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Capitolias Theater Quake

Mid 3rd Century CE

by Jefferson Williams









Introduction & Summary

Archeoseismic evidence uncovered at a theater in Capitolias - one of the cities of the Decapolis suggests a strong earthquake struck the area in the decades before 260/261 CE. As the historical record is fairly silent in this part of the world in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE, no known currently extant textual accounts appear to refer to this earthquake and although there are some earthquake catalog entries for 233, 242, and 245 CE, these appear to be false events that propagated from Willis' (1928) catalogue which failed to recognize that dates provided by the Arab chronicler As-Soyuti used the Islamic A.H. calendar instead of the Julian calendar introducing a dating error of ~622 years. Once these false events are removed from consideration, it becomes evident that the archeoseismic evidence uncovered by Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020) represents a new earthquake event discovered by archeoseismic means.

See the Notes section on how errant dates propagated through various earthquake catalogs.

Textual Evidence

There are no known extant textual accounts for this earthquake.

Archeoseismic Evidence

Location Status Intensity Notes
Beit-Ras/Capitolias definitive ≥ 8 Seismic Destruction at Beit Ras/Capitolias in the decades before 260/261 CE defines this earthquake.
Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020) estimated Intensities of VIII-IX (8-9)
Al-Tawalbeh (personal communication, 2021) estimated intensity of close to IX (9) for the mid 3rd century CE earthquake based on collapse of the ambulatorium
A significant site effect does not appear to be present at this location.
Khirbet Tannur 2 possibilities 6-7
5-8
End of Period II Earthquake - dated using McKenzie et al (2013)'s chronology
"Further" Earthquake of McKenzie et al (2013) - dated using McKenzie et al (2013)'s chronology

Beit-Ras/Capitolias

Capitolias Theater Figure 3

An aerial photograph of the excavated Beit-Ras/ Capitolias theater.
Main parts of the theater are indicated. The city wall serves as a buttress in front of the scaena walls and the towers with staircases. The city wall connected with the eastern stage gate and vomitoria gate.

Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020)

Photo taken on 1st October 2015 and photographed by Rebecca Elizabeth Banks (courtesy of Aerial Photographic Archive of Archaeology in the Middle East [APAAME], photo. APAAME_20151001_REB-0193. Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-ND 3.3. East—west length 57 m).


Names

Transliterated Name Source Name
Beit Ras Arabic بييت راس
Capitolias Ancient Greek Καπιτωλιάς
Bet Reisha Aramaic
Introduction

Capitolias, located by the modern town of Beit Ras in Jordan, was one of the cities of the Decapolis. After the Muslim conquest, the town name was changed to Beit Ras, similar to its original Aramaic name Bet Reisha. (C. J. Lenzen in Meyers et al, 1997) A hiatus in occupation at the site has yet been found, but a gradual decrease in size and change in use from public space to private space seems to [have begun] as early as the tenth century CE. (C. J. Lenzen in Meyers et al, 1997) Chronology

Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020) examined archeoseismic evidence in 2019 and 2020 at the theater of Capitolias. They documented archaeoseismic evidence from two earthquakes which appear to have damaged the structure - one before 260/261 CE and one after. The 260/261 CE dividing date is based on a dedicatory inscription found in a rebuilding phase where the eastern aditus maximus gate was walled up. There also appears to be archaeoseismic evidence for later earthquakes. Estimated phasing and chronological discussions for individual earthquakes are listed below.

Phasing - Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020)

