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Abila City (Modern Qweilbeh)

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:769100 - Utm North:3619800 UTM Zone:36
Ref.: 1557

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The site is located about 25km.east of the Sea of Galilee(Tiberias)and about 4km. south of Wadi Yarmouk river. It surmounts the Trans Jordanian Plateau at an elevation of 440m.above sea level. The annual rainfall averages about 350-450mm.and the area has been served over its history by a perennial spring ,Ain Quweilbeh , located in the wadi at the S end of the south tell (mountain),Um el Amad. The site is well situated ,guarded by wadis(valleys) on the N,E and S., graced with plenty of agricultural land all around and blessed with plenty of agricultural land all around and blessed with being on well traveled trade routes connecting with other Decapolis cities ,both N-S and E-W. The territory of Abila is large,c.1.5km.N-S by c.600m.E-W, extended probably to the Yarmuk in the north and the Wadi Shallalah on the east. On the west it would have stopped short of el-Khureibah where the city aqueduct of Gadarda began. To the south, Abila controlled Capitolias until it became a separate city in A.D.97 . Tell Abil and Khirbet Um El’Amad are the location of the central part of the city. The surrounding hillsides are honeycombed with tombs , and some evidence of occupation has also been found at North Abila. Megalitic columns greet the visitor at Um el-‘Amad (the mother of columns). The columns are possibly a part of an earlier building that had been turned into a basilica. The decorated capitals evidence Christian usage. This building would have been very beautiful with alliterating columns of basalt and limestone. The floor used bituminous and hematitic limestone pavers In a checkerboard pattern .A huge cistern associated with this building lies north. Wall lines of buildings are evident all over the Khirbet . A variety of remains come into view as one walks north along an olive grove into the saddle area between the khirbet and the tell. To the east one looks across the steep cavea of the theatre , a paved street, baths, a basilica, and a Roman bridge across the Wadi. At the west side, the west gate of the city could be seen, with its viaduct joining the khirbet and the tell , are in view . Straight ahead to the north is the very steep slope of Tell Abil . A three apsed basilica is being excavated on the summit of the tell. In the central apse of the basilica a fragmentary inscription bearing the city’s name has been found. Architectural fragments abound. A large portion of the defensive wall (some 4 m. high ) has been exposed on the northeast comer of the tell. A variety of tombs have been discovered , which include simple cist-graves, a columbarium , sarcophagi, and painted tombs . The site was supplied with a water system while additional water was brought to the area by the Khureibah aqueduct. From the spring, two aqueducts traveled along the west side of the Wadi Qweilbeh and brought water into the center of the city . Coinage from Abila indicated the existence of a unique temple. Pagan deities, such as Herakles , Tyche, and Athena , were worshiped at Abila. Terra-cotta figurines found in a tomb suggest also the worship of Dionysus History Quweilbeh /Abila is Known in literary history as belonging to that group of cities called the Decapolis ,along with such other cities as Damascus,Philadelphia (Amman),Scythopolis(Beisan), Gadara(Um Qeis), Hippos,Pella, Canatha,etc. A stone inscription in Greek with the name Abila was excavated in the Byzantine strata on Tell Abila. The site was inhabited , in the beginning, from the Neolithic times on down through Umayyad and ,to a limited extent ,into the Abbasid /Fatimid and Ayyubid/Mamluk periods. Extensive habitation was in the Middle Bronze /Late Bronze ,Iron Age and Hellinistic,Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods.