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Qasr al-Mushatta - an Umayyad Palace in Jordan


Qasr al-Mushatta is a palace in Jordan. According to the existing research opinion construction was begun in 733 AD by Walid II in the desert some 30 km south of the former roman town of Philadelphia (today Amman). The early death of Walid in 744 AD may have interrupted building activities. Before 800 AD a heavy earthquake destroyed the palace which for the forthcoming centuries remained abandoned. It was only in the late 19th century when travelers again took notice of the richly decorated „desert castle" connected to the construction of the Bagdad and Hejaz railways. In 1903 the Ottoman sultan Abdülhamid II. donated two thirds of the richly decorated main gate to the German emperor Wilhelm II to be included to the newly built Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Since then the richly decorated façade is one of the landmarks of the Museum of Islamic Arts. On the occasion of the transfer of the stones to Berlin there was only limited possibilities for historic research.

Construction sign

Starting from 2009 a common research and restoration project has been launched by the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Berlin Institute of Technology and the Berlin National Museums in order to document and evaluate the historic site in terms of dating, former use and architectural design and at the same time restore the damaged fabric and rebuild parts of the collapsed architecture. The project is financed by the German research Foundation (DFG) and the Foreign Office of the Federal republic of Germany.

During the spring campaign 2009 the entire palace was surveyed with modern geodetic equipment and research in terms of buildings archaeology in every detail. The result of the research is that the palace was finalized much more than known to present. In 2010 the ground plan of the palace, until then only a hypothetical proposal, was unearthed, documented and reconstructed. Beyond that it has been clarified what parts of the building had been built before the earthquake destroyed the palace.

Starting from autumn 2009 the highly endangered historic brickwork was repaired in the elevations in using old bricks from the site together with a mortar which was developed in accordance with the old ingredients. The wall tops are covered with two or more courses of newly produced bricks similar in format and material to the historic samples. Altogether some 100.000 bricks will be implemented. They also strengthen the walls which bear the historic brick vaulting of the rooms by additional weight according to the results of an expertise of the German civil engineers.

Rebuilding of the arches and the fasade

In autumn 2010 the rebuilding of the façade of the palace with its three arches was begun. More than 80% of the stones are still on the site. They are reassembled in the traditional technique by local workers. The form of the arches naturally is determined by the old stones. The correctness of the result of the reconstruction can be checked from drawings which have been scratched into the stone walls during construction work in the 8th century. The project hopefully will be finalized in spring 2011.

In the next two years projects will be implemented to stabilize the vaulted rooms, to rearrange the situation of the main gate and to implement a site management system. Thus the cultural heritage of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has obtained an additional landmark.

The results of the research project will be published by 2012.

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Johannes Cramer
Technische Universität Berlin
Chair of History of Architecture and Urban Design, Secr. A22
Straße des 17. Juni 152, Raum A907


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