Thursday, March 18, 2010
Israeli archaeologists identified Caliph Mu’awiya’s Lakeside Palace
The existence of a palace at al-Sinnabra is reported by early Arab historians, but its precise location was long unknown. Between 1950 and 1953 the archaeologists Guy and Bar-Adon excavated a large fortified structure on Tel Bet Yerah which they dated to the Byzantine period (c. 330-620 CE). A large hall in the center of the complex had a curved apse facing south and colorful mosaic floors. When they discovered a stone bearing an engraved depiction of a seven-branched candelabrum, they quickly dubbed the entire building a synagogue, and it was soon incorporated in the Beth Yerah National Park – a popular tourist destination during the 1950s and 1960s, now abandoned. Over the years the identification of the structure was questioned, but only in 2002 was a new interpretation offered by Donald Whitcomb of the University of Chicago: the “synagogue” was in fact the Palace of al-Sinnabra, where Umayyad rulers used to spend the winter months near the regional capital at Tiberias.
Early historians of the Umayyad dynasty report that this palace was used by the first Caliph, Mu’awiya, as well as by Abd al-Malik, the builder of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The palace was a center of royal activity, with the fate of princes being decided within it. After the fall of the dynasty, al-Sinnabra declined and the palace was dismantled down to its foundations. However, the surviving remains – thick wall-stubs over two meters deep – permit the reconstruction of the layout of the palace, the bathhouse and the wall and towers that protected them during the first century after the birth of Islam.
“This discovery is significant not only because of the importance of the Umayyad palace”, notes Greenberg, “but because of its unique location next to an earlier Byzantine church and a short distance away from the historical cemetery of early Zionist pioneers. Taking into account the more ancient remains at the site as well as the lake itself, we have a remarkable convergence of natural and historic values that represent the full complexity of the heritage of present-day Israel.”
Source: Tel Aviv University