Thursday, 5 November 2015

Day 4: Belvoir and Jerusalem

The group on the (draw)bridge at Belvoir
After seeing the remains of Crusader Tiberias yesterday evening, today began with a presentation by Katia Cytryn-Silverman of the Israeli Antiquities Authority about further investigations in the city. In particular she talked about the extensive mosque complex which has been excavated, and since re-covered, in the eastern area of the city. The mosque, comparable in size to the White Mosque at Ramla, featured spolia from the Byzantine period of the city. The mosque itself, however, may later have been re-purposed to form part of a crusader period church, demonstrating the often competing yet fluid historical claims on a densely-packed urban space.

Re-use and redevelopment at Belvoir
After the talk we hit the road again, heading first for the Crusader castle of Belvoir, or the Star of the Jordan. This impressive Hospitaller fortification, which was excavated in the 1960s but with minimal publication, is at once simple and obvious and simultaneously extremely complex. It sits in the landscape above the Jordan Valley in a strategically valuable and dominating position, and its concentric fortification walls are a well-known and unmissable landmark. Nevertheless, many uncertainties remain about the castle, which was built fairly rapidly in the late twelfth century. It is not even known, for example, when it was finally abandoned. Recent work, about which we were delighted to receive talks by Vardit Shoten-Hallel (Israeli Antiquities Authority) and Simon Dorso (University of Lyon II), looking both at the remains of the chapel and the fort area itself, including earlier excavated material, is revealing overlapping stages or rearrangement, modification and re-use of areas of the fortress. It is to be hoped that the next six planned seasons of excavation will begin to provide further answers about this enigmatic monument to military engineering.

Vardit explaining the complex jigsaw that is the reconstruction of the Crusader chapel

And over lunch, a puzzle of our own.

Plans for a picnic lunch at Belvoir were changed because of the risk of rain, but our lunch in Bet Shean instead provided the opportunity for an impromptu ceramics seminar. And then we headed through the Jordan Valley towards Jerusalem, making it to the city in time for our plenary meeting.This was a great opportunity to reflect on what we had learned and find out more about the up-coming trips to Greece and Jordan. 

Reflecting on our experiences so far...

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