Name of Object:

Four basalt reliefs


Irbid, Jordan

Holding Museum:

Museum of Jordanian Heritage, Yarmouk University


Thought to be hegira 2nd century / AD first half of the 8th century

Type of object:

Reief, stone

Museum Inventory Number:

A829, A825, A827, A822

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved basalt.


a: Height 13 cm, width 46 cm, depth 18 cm; b: Height 41.5 cm, width 47.5 cm, depth 19 cm; c: Height 34 cm, width 45 cm, depth 13 cm; d: Height 52 cm, width 58.5 cm, depth 17.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Thought to be Umayyad


Al-Azraq, Jordan.


Four Basalt reliefs that are fine illustrations of the 'minor arts' and which borrow their themes from the classical world prior to the Islamic conquest: a hunting dog; a griffon; a Pegasus and an amphora decorated with flowers. Such images find their parallels not only in earlier Byzantine mosaic church floors and in contemporary mosaics of the AH 1st–2nd / AD 7th–8th centuries, but earlier than that, in the periods from which they originate: the Greek, Roman and Sassanid. The skill used to make these carvings has given them a lively, even playful, appearance. It seems that these reliefs, along with others still in situ at Qasr al-Azraq, formed an arch over a viewing platform where spectators would sit to watch the water sports played out in the water reservoirs near Qasr al-Azraq.

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Current Owner:

Department of Antiquities, Jordan

How date and origin were established:

The date of production for these reliefs is uncertain, but stylistic analysis of the griffon identifies it as an image used decoratively in other Umayyad palaces: Khirbat al-Mafjar in Jericho, Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi in Syria, al-Mushatta and al-Hallabat in Jordan, and this may give vital clues to the accurate dating of these objects. The same thing could be said about the Pegasus which is a Sassanid decorative element but also represented in Umayyad palaces. Historical sources also mention that al-Walid ibn Yazid (or Walid II, d. 126/ 744) spent time at Qasr al-Azraq.

How Object was obtained:

The reliefs were recovered in the course of reed clearance in the water reservoirs near Qasr al-Azraq in 1983. They were then put on loan to the Museum of Jordanian Heritage from the Department of Antiquities in 1988.

How provenance was established:

The reliefs were found in a one of the water reservoirs near Qasr al-Azraq in 1983.

Selected bibliography:

بيشة. غازي، "ملاحظات متفرقة حول إكتشافات أثرية أموية حديثة"، حولية دائرة الآثار العامة، المجلد 30، 1986، ص 12-14 ، اللوحات 