  • Major parts of a Roman Theater from Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020)
  • Timeline of the site from Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020)
Phase Comments
The foundation of Capitolias and the construction of the theater
  • According to Lenzen and Knauf (1987), based on numismatic and epigraphic evidence, the city reached its peak of prosperity in the latter half of the second century and the first half of the third century A.D., and the evidence of the coins suggests that the city certainly existed when coins were minted at Capitolias in A.D. 97/98 (Spijkerman, 1978). - Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:5-6)
  • The good economic position of the city promoted the construction of a theater—usually a project of decadal duration - possibly as early as the coins were minted (i.e., at the end of the first century A.D.). The theater was built against a hill slope, a typical engineering solution until the end of the second century A.D. (Sear, 2006). According to Frezouls (1959), many theaters were built in the region throughout the first to third centuries. - Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:6)
1st damage and construction
  • It can be understood that the original theater was heavily damaged by an earthquake, where the perimeter corridor, the ambulacrum, the staircases, and the scaenae were damaged beyond repair, whereas the lateral portions of the cavea survived, including the eastern arched gate of the aditus maximus. Subsequent restoration was made using stones of inferior quality for the scaenae. The staircases and the eastern stage gate were rebuilt (still visible today), whereas the ambulacrum was not. Instead, the gate to the aditus maximus was walled up and marked with a dedicatory inscription. All these were built before A.D. 261—the date of the inscription. A subsequent earthquake cracked the ashlars of the gate, causing stone spalling and breaking off. Finally, the basalt stone portion of the wall is evidence for a later local damage and repair at an unknown time (Fig. 9f ). - Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:6-7)
  • The ambulacrum was never restored, while the scaenae was rebuilt, but from stones of inferior quality. The idea that the ambulacrum collapsed previously is further evidenced by the walling up with chalk limestone masonry on four of the six vomitoria. This was probably done at the same time as when the eastern gate was walled up. - Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:7)
Conversion of use
  • Observations strongly indicate that after the first collapse and subsequent reconstruction as a theater, the building was transformed into an amphitheater - Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:7)
2nd collapse and abandonment
  • It is likely that after the conversion into an amphitheater, at least one other earthquake was responsible for deformation seen in the scaenae wall (i.e., tilting, shifted stones, dropped keystones, stones rotations). The scaenae itself is strongly tilted toward the north, so much so that two-thirds of the original height collapsed and is missing, and leaving behind only a 3-5-meter-high truncated wall. This seismic event definitely contributed to the theater's abandonment, when all damage remained unrepaired (Karasneh et al., 2002). Later, a buttress wall was built to support the tilted scaenae, making it a part of the city wall, in Late Roman-Early Byzantine.
    The second collapse of the theater certainly occurred, after the conversion into an amphitheater and just before buttressing the scaenae wall system. This succession of events is proven by the severely damaged vomitoria arches, which were left unrepaired. It can be suggested that this final collapse led to a final abandonment of the theater.
    - Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:8)
2nd restoration phase
  • conversion into a fortification: The unused theater structure was kept standing by a buttress wall, 1.5 m thick, joining the 1-meter-thick tilted scaenae. This wall encircled both staircases, providing support to the damaged northern facade. Also, there are two walls (part of the city wall) adjacent to the eastern side of the theater (trend northwest-southeast) (Figs. 3 and 5 ). - Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:8)
  • Mlynarczyk (2017) dated a portion of the city wall that has a width of 2.5 m and is located 140 m west of the theater to not later than second century A.D., based on ceramics embedded in abutting floor levels. We think that this dating is not valid for the portion of the city walls adjacent to the theater, where the buttress wall is 1.5 m thick. At this time, the building was still functioning as designed, as a theater or amphitheater, as proven by the inscription dated A.D. 261 (Bader and Yon, 2018). The original city wall was probably somewhere to the south of the theater at that time. The city wall, which blocks most entrances of the theater, was built later, most likely after the second damaging earthquake. Mlynarczyk's doubts can be accepted on "tentatively dated" and "not easy to be dated" ceramics from the lower two stratigraphic levels (i.e., phases) abutting the wall. However, we agree with her assignment of the upper phase (fifth phase) of the wall as Late Roman (fourth-fifth centuries), and consider this period as terminus ante quem when the wall was constructed. - Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:9)
The landfill
  • burying phase: Following the final abandonment, the empty space above the cavea, orchestra, and stage was filled up naturally and/or deliberately with sand and debris (Fig. 11 ), composed of sand-sized to boulder-sized clasts and containing fragments of ceramics and thin charcoal layers. - Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:10)
  • It is most likely that the sediment burying the theater can roughly be dated as Late Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad, because it contained a chaotic mixture of ceramics from these ages, including stamped Late Roman pottery (Karasneh and Fayyad, 2004). According to Lucke et al (2012), four ash bands were identified across the fill material. The 14C dating of these bands indicated that the major part of the sediment was deposited, approximately, between A.D. 521 and 667 (Lucke et al., 2012). This is the period before and during the early years of the Umayyad caliphate (A.D. 661-750). Considering the error of radiocarbon dates measured on old timber (Schiffer, 1986), it is difficult to know exactly how old the living tree and age of dead wood was, when carbonized. This is a terminus post quem for the deposition of the landfill. - Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:10)

Phasing - Lenzen (2003)

Lenzen (2003) provided the following phasing:

Phase Date Comments
I c. 1900 CE - present
II c. 1800-1900 CE
III c. 1500-1800 CE
IV c. 900-1500 CE
V c. 600-900 CE
VI c. 300-600 CE
VII foundation to c. 300 CE

mid 3rd century CE Earthquake

Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020) bracketed the date of the first earthquake between 97/98 CE and a dedicatory inscription dated to 260/261 CE. Although Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:10) noted that a definitive judgment on the time separating the first earthquake occurrence from its subsequent reconstruction [] is difficult to support, restoration efforts memorialized by the inscription suggests that the earthquake likely occurred close to the 260/261 CE date - within a few decades. Numismatic and epigraphic evidence indicated that the city was fairly prosperous from the later half of the second century CE into the first half of the 3rd century CE and thus capable (and willing) to convert their theater to an amphitheater fairly quickly after the damaging earthquake.

Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020) discovered only a few recent earthquakes in the earthquake catalogues near to the 260/261 CE date - in 233, 242, and 245 CE. However, these all appear to be false events propagated from Willis' (1928) first uncorrected catalog which misdated these earthquakes reported by Arab Chronicler As-Soyuti by ~622 years due to a failure to recognize that As-Soyuti's dates were reported in the Islamic calendar (A.H.) rather than the Julian calendar. Ambraseys (2009) reports a possible earthquake in Palmyra, Syria in 233 CE based on an inscription however Palmyra is 310 km. away from the the theater at Capitolias so it is doubtful that an earthquake could have caused heavy damage in both places. Hence, this archeoseismic evidence points towards a previously unrecognized earthquake not reported in the earthquake catalogues and not reported in any extant historical source that I am currently aware of. More details on the false earthquake events propagated from Willis (1928) can be found in Notes.

3rd-5th century CE Earthquake

The second earthquake is believed to have tilted the scaenae wall approximately 8 degrees to the north where the upper 2/3 of that wall is now missing. Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:8) suggest this event led to final abandonment of the theater as so much was left unrepaired. Later, an adjacent buttress wall was built providing a terminus ante quem for the second event. They dated this terminus ante quem to the 4th to 5th centuries CE. Sediment infill in the theater provides a second later terminus ante quem based on ceramics of Late Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad ages and radiocarbon dating of ash bands within the sediment infill which indicated that most of the sediment was deposited between 521 and 667 CE ( Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:10). While their evidence strongly suggests earthquake damage, the dating of the causative event is unfortunately not well constrained.

mid 8th Century CE Earthquake

Mlynarczyk (2017) identified archaeoseismic evidence from what they believed to be a mid 8th century CE earthquake from excavations conducted in 2015 and 2016 in an area west of the theater. She presumed that destruction of the city wall was due to this earthquake.

Area 1-S (W) Square 1 (W)
  • Plan of areas excavated in 2015 and 2016 from Mlynarczyk (2017)
Mlynarczyk (2017:484) described the archaeoseismic evidence as follows:
[Floor] F III rested in part upon quake-related debris of mostly regular limestone blocks tumbled in a northerly direction, doubtlessly from [Wall] W V [Fig. 10 ]. The blocks lay on a compacted earthen floor F IV, approximately 0.65 m below F III. The ceramic material sealed below [Floor] F IV does not seem to be contaminated and pertains to the late Byzantine to Umayyad period. It is to be assumed, therefore, that the earthquake evidenced by the collapsed blocks was that of AD 749.
Area 1-S Square 9
  • Plan of areas excavated in 2015 and 2016 from Mlynarczyk (2017)
Mlynarczyk (2017:489) described the archaeoseismic evidence as follows:
The space between [Walls] W II and W III in the northeastern part of the trench was found filled with ashlars tumbled from the wall(s). The collected pottery is evidence of earthquake destruction in AD 749, even if this unsealed debris contained some intrusive material of a later (Abbasid) period. The lack of a floor above this deposit proves that habitation ceased in this particular area after the earthquake. The rubble was left in place without ascertaining the floor on which it rested.

Later Earthquakes

Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:14) discussed archaeoseismic evidence for later post abandonment earthquakes

We believe that filling up the cavea and orchestra of the theater happened parallel with the construction of the enclosing wall that essentially put all of the remaining building underground. Underground facilities are significantly less vulnerable to seismic excitation than that above-ground buildings (Hashash et aL, 2001). Understandably, when each wall and arch are supported by embedding sediment (dump in Beit-Ras), the observed deformations of the excavated theater mostly cannot develop unless unsupported. Therefore, evidence of damage due to any subsequent events, such as A.D. 551, 634, 659, and 749, cannot be observed, because the possibility of collapse of buried structures is not plausible. However, potential collapse of other above-ground structures within the site of Beit-Ras cannot be ignored, such as the upper elements of the theater's structures, which were still exposed after the filling of the theater with debris. Several observations indicated that many collapsed elements of the upper parts of the theater were mixed with the debris, as documented in excavation reports by Al-Shami (2003, 2004). Another example suggesting the effect of the later events, such as that of A.D. 749. Mlynarczyk (2017) attributed the collapse of some sections of the city wall of Beit-Ras to this event, based on the concentration of collapsed ashlars and the age of collected pottery from two trenches excavated to the west of the theater structure.
Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:6) also noted the following about the eastern orchestra gate:
The basalt masonry in the upper left (Fig. 9f ) suggests a later local collapse and repair phase, where the basalt courses are overlaying the marly-chalky limestone to the left of the walled arched eastern gate.

Seismic Effects
Seismic Effects - mid 3rd century CE and 3rd-5th century CE Earthquake

  • Major parts of a Roman Theater from Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020)
  • Plan of the Capitolias Theater with damage locations from Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020)
Seismic Effects observed by Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020) in the Capitolias Theater are listed below. See plan above (referred to as Figure 5 by Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020) for locations.

Damage Type Event Figure Comments
Displaced Arches ?4 6a The flat arches are seen as the lintel arches above the stage gates (Fig. 6a) (Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:4)1
Displaced Arches ?4 6b The eastern stage gate (versurae), trending north-south, has a flat arch and a stress-releasing segmental arch above, where two stones of the flat arch dropped down almost 3 cm (Fig. 6b) (Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:4)1
Displaced Arches ?4 6c The flat arches of most vomitoria to the cavea also are dropped down (Fig. 6c) (Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:4)1
Displaced Arches ?4 6d The keystone of the segmental arch above is also dropped down —4 cm. (Fig. 6d) (Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:4)1
Chipped corners and edges of ashlars ?5 7
Tilted and Collapsed Walls after 260/261 CE 8 Figure 8 shows a deviation of the scaenae wall from the vertical toward the north by 8°. (Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:5)
Tilted and Collapsed Walls after 260/261 CE 5
8
a vertical buttress wall (portion of the city wall) was erected behind the tilted scaenae wall (Figs. 5 and 8). (Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:5)3
Shifted blocks and extensional gaps after 260/261 CE 8 b&c A number of out-of-plane extruded and shifted blocks are observed and developed across single or multiple masonry courses (Fig. 8b,c). Such features are typically associated with intervening gaps produced due to shaking directed at high angle to the wall (Kazmer, 2014), suggesting an intensity range of IX-XII (Rodríguez-Pascua et al, 2013:221-224). (Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:5)
Collapsed Staircases before 260/261 CE and after 260/261 CE 5 Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:6) notes that the staircases were rebuilt after the first damaging event (before 260/261 CE); presumably with locally derived marly-chalky limestone associated with the rebuild rather than the better quality imported phosphatic limestone associated with original construction. This would indicate that the collapsed staircases presently observed collapsed a second time after another (not necessarily the 2nd) damaging event - location of the collapsed staircases is shown in the bottom left and bottom right of Figure 5.
Footnotes
  • 1 Masonry arches are common above openings in walls, spanning wall openings by diverting vertical loads from above to compressive stress laterally (Dym and Williams, 2010). Dropped arches in a masonry building indicate an EAE having an earthquake intensity of VII or higher (Rodríguez-Pascua et al, 2013:221-224). (Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:5).

  • 2 Chipping of stone corners can occur during ground motion at any structure, especially the ones with well-cut and sharp-edged blocks. This is because a large pressure is applied more on the corners than other parts (Marco, 2008). (Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:5)

  • 3 The normal elevation of the scaenae is presumed to be the same as the colonnade on top of the cavea or even higher (i.e., almost 13 m). Today, only the lower 5.2 m of the scaenae is preserved. Tilted and collapsed archaeological walls suggested an EAE seismic intensity range of IX and higher (Rodríguez-Pascua et al, 2013:221-224). (Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:5)

  • 4 Arches oriented ~N-S are shown in Figure 6 b&d while arches oriented ~E-W are shown in Figure 6 a&c. The two orientations would likely reflect arch damage from two separate events since as noted by Al-Tawalbeh et. al., (2020:10), usually an arch stone drop occurs when ground motion is parallel to the trend of the arches ( Hinzen et al., 2016; Martin-Gonzalez, 2018) or if it is ±45° to their strike ( Rodriguez-Pascua et al., 2011). Since Al-Tawalbeh et. al., (2020:8) note that the severely damaged vomitoria arches were left unrepaired after the second earthquake event, this might suggest that these E-W trending arches were damaged in the second event and the ~N-S trending arches were damaged in the first event. However, Al-Tawalbeh (personal communication, 2021) cautioned that it was not possible to date the arch damage noting, for example, that some arch damage could have occurred after the building of the buttress wall and not be attributable to either the mid 3rd century CE earthquake or the 3rd-5th century CE earthquake. Thus, while the varied orientations of the arches do indicate damage from more than one event, it is not possible to assign a date to that damage at this time. It should also be noted that dropped keystones are also present in ~NW and ~NNW trending arches of the vomitoria which can be observed in the Plan of the Capitolias Theater with damage locations (Fig. 5 of Al-Tawalbeh et al, 2020). This might suggest arch damage in more than two events.
    • Plan of the Capitolias Theater with damage locations from Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020)

  • 5 Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:7) notes that a subsequent earthquake cracked the ashlars of the gate, causing stone spalling and breaking off. where the gate is the eastern aditus maximus where the dedicatory inscription is located. The subsequent earthquake is not dated.
Distinguishing Seismic Effects for individual events
Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:14) distinguished seismic effects as follows:
The first major proposed earthquake may be responsible for the destruction of the annular passageway (ambulatorium), which was followed by a reconstruction that was marked by a A.D. 261 inscription. However, a definitive judgment on the time separating the first earthquake occurrence from its subsequent reconstruction, which was evidently concluded in a documentary or celebrational activity, is difficult to support.

The second earthquake activity resulted in tilting of the rebuilt scaenae wall. As a result, the upper two-thirds collapsed, and the vaulted corridors were totally demolished, which were never to be restored again.

Seismic Effects - mid 3rd century CE Earthquake

Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:6) reports the following seismic effects for this event:

It can be understood that the original theater was heavily damaged by an earthquake, where the perimeter corridor, the ambulacrum, the staircases, and the scaenae were damaged beyond repair, whereas the lateral portions of the cavea survived, including the eastern arched gate of the aditus maximus.
Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:10) further noted:
The first major proposed earthquake may be responsible for the destruction of the annular passageway (ambulatorium), which was followed by a reconstruction that was marked by a A.D. 261 inscription.

