The Hole in the Roof

Several rooms in the House XVII were restored and reused by the Druze and Masa’eid Arabs early in the 20th century. A central goal of AFCP Preservation and Presentation Project is to preserve two of these to enable visitors to to see the continuity between late antique and current cultures. The problem with one of these was that there was a hole in the roof due to a slumping corbel right inside the entry.  The danger was this roof could collapse and cause serious injury to visitors. Our initial plan was to support this slumping corbel with a permanently installed I-beam post. When we proposed this solution to our local mason Awda Masa’eid, he immediately shook his head, and said: “No, no, I can fix that easily—so that it will be much safer and look just as it was.”

What follows is the story of his common sense, effective solution, completed during the last two weeks of April. Check out the slides to follow Awda’s journey.

This was the first of a number of simple but effective solutions provided by Awda and his team, which have made the preservation process of this project efficient and successful beyond our best hopes. The most spectacular of these was the consolidation of House XVIII’s famous double windows, a story we plan to tell shortly. What we’ve learned here is this:

Incorporation of local talent into the archaeological process makes possible the perpetuation of a living heritage.

We’ve been looking at building techniques that were first documented for the Stone and Bronze Ages (think of Jawa, for example); these survived because local masons inserted them into the regional Nabataean, Greek, Roman and Byzantine building programs. And they were kept alive through their use by masons in the Islamic (Umayyad, Mamluk, Ottoman) and Early Modern periods who passed on these ancient traditions to new generations. The fine work being done by Awda and his young assistants is still part of this cycle.

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