Jiyeh (Liban), 2008

Jiyeh (Lebanon)

Jiyeh (Porphyreon) and Chhîm Archaeological Projects

Dates: 26 July — 11 September 2008

Director: Dr. Tomasz Waliszewski, archaeologist (IAUW)
Joanna Czajkowska, photogrammetrist
Karol Czajkowski, photogrammetrist
Dr. Krzysztof Domżalski, archaeologist/ceramologist (IAE PAN)
Julia Gorecka, documentalist (IAUW)
Karol Juchniewicz, archaeologist (IAUW)
Jolanta Juchniewicz, architect (Warsaw University of Technology)
Artur Kaczor, archaeologist
Dr. Magdalena Łaptaś, archaeologist (UKSW)
Magdalena Makowska, documentalist
Dr. Tomasz Nowakiewicz, archaeologist (IAUW)
Agnieszka Szulc, archaeologist
Dr. Mahmud el Tayeb, archaeologist (IAUW)
Urszula Wicenciak, archaeologist/ceramologist (UKSW)
Archaeology students-trainees (IAUW): Iwona Brodzka, Aleksandra Chołuj, Mariusz Gwiazda, Maciej Harla, Iwona Janeczko, Maria Kozinska (Kraków University of Technology), Sylwia Krawczyk, Karol Ochnio, Jarosław Paszkiewicz, Joanna Pazio, Elżbieta Strachocińska, Krystian Trela, Kamil Wojtulewicz, Bartosz Wójcik, Anna Zawadzińska

Following a hiatus in the fieldwork caused by recent military conflicts in the region, the team from the Polish Centre of Mediterranean Archaeology of the University of Warsaw returned to the field. Researchers embarked on a three-year project focused on the settlement structure and chronology of the site identified as the ancient Porphyreon. The modern Jiyeh—Nabi Younis lies 25 km south of Beirut and has been the object of previous work, mostly of an emergency nature, in 2003-2005 (see annual reports in the periodical Polish Archaeology in the Mediterranean). Excavations revealed evidence of pottery production at the site in the Late Hellenistic period (2nd century BC—1st century AD). The basilica, half of which has been uncovered, is at 40 m length the biggest church investigated archaeologically on the Lebanese coast (see the PAM Reports). Further work on clearing the basilica is dependent on the site being fenced in to protect any newly uncovered remains.

Top: Jiyeh—Nabi Younis, view from the north (the site is just beyond the lower edge of the photo) (Photo Krystian Trela); bottom: aerial view of Jiyeh on the Lebanese coast with the location of excavated archaeological remains (Courtesy Maps Geosystems, Liban)

The present project concentrating on a Roman-age habitation quarter, uncovered already in 1975 by Lebanese archaeologist Roger Saidah, will trace one complete quarter of the ancient town, recording the street network, spatial organization of the houses, water supply system etc. The preservation of the site and its potential suggested to the present excavators that Jiyeh is exceptional in Lebanon and its importance for Late Antique archaeology of the region exceeds the regional scale. It clearly fills in a gap between Beirut in the north and the archaeological sites located in the northern part of modern Israel.

Top: aerial (kite) photo of the site from the west with the east wall of the Roman-Byzantine basilica in the foreground; state in 2008 before the start of the program; bottom left: aerial view of the northern part of the habitation district after the season’s work (north is at left); bottom right: Room 30 with partly preserved mosaic pavement in the habitation district east of the basilica (Photos Krystian Trela)

The houses explored this year, covering an area of about 1500 sq.m, are built of local sandstone and have walls preserved to a height of 2-3 m. The team concentrated on tracing floors, streets, staircases — all the elements of the internal communication system inside the settlement. This will help in understanding the function and chronology of particular households and the quarter as a whole. Altogether 70 units were cleared in the course of the season.

Clearance work inside the habitation district (Photo Jarosław Kret)

Testing under the existing architecture has already established a framework for the chronology of the site and the character of earlier episodes of human occupation. The origins of the settlement appear to go back to the Late Bronze Age, thus throwing new light on the history of other Phoenician settlements on this part of the Lebanese coast, especially with regard to the transition from the Iron Age to the Hellenistic period settlement. Layers uncovered in the stratigraphical trench date to the Persian-Hellenistic period (5th-2nd century BC), the Iron Age (8th-7th century) and the Late Bronze (13th-12th century), the latter on culturally sterile soil.

The first of the trenches testing the stratigraphy and chronology of layers underlying the Roman-age habitation district (Photo Bartosz Wójcik)

Additional work carried out at the site of Chhîm, a Romano-Byzantine village in the hinterland of Sidon, cleared a house designated as E.XIX, adding to the set of already 20 archaeologically investigated buildings and confirming yet again the uniformity of village architecture, which comprises rooms with benches around the walls and a roof supported on a central pillar. Continued exploration of the cistern under the 2nd century Roman temple brought the usual array of finds: pottery both imported and local, oil lamps, glass and metal artifacts. The cistern appears to have gone out of use in the 6th century.

Building E.XIX in Chhîm — typical example of a village house of the Roman period (Photo Bartosz Wójcik)

[Text based on information from T. Waliszewski]

T. Waliszewski: twaliszewski@uw.edu.pl