Seismic Effects

Seismic Effects - 3rd-5th century CE Earthquake

Al-Tawalbeh et. al. (2020:14) reports the following seismic effects for this event:

The second earthquake activity resulted in tilting of the rebuilt scaenae wall. As a result, the upper two-thirds collapsed, and the vaulted corridors were totally demolished, which were never to be restored again.
Seismic Effects

Seismic Effects - mid 8th Century CE Earthquake

  • [Floor] F III rested in part upon quake-related debris of mostly regular limestone blocks tumbled in a northerly direction, doubtlessly from [Wall] W V [Fig. 10 ]. - Mlynarczyk (2017:484)
  • The space between [Walls] W II and W III in the northeastern part of the trench was found filled with ashlars tumbled from the wall(s). - Mlynarczyk (2017:489)

Intensity Estimates
mid 3rd century CE Earthquake

Effect Description Intensity
Collapsed Walls the scaenae [was] damaged beyond repair ( Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:6) VIII +
Collapsed Walls the ambulacrum [was] damaged beyond repair ( Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:6) VIII +
Collapsed Vaults destruction of the annular passageway (ambulatorium) ( Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:10) VIII +
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224) .
Al-Tawalbeh et al (2020)'s Intensity Estimate

In the abstract, Al-Tawalbeh et al, (2020) suggests a local Intensity of VIII-IX (8-9) for both the mid 3rd century CE earthquake and the 3rd-5th century CE earthquake. Al-Tawalbeh (personal communication, 2021) estimated intensity of close to IX (9) for the mid 3rd century CE earthquake based on collapse of the ambulatorium.

3rd-5th century CE Earthquake

Effect Description Intensity
Tilted Walls tilting of the rebuilt scaenae wall ( Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:9) VI+
Collapsed Walls collapse of the upper two-thirds of scaenae wall ( Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:9) VIII+
Displaced masonry blocks Shifted blocks and extensional gaps (Fig. 8 b&c ). ( Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:5) VIII+
Collapsed Vaults vaulted corridors were totally demolished ( Al-Tawalbeh et. al., 2020:9) VIII+
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224) .
Al-Tawalbeh et al (2020)'s Intensity Estimate

In the abstract, Al-Tawalbeh et al, (2020) suggests a local Intensity of VIII-IX (8-9) for both the mid 3rd century CE earthquake and the 3rd-5th century CE earthquake. Al-Tawalbeh (personal communication, 2021) confirmed an estimated intensity of VIII-IX (8-9) for the 3rd-5th century CE earthquake largely based on the collapse and tilting of the scaenae.

mid 8th Century CE Earthquake

Effect Description Intensity
Collapsed Walls [Floor] F III rested in part upon quake-related debris of mostly regular limestone blocks tumbled in a northerly direction, doubtlessly from [Wall] W V [Fig. 10 ]. - Mlynarczyk (2017:484) VIII+
Collapsed Walls The space between [Walls] W II and W III in the northeastern part of the trench was found filled with ashlars tumbled from the wall(s). - Mlynarczyk (2017:489) VIII+
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224 big pdf) .

Site Effect

There are no obvious indications that this location should be subject to a site effect such as a ridge effect or due to soft ground. In modeling potential causitive earthquakes from the historical record Al-Tawalbeh et al, (2020:11) used the attenuation relationship of Hough and Avni (2009) with the added site effect of Darvasi and Agnon (2019). Their VS30 values in these simulations ranged from 360-800 m/s.

Notes and Further Reading
References

Al-Tawalbeh, M., et al. (2020). "Two Inferred Antique Earthquake Phases Recorded in the Roman Theater of Beit‐Ras/Capitolias (Jordan)." Seismological Research Letters: 1-19.

Beit Ras/Capitolias: an archaeological project 2014–2016 website

Beit Ras/Capitolias excavation website

Mlynarczyk, J. (2017). Beit Ras/Capitolias: An archaeological project 2014-2016, Pol. Archaeol. Mediterr. 1, no. 26, 475-506.

Al-Shami, A. (2003). Beit Ras Irbid Archeological Project 2002, Ann. Dept. Antiq. Jordan 47, 93-104 (in Arabic).

Al-Shami, A. (2004). Bayt Ras Irbid Archaeological Project 2002, Ann. Dept. Antiq. Jordan 48, 11-22 (in Arabic).

Al-Shami, A. (2005). A new discovery at Bayt-Ras/Capitolias - Irbid, Ann. Dept. Antiq. Jordan 49, 509-519 (in Arabic).

Al-Tawalbeh, M., M. Kazmer, R Jaradat, K. Al-Bashaireh, A. Gharaibeh, B. Khrisat, and A. Al-Rawabdeh (2019). Archaeoseismic analysis of the Roman-Early Byzantine earthquakes in Capitolias (Beit-Ras) theater of Jordan, 7th International Colloquium on Historical Earthquakes and Paleoseismology Studies, 4-6 November 2019, Barcelona, Spain, 19 pp.

Anastasio, S., P. Gilento, and R. Parenti (2016). Ancient buildings and masonry techniques in the Southern Hauran, Jordan, J. E. Mediterr. Archaeol. Herit. Stud. 4, no. 4, 299-320.

Bader, N., and J. B. Yon (2018). Une inscription du theater de Bayt Ras/Capitolias, Syria 95, 155-168 (in French).

Dodge, H. (2009). Amphitheaters in the Roman East, in Roman Amphitheaters and Spectacula: A 21st-Century Perspective (Papers from an international conference held at Chester), T. Wilmott (Editor), BAR International Series, 16th-18th February, 2007, 29-46.

Dym, C. L., and H. E. Williams (2010). Stress and displacement estimates for arches, J. Struct. Eng. 137, no. 1, 49-58.

Fayyad, S., and W. Karasneh (2004). Archaeological excavation in Beit Ras theater, from 1st season to fifth season, Ann. Dept. Antiq. Jordan 48, 67-75 (in Arabic).

