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Madaba Map

Archaeology of Israel

The Madaba Map is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George in Madaba, Jordan. Furthermore, the Madaba Map contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem. Officially it dates to the 6th century CE. Moreover, The Map depicts Jerusalem with the New Church of the Theotokos; which was dedicated on 20 November 542. Interestingly buildings erected in Jerusalem after 570 are absent from the depiction; thus limiting the date range of its creation to the period between 542 and 570.

Who Are The Artists That Made Madaba Map? 

So the mosaic was made by unknown artists. But it was probably for the Christian community of Madaba; which was the seat of a bishop at that time. Then in 614, Madaba was conquered by the Sasanian Empire. In the eighth century, the ruling Muslim Umayyad Caliphate had some figural motifs removed from the mosaic. Ultimately in 746, Madaba was largely destroyed by an earthquake and subsequently abandoned.

Furthermore, the floor mosaic is located in the apse of the church of Saint George at Madaba. It is not oriented northwards, like modern maps, but faces east towards the altar in such a fashion that the position of places on the map coincides with the actual compass directions. Originally, it measured 21 by 7 m and contained over two million tesserae. 



The Largest and Most Detailed Element of the Topographic Depiction Is Jerusalem

So the largest and most detailed element of the topographic depiction is Jerusalem. In fact, it is located right at the center of the map (see photo below). Furthermore, the Madaba Map clearly shows a number of significant structures in the Old City of Jerusalem: the Damascus Gate, the Lions’ Gate; the Golden Gate; the Zion Gate; the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; the New Church of the Theotokos; the Tower of David and the Cardo Maximus. On Jerusalem’s southwest side is shown Acel Dama (lit. “field of blood”); from Christian liturgy. The recognizable depiction of the urban topography makes the mosaic a key source of Byzantine Jerusalem. 



The Mosaic Map of Madaba Is the Oldest Known Geographic Floor Mosaic in Art History

The Madaba Map is the oldest known geographic floor mosaic in art history. It is used heavily for the localization and verification of biblical sites. The study of the map played a major role in answering the question of the topographical location of Askalon (Asqalan on the map). Then in 1967, excavations in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem revealed the Nea Church and the Cardo Maximus in the very locations suggested by the Madaba Map.

In February 2010, excavations further substantiated its accuracy with the discovery of a road depicted in the map that runs through the center of Jerusalem. According to the map, the main entrance to the city was through a large gate opening into a wide central street. Until the discovery, archaeologists were not able to excavate this site due to heavy pedestrian traffic. In the wake of infrastructure work near the Jaffa Gate, large paving stones were discovered at a depth of four meters below ground that prove such a road existed.

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arik-about

Hi! My name is Arik Haglili, an Israeli native who decided to dedicate his life to share my knowledge about the Holy Land to those that are interested to know more about this amazing piece of land. My career as a private tour guide started at the International School For the Studying of the Holocaust and the rest is history. 

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