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Old Town of Nablus and its environs

Date of Submission: 02/04/2012
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Palestine to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Nablus
Coordinates: N32 12 E 35 16
Ref.: 5714
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Tell Balata, identified with ancient Shechem, represents the earliest settlement in the Nablus area. It is located at the eastern entrance of modernNablus, between Mount Ebaland Mount Gerizim (see number 4 above).  Shechem was mentioned in the Egyptian Execration texts and the Khu-Sebek inscription from the 19th century B.C.  It was mentioned in the Amarna Letter in the 14th century BC as a major Canaanite centre ruled by Lab’aya. Shechem is mentioned several times in the Bible. The biblical traditions relate Abraham, Jacob and Joseph to the site.

A series of excavations were carried out during the last century by the Austro-German Expedition, 1913-1934, and the Joint American Expedition, 1956, 1968-1969. The excavations revealed the occupational history of the site. Evidence of Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Hellenistic and Roman remains were uncovered. Shechem was established as a small settlement during the 4th millennium, with an urban centre during the Middle Bronze Age II and Late Bronze Age. The city continued to be occupied during the Late Bronze and Iron Ages.  After a period of abandonment during the Iron Age, the city was re-occupied during the Hellenistic period. The Samaritan Shechem was destroyed several times, then destroyed and fully abandoned during the early Roman period. The city then shifted to new site of Neapolis.

Neapolis, thenew city, was founded in 72 AD by the Flavian Emperors. The Roman city was built on the northern slope of Mount Gerizim, ca. two km west of Tell Balata. The city of Neapolis is depicted on the Madaba map in the 6th century AD. The modern name of Nablus is a corruption of the Greek name Neapolis. It was mentioned in the first city coins issued during the reign of Domitian and during the regime of Marcus Aurelius. The city developed as a major centre in during the second century AD. Major building projects were launched, including the hippodrome, the theatre and other public buildings. The Roman temple of Zeus was erected on Mount Gerizim during the reign of Antoninus Pius. During the reign of Philip the Arab, the city ofNeapoliswas raised to the status of a Roman colony: Colonia Flavia Iulia Sergia Neapolis.

The city of Neapol is flourished during the Byzantine period and became the seat of a bishop. In the first half of the 7th century AD, the city was conquered by the Arabs. From the 10th century it was known as little Damascus. Medieval Nablus, Crusader, Mamluk-Ayyubid and Ottoman Nablus occupied the site of Flavia Neapolis. The Old city was extensively damaged by a series of earthquakes. The expansion of the city outside the walls occurred at the end of the18th century.  The old city consists of 7 quarters. It represents a distinctive example of traditional urban architecture in Palestine but it has suffered considerably in recent years as a result of the Israeli military incursions and destructions.

Geographic location:

Nablus City is situated 69 kilometers north of Jerusalem and 42 kilometers east of the Mediterranean Sea. It lies in a spacious valley between two mountains, Mount Ebal, 940m above sea level on the north, and Mount Gerizim, 870m above sea level on the south.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Nablusas a Canaanite city was important in ancient Palestine. Since then it has maintained a picturesque and a strategic situation for more than 9000 years. It was mentioned in the Bible as Shechem. Archaeological excavations, taking place during the First World War, made it possible to identify many facts about the history of the city.

The special importance of the Old Town of Nablus results from its being a historic town consisting of special buildings built in traditional architectural style and construction methods that are no longer in use, together with a unique urban pattern, which is well preserved.

The regular street grid dating from Roman times is still discernible in the structure of the city. In some places excavations have revealed portions of Roman buildings and  in some places these are still visible.

Criteria met:

criterion (ii) The old city of Nablus exhibits an important interchange of human values over time as different civilizations passed through the city. The sequence Canaanite-Roman-Ottoman has created a special development of an urban architectural complex.

criterion (iv) The old town is a type of a group of buildings and urban fabric which represent the Roman city and is still in part visible. 

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The old city of Nablus presents an image of an old town which is still living, and most of its elements still function very well. This gives the city the ability to survive and preserve its characters in spite of many alterations in the fabric of the city. In additionally many of the economic activities still take place inside the old city.

Comparison with other similar properties

The old town of Nablus can be compared with old town of Damascus in Syria. Some called it ‘Minor Damascus’ because of the similarities between both cities in their elements and components.