A New Monumental Latin Inscription at ‘Ayn Gharandal (Ancient Arieldela), Jordan

The ASOR Blog is reporting the discovery, in clear stratigraphic context at the main gate of the Roman fort at ‘Ayn Gharandal in Jordan, of an intact monumental inscription of Tetrarchic date (titulature). Excavated by Dr. Carrie Duncan (University of Missouri-Columbia) and team under the auspices of the ‘Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project (directed by Drs. Erin Darby and Robert Darby, University of Tennessee), the discovery is described at length; the following extended quotation is taken verbatim from: Darby, R. & Darby, E., 2013. Words in the Sand: Discovering A New Monumental Latin Inscription at ‘Ayn Gharandal (Ancient Arieldela), Jordan. The ASOR Blog. Available at: http://asorblog.org/?p=5244 [Accessed August 13, 2013]. Links by TE for CurEp.

After a concerted effort by the workmen and several students, the stone was flipped, carefully placed on its back, and immediately covered in order to preserve its red paint. From there, the massive stone (0.90 m x 0.65 m x 0.25 m in size) was raised from the excavation square and transported directly to the conservation lab at the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, where it is currently being cleaned and treated by Dr. Fatma Marii, Conservator for the Jordan Museum, and Brittany Dolph, ‘Ayn Gharandal/ACOR Conservation Intern from the UCLA/Getty Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation.

The text of the inscription, although still in the early stages of analysis, is well-preserved and complete, save for areas that were intentionally altered in antiquity. The inscription is set within a carved frame, or tabula ansata, also containing decorative reliefs of laurel branches and a garland. It lists the names of the two senior and junior emperors, or augusti and caesares, to whom the inscription is dedicated – Diocletian, Maximian, Galerius, and Constantius I. Thus the monumental inscription not only provides a date for the foundation of the fort at ‘Ayn Gharandal during the reign of the Tetrarchy (293-305 CE) but also provides a terminus post quem for all subsequent occupation at the site.

In addition, the inscription confirms the site’s name in antiquity. It has long been believed that the modern Arabic name “Gharandal” derives from Arieldela, listed in the Notitia Dignitatum (Or. 34.44) as the location of the Cohors II Galatarum, a Roman auxiliary infantry unit. A total lack of any archaeological evidence from ‘Ayn Gharandal confirming its identification left the ancient name of the place and the unit garrisoned there a matter of scholarly speculation – until now. The inscription unearthed during the 2013 season indicates that the site is the location of the Cohors II Galatarum, confirming the ancient name of ‘Ayn Gharandal as Arieldela.

Ultimately, part of the inscription’s significance relates to its archaeological context. Unlike comparable inscriptions at Yotvata and Udruh, which were not found during stratigraphic excavation, the ‘Ayn Gharandal inscription was preserved in situ above the gate collapse that occurred during an earthquake, either in 363 CE or later.

Additional information and contextual photographs (though none of the text) can be seen at the original blog post. TE has no personal knowledge of this discovery; questions should be directed to those cited in the ASOR piece.

About Tom Elliott

Associate Director for Digital Programs and Senior Research Scholar, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University
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One Response to A New Monumental Latin Inscription at ‘Ayn Gharandal (Ancient Arieldela), Jordan

  1. Werner Eck says:

    The text is now published in JRA 28, 2015, 471 ff.

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