointed to a field and said this was the lower city of Hazor where the simple people lived. I don’t know what happened. That’s when I fell in love with archaeology.”
Bechar was recently awarded the International Graduate Research Students Fellowship at the University of Maryland and participated in a course called “Theories of the Past” where the subject of discussion was the implementation of critical theory in archaeology and anthropology. She has also begun to have her material published and her article, “A Re-analysis of the Black Wheel-Made Ware of the Intermediate Bronze Age” recently appeared in Tel Aviv 42 (2015):27–58.
Bechar is the third Albright Associate Fellow to receive a Hecht Trust Fellowship, preceded by Alexandra Sumner and Shulamit Miller of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research (AIAR)
The W. F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research-AIAR-was founded in 1900, as the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem. Its current mission is to develop and disseminate scholarly knowledge of the literature, history, and culture of the Near East, as well as the study of civilization from pre-history to the early Islamic period.
Located in an historic 1920’s-period building, now a Jerusalem landmark, the Albright maintains residential and research facilities including a 35,000 volume library, publication offices, and archaeological workshops. Annually, 65 fellows from diverse national, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, and including Israeli and Palestinians participate in AIAR’s international fellowship program. It offers a unique opportunity for interaction and the exchange of information and ideas, and promotes intellectual integrity and respect in a friendly and convivial atmosphere. This environment is not duplicated in any other similar institution in the region.
The Institute provides support for North American archaeological excavations and surveys; it also promotes working relationships with other local and foreign institutions in Israel and fosters friendly interaction with the neighboring community.
The Albright Institute provides up to $325,000 in fellowships and special awards each year for senior, post-doctoral, doctoral, and independent scholars. These include the prestigious Seymour Gitin Distinguished Professorship, Annual Professorship, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, Ernest S. Frerichs Fellow and Program Coordinator Fellowship, Educational and Cultural Affairs Fellowships, Noble Group Fellowships for Chinese Scholars, Glassman Holland Research Fellowship for European Scholars, George A. Barton Fellowship, Carol and Eric Meyers Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, and Associate Fellowships.
The Ernest S. Frerichs Program for Albright Fellows
For the past 35 years the Albright Institute has developed and expanded a unique international Fellowship program opened to scholars involved in Near Eastern studies, from prehistory to the early Islamic period. Currently 64 Fellows participate in this program annually. They come from diverse cultural, ethnic, religious and political backgrounds from all over the world, including Israel and the Palestinian Authority. All work together, exchanging information and ideas in a convivial and friendly atmosphere that promotes intellectual integrity and respect, and is not duplicated in any other institution in the region.