Jan 29, 2010

Discovery of Ancient Livias

Three milestone referents provide distances to the city of Livias. Livias is five Rm (7.5 km) S of Tall Nimrin (Eusebius On. 44; see also Jerome 45). A second directional reference is found in Theodosius where he states that “the city of Livias is across the Jordan, twelve miles [Rm, 17.75 km] from Jericho’ to the E (Topografia 19 [Wilkinson]).

The third and most important reference is the VIth milestone (milliaire) on the Esbus/Livias road placing Livias twelve Rm (17.7 km) W of Esbus (Tall Hesban; Eusebius On. 12; 18; 48; 136). Several milestones (II, IV, VI, VII) have been located along the via publica from Esbus (S. D. Waterhouse,and R. Ibach. “Heshbon 1973: The topographical survey.” Andrews University Seminary Studies 13 [1975]: 218-28; see also Henry Baker Tristram, The Land of Moab Travels and Discoveries on the East Side of the Dead Sea and the Jordan [2nd ed. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press LLC, 1874], 346). A fifth milestone was located at the VIII mile during the 2010 survey by Graves (Photo). The road between Livias and Esbus (Essebōn) was used by pilgrims traveling from Jerusalem via Jericho (Rollin and Streetly 2001, 172) and the Jordan River (‘twenty milestones away from the Jordan,’ Eusebius On. 84 [Freeman-Greenville]) to reach Mt. Nebo, the sanctuary of Moses (Eusebius On. 16; Eg. 10.8-9). The VIth mile marker was the point where one could either climb to the top of Mt. Nebo or turn N to visit the Ayûn Mûsâ [Springs of Moses] (Eusebius On. 136). The Mount Nebo Interpretation Display reads: ‘The Sixth Mile, near the Roman fortress of al-Mahattah, at Sarabit [milestone] half way between Esbus [Hesban] and Livias.’ This mile marker indicates that the Roman road was approximately twelve Roman miles from Esbus to Livias.

During the January 2010 season GPS coordinates were collected for the first time for the path of the Roman road from Esbus to Tall el-Hammam and Tall er-Rameh. The Roman road measures 14.1 Rm (20.98 km) to the Roman building at Tall el-Hammam and 15.3 Rm (22.6 km) to Tall er-Ramah. Recognizing that the tall at Hammam is over a kilometer long and the Roman building is in the centre of the site, one could expect the gate to the city to be some distance from the Roman building and indicate that the Roman road would be even shorter than the 14.1 Roman miles. From the GPS of the Roman road, it is clear that the distance to Tall el-Hammam from Esbus is closer to the 12 Roman miles than Tall er-Rameh and indicates that the area around Tall el-Hammam is a better candidate for ancient Livias based on the Roman mile markers.

Since I don't know where the city gate is situated for Livias and I measured to the Roman building, the measurement could easily have been less and closer to the 12 Roman miles indicated by the Roman mile markers. At any rate Tall er-Rameh, the other candidate, is 15.3 Roman miles from Esbus so it is definitely not a candidate for Livias. When the three measurements are triangulated the intersecting path falls over Tall el-Hammam. Add to this the GPS measurement and we can now say scientifically that we have discovered Livias. For the first time Livias is being excavated.

This picture is the Roman road as we walked it to take the GPS co-ordinates. This is the Roman mile marker that still exists on the Roman Road. Four other Roman milestones were relocated to the Mt Nebo Museum.

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