Frezouls, E. (1959). Recherches sur les theatres de l'Orient syrien: Problemeschronologiques, Syria 36, nos. 3/4, 202-228 (in French).

Glueck, N. (1951). Explorations in Eastern Palestine IV, Ann. Am. Schools Orient. Res. 18, 25-28.

Hashash, Y. M. A., et al. (2001). "SEISMIC DESIGN AND ANALYSIS OF UNDERGROUND STRUCTURES." Tunnelling and Underground Space Technology 16: 247-293.

Jaradat, R, K. Al-Bashaireh, A. Al-Rawabdeh, A. Gharaibeh, and B. Khrisat (2019). Mapping archaeoseismic damages across Jordan (MADAJ), 2nd International Congress on Archaeological Sciences in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, The Cyprus Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus, 12-14 November 2019.

Karasneh, W., K. al-Rousan, and J. Telfah (2002). New discovery in Jordan at Beit-Ras region (ancient Capitolias), Occident Orient 7, no. 1, 9-10.

Karasneh, W., and S. Fayyad (2004). Archaeological excavations at Beit Ras theater, working stages from the first season to the fifth season, Ann. Dept. Antiq. Jordan 48, 67-75 (in Arabic).

Karasneh, W., and S. Fayyad (2005). Beit Ras theater, Ann. Dept. Antiq. Jordan 49, 39-45 (in Arabic).

Lenzen, CJ., Gordon, R.L., and McQuitty, A.M. (1985). Tell Irbid and Beit Ras excavations, 1985. Annual of the Department of Antiquities ofJordan, 29, 151-160

Lenzen, C.J. and Knauf, E.A. (1987). Beit Ras/Capitolias. A preliminary evaluation of the archaeological and textual evidence. Syria, 64(1), 21-46

Lenzen, C.J. (1990). Beit Ras excavations: 1988 and 1989. In Chronique archeologique. Syria, 67(2), 474-476

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Khirbet Tannur

Khirbet Tannur Khirbet Tannur

photo by Jefferson Williams


Names

Transliterated Name Source Name
Khirbet et-Tannur Arabic خربة التنور
Introduction

Khirbet Tannur, a Nabatean Temple located atop a flat desolate summit in southern Jordan, was excavated by Nelson Glueck in 1937. The Temple contains three central altars nested like Russian Nesting Dolls The smallest altar was built first in Period I after which a second altar was built around it during Period II. Finally, a third altar was built encompassing the first two.

Chronology

Phasing

As the Temple at Khirbet Tannur was built in a seismically active area, it is thought that most rebuilding episodes were initiated soon after earthquakes damaged parts of the Temple. Glueck (1965:128) and Glueck (1965:138) identified three separate building phases (Periods I, II, and III) and a post-Temple Byzantine squatter occupation. McKenzie et al (2013) redated Periods I, II, and III utilizing an improved understanding of the chronology that can be derived from pottery as well as comparison to other excavated sites in the region. Both Glueck (1965:138) and McKenzie et al (2013) anchored their chronology to the start of Period II which was then extrapolated to starting dates for Periods I and III. Glueck (1965:138) dated the start of Period II to the last quarter of the 1st century BCE based on a dedicatory inscription found during excavations. The inscription created a terminus ante quem of 8/7 BCE as it referred to the second year of a Nabatean King whose wife was named Huldu. This would refer to Aretas IV whose first wife was Huldu and whose reign began in 9 BCE. McKenzie et al (2002:50), however, noticed that the the inscription was not found in situ and that a bowl found underneath paving stones that were put in place soon before Period II construction dates to the late first century CE along with two other bowls which date to the first half of the second century CE. This pottery and comparison to other sites led them to date Period II construction to the first half of the second century CE. McKenzie et al (2013:72) considered it likely that the inscription with a 7/8 BCE date referred to the Period I Temple rather than the Period II Temple as was assumed by Glueck (1965:138). It is unclear why McKenzie et al (2013) date initial Nabatean worship at the site to the late 2nd century BCE if the inscription suggests that Period I construction began shortly before 8/7 BCE. Perhaps initial worship at the site preceded construction of surviving structures. McKenzie et al (2013)'s dates are used in the table below:

Period Start Date End Date Comments
I Late 2nd century BCE 1st half of 2nd century CE
  • Glueck (1965:138) describes the first altar as box-like and resting on top of a crude rubble platform.
II 1st half of 2nd century CE 3rd century CE
  • Glueck (1965:138) reports construction during this period of an inner Altar-Base with steps on its west side which was built around the previous altar.
  • Glueck (1965:106) was not entirely sure that Period II ended with an earthquake stating that earthquake tremors or age or both may have brought about the collapse of the Period II Altar-Base.
  • McKenzie et al (2013:62) suggests that Period III construction which would have occurred soon after the end of Period II probably began in the 3rd century CE in association with other repairs after an earthquake.
III 3rd century CE 363 CE
  • McKenzie et al (2013:62) suggests that Period III construction probably began in the 3rd century CE in association with other repairs after an earthquake
  • McKenzie et al (2013:47,62) dates the end of Period III to the middle of the 4th century CE attributing Period III destruction to the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE.
Byzantine 363 CE 634 CE ?
  • A squatter's house was later constructed on the site. Based on pottery finds, this construction was dated to the Byzantine period. (Glueck, 1965:140).

Dedicatory Inscription Earthquake - Late 1st century BCE

A dedicatory inscription dated to 8/7 BCE indicates building activity around this time which could have been a response to seismic damage.

End of Period I Earthquake - 1st half of 2nd century CE

Glueck (1965:92) found Altar-Base I from Period I severely damaged probably by an earthquake which may have precipitated the rebuild that began Period II. McKenzie et al (2013:47) dated Period II construction, which would have occurred soon after the End of Period I earthquake, to the first half of the 2nd century CE. McKenzie et al (2002:50) noted that a bowl found underneath paving stones that were put in place soon before Period II construction dates to the late first century CE along with two other bowls which date to the first half of the second century CE. This pottery and comparison to other sites led them to date Period II construction to the first half of the second century CE.

End of Period II Earthquake (?) - 3rd century CE

The end of Period II would have occurred shortly before Period III construction which McKenzie et al (2013:62) suggests probably began in the 3rd century CE in association with other repairs after an earthquake. It appears that this date is extrapolated from the date for Period II construction which is chronologically anchored by pottery found in stratigraphic position. McKenzie et al (2002:73) noted similarities in the sculpture of Period III with late antique sculpture in Egypt which suggests the possibility of a date in the third century A.D.. Glueck (1965:106) was not entirely sure that Period II ended with an earthquake stating that earthquake tremors or age or both may have brought about the collapse of the Period II Altar-Base. Glueck (1965:106) characterized Altar-Base II as aesthetically attractive but architecturally weak noting shoddy internal construction particularly the bottom foundation stones (Glueck, 1965:107).

"Further" Earthquake of McKenzie et al (2013) - 3rd - 4th century CE

McKenzie et al (2013:62) reports a further earthquake after Period II construction damaged the colonnades of the Court and that the steps of the Altar Platform were repaired using column drums.

End of Period III Earthquake - 3rd-4th centuries CE

Period III ended when a violent earthquake undoubtedly destroyed [the] entire temple (Glueck, 1965:122). McKenzie et al (2013:47,62) date the end of Period III to the middle of the 4th century CE attributing Period III destruction to the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE. McKenzie et al (2013:159) used the southern Cyril Quake of 363 CE as a terminus ante quem for some glassware that they concluded were of a 3rd or early to mid 4th century CE date indicating that they may have used the date of the 363 CE earthquake to refine dating of some artefactual remains rather than the other way around. Hence although they may be right that Period III ended in 363 CE, I am expanding the possible dates for this seismic destruction to the 3rd-4th centuries CE.

Seismic Effects
End of Period I Earthquake - 1st half of 2nd century CE

  • Plan of Khirbet Tannur from McKenzie et al (2013)
Seismic Effects
  • Glueck (1965:90) found that the entire eastern face facade of the Period I Altar had been destroyed, perhaps by an earthquake except for part of the molded angle block on the southeast corner.
  • Glueck (1965:142) reports that the eastern facade of the Period I Altar had been destroyed, down to the bases of three of it's columns
  • Glueck (1965:92) reports that the Period I Altar had to be rebuilt because it had been damaged severely, probably by an earthquake. In addition to the east face being almost completely destroyed, it's north side [was] leaning dangerously outward

End of Period II Earthquake (?) - 3rd century CE

  • Plan of Khirbet Tannur from McKenzie et al (2013)
Seismic Effects
  • The ornate pylon of the east facade of the raised inner temple enclosure collapsed at the end of Period II. (Glueck, 1965:156) - speculative
  • Near the northeast corner of the forecourt are the remains, now only one course high, of the outline of a 2 m square altar, seemingly originally to have belonged to Period II. Destroyed or badly damaged at the end of that period, it was repaired and enlarged in Period III. (Glueck, 1965:157)
Notes
  • Glueck (1965:106) characterized Altar-Base II as aesthetically attractive but architecturally weak noting shoddy internal construction particularly the bottom foundation stones. (Glueck, 1965:107)
  • Glueck (1965:106) states that earthquake tremors or age or both may have brought about the collapse of the Period II Altar-Base indicating that he was not entirely sure that the end of Period II coincides with earthquake destruction.

"Further" Earthquake of McKenzie et al (2013) - 3rd - 4th century CE

  • Plan of Khirbet Tannur from McKenzie et al (2013)
Seismic Effects
  • McKenzie et al (2013:62) reports a further earthquake after Period II construction damaged the colonnades of the Court and that the steps of the Altar Platform were repaired using column drums.

End of Period III Earthquake - 3rd-4th centuries CE

  • Plan of Khirbet Tannur from McKenzie et al (2013)
Seismic Effects
  • The violent earthquake that undoubtedly destroyed the entire Temple of Tannur in Period III, caused what was left of the south wall of Altar-Base III to bulge out and made its steps sag. (Glueck, 1965:122)

Intensity Estimates
End of Period I Earthquake - 1st half of 2nd century CE

Effect Description Intensity
Collapsed Walls Glueck (1965:90) found that the entire eastern face facade of the Period I Altar had been destroyed, perhaps by an earthquake except for part of the molded angle block on the southeast corner. VIII +
Tilted Walls Glueck (1965:92) reports that the walls of the Period I Altar was leaning dangerously outward on it's north side VI +
Fallen Columns Glueck (1965:142) reports that the eastern facade of the Period I Altar had been destroyed, down to the bases of three of it's columns V +
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224)

End of Period II Earthquake (?) - 3rd century CE

Effect Description Intensity
Displaced Walls The ornate pylon of the east facade of the raised inner temple enclosure collapsed at the end of Period II. (Glueck, 1965:156) - speculative VII +
Collapsed Walls Near the northeast corner of the forecourt are the remains, now only one course high, of the outline of a 2 m square altar, seemingly originally to have belonged to Period II. Destroyed or badly damaged at the end of that period, it was repaired and enlarged in Period III. (Glueck, 1965:157) VIII +
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224) . However, there are indications that this may have been a weak structure. Glueck (1965:106) characterized Altar-Base II as aesthetically attractive but architecturally weak noting shoddy internal construction particularly the bottom foundation stones (Glueck, 1965:107). Glueck (1965:106) was also unsure that an earthquake damaged Period II structures stating that earthquake tremors or age or both may have brought about the collapse of the Period II Altar-Base. Considering this, the Intensity estimate is downgraded to VI-VII (6-7).

"Further" Earthquake of McKenzie et al (2013) - 3rd - 4th century CE

Effect Description Intensity
Fallen Columns McKenzie et al (2013:62) reports a further earthquake after Period II construction damaged the colonnades of the Court and that the steps of the Altar Platform were repaired using column drums. V +
Displaced Masonry Blocks in Columns McKenzie et al (2013:62) reports a further earthquake after Period II construction damaged the colonnades of the Court and that the steps of the Altar Platform were repaired using column drums. VIII +
This Intensity estimate should be considered tentative as it is based on secondary use of building stones making it difficult to know how those building stones were damaged and when they were damaged. Although the archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224) , the Earthquake Archeological Effects listed are speculative and beset with uncertainty. Because of this Intensity is bracketed to between V and VIII.

End of Period III Earthquake - 3rd-4th centuries CE

Effect Description Intensity
Displaced Masonry Blocks The violent earthquake that undoubtedly destroyed the entire Temple of Tannur in Period III, caused what was left of the south wall of Altar-Base III to bulge out and made its steps sag. (Glueck, 1965:122) VIII +
Folded steps and kerbs The violent earthquake that undoubtedly destroyed the entire Temple of Tannur in Period III, caused what was left of the south wall of Altar-Base III to bulge out and made its steps sag. (Glueck, 1965:122) VI +
The archeoseismic evidence requires a minimum Intensity of VIII (8) when using the Earthquake Archeological Effects chart of Rodríguez-Pascua et al (2013: 221-224)

Notes and Further Reading
References

Paleoseismic Evidence

Location Status Intensity Notes
Bet Zayda probable Event CH4-E4 (modeled age 165-236 CE)

Bet Zayda

While Wechsler at al. (2014) identified 3 events which could fit this earthquake, Event CH4-E4 is a good fit.

Bet Zeyda Earthquakes
Figure 9

Probability density functions for all paleoseismic events, based on the OxCal modeling. Historically known earthquakes are marked by gray lines. The age extent of each channel is marked by rectangles. There is an age uncertainty as to the age of the oldest units in channel 4 (units 490-499) marked by a dashed rectangle. Channel 1 refers to the channel complex studied by Marco et al. (2005).

Wechsler at al. (2014)


2D and 3D Paleoseismic Study at Bet Zayda

Results are based on a 2D and 3D paleoseismic study conducted over multiple years utilizing multiple trenches. Trenches were dug to examine paleo-channels which intersect the active Jordan Gorge Fault. A few paleo-channels were active long enough to record paleo-earthquakes. Initial work done by Marco et al (2005)) identified fault ruptures with two historical earthquakes which were dated as follows:

Date Displacement (m)
1202 CE ~2.2
1759 CE 0.5
Another channel dating between 3 and 5 ka was displaced up to 15 meters.

Subsequent work at the same location by Wechsler at al. (2014) revealed 8 more surface-rupturing earthquakes in two paleo-channels which were labeled as Channels 3 and 4. Radiocarbon sampling appears to have been sufficiently dense except for Event CH4-E6..

Bet Zayda Plots and Charts

Description Image Source
Age Model Wechsler at al. (2014)
Age Model
Big
Wechsler at al. (2014)
Age Model
really big
Wechsler at al. (2014)
Map of
Trenches
Fault
Channels
Wechsler at al. (2014)

Notes



Earthquake Catalogs that reference earthquakes in 233 CE and 245 CE go back to Willis (1928) whose source was As-Soyuti. Although he later issued a correction, Willis' (1928) initial paper did not recognize that As-Soyuti provided Islamic AH (After Hejira) dates instead of Julian dates hence Willis' (1928) earthquake dates from As-Soyuti are off by ~622 years (too early). Later catalogers copied these erroneous dates. Catalog entries going backwards illustrate this below :

Sbeinati et al (2005) Ben-Menahem (1979) Sieberg (1932a) Willis (1928) As-Soyuti from Sprenger (1843) - A.H. dates QED

Note: Fourmilabs webpage converts between Islamic dates and Julian dates.

Paleoclimate - Droughts

Footnotes

References