‘Colorful’ Eastern Roman tomb discovered in the ancient site of Beit Ras, northern Jordan


Capitolias (or Καπιτωλιας in Greek) was an ancient Roman planned city, possibly founded circa 97-98 AD for military purposes, and is presently identified within the confines of modern-day village of Beit Ras, northern Jordan. And now the settlement that was counted among the ten cities of the Decapolis (centered in southeastern Levant) listed by Pliny the Elder, has showcased its legacy from the late Roman epoch, in the form of a fascinatingly vibrant tomb complex. And while it may seem antithetical for a grim burial, the ‘vibrant’ scope pertains to the various brightly colored frescoes that cover the walls of the tomb chambers.


Interestingly enough, the discovery in itself was made quite fortuitously, with the unearthing being achieved during works to extend a local sewerage network. In terms of structure, the tomb complex comprises two separate chambers. The larger one among them consists of a basalt sarcophagus that is decorated with the carvings of lion heads. As for the smaller one, the chamber contained two additional graves, but without any accompanying artifact.


Now as we mentioned before, the incredible part of this archaeological scope pertains to the vibrantly colored frescoes that dot the walls of the chambers. According to Jordan Tourism Board, these kaleidoscopic scenes depict a range of subjects – from human forms, horses to even mythological renditions; thus alluding to the seemingly ‘festive’ funerary rites of the time. And since we brought up the time-factor, researchers have hypothesized (from preliminary analysis) that the tomb is dated from the late Roman or early Eastern Roman (Byzantine) period, which corresponds to late antiquity.


Lastly, the historical ambit of Capitolias is not just limited to the Roman time-frame. In fact, a particular Arabic poetry excerpt not only mentions the city’s name, but also describes how the settlement contained a 2nd century theater and a later Byzantine church that provided the architectural ‘template’ for the subsequent Islamic buildings (of the Ummayad Caliphate era). From the historical perspective, such comparisons do make sense, since many of the earliest Islamic structures, including mosques and shrines, like the Dome of the Rock, were considerably influenced by early Christian styles, namely the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) palaces and churches from the proximate areas.


Via: Anglo Jordanian Society / Image Credits: La Stampa

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