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The Sanctuary of Agios Lot, At Deir 'Ain 'Abata

Date of Submission: 18/06/2001
Criteria: (i)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities. Department of Antiquities.
Coordinates: Utm East:738900 - Utm North:3439800 UTM Zone:36
Ref.: 1551

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The site is located at the south-eastern end of the Dead Sea on a steep mountain scree slope overlooking the modern town of Safi(Biblical Zoara). It is accurately depicted as the Sanctuary of Agios(=”Saint “in Greek) Lot Next to Zoara on the sixth century A.D. mosaic floor map at Madaba in Jordan. The existence of Deir ‘Ain ‘Abata(=”monastery at the Abata spring” in Arabic)was first officially reported in 1986 by B.MacDonald during his survey of the area. The following year K.D. Polites began a systematic survey of the site and in 1998 he started an excavation project supported by the British Museum which continued until 1996. The Sanctuary of Agios Lot consists of a Byzantine monastic complex with a number of hermits’ cells above it .The focal point is a triple apsed basilical church built around a natural cave which as early Christians believed was where Lot and his daughters took refuge after the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19).It is flanked to the south by a large reservoir and to the north by a refectory with an oven, a pilgrim’s hostel and a communal burial chamber. The church is adorned by mosaic floor pavements inscribed in Byzantine Greek and dated to April 606 A.D.and May 691 A.D. Two other Greek inscriptions on stone which invoke Agios Lot, confirm the Christian identification of the site as Lot’s Sanctuary. HISTORY The bulk of the material finds date to the early Byzantine period (ca.5th-7th centuries A.D.)and are associated to the church and monastery. The presence of Nabataean pottery ( 1st century B.C.- 1st century A.D.) account for the earliest occupation and may relate to the foundation of the settlement. Furthermore, Early Bronze Age I (ca.3000 B.C.)and Middle Bronze Age II (ca.2000-1500 B.C.) burials in the cave and around the monastery allude to the area of ‘Ain ‘Abata as being a sacred place even in pre-Christian times. The final occupation of the site was during the early Abbasid Caliphate (late 8th to early 9th centuries A.D.)which could indicate a continued veneration of Lot in the vicinity by Christians and Muslims alike. Since 1993 the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Jordan has been sponsoring restorations at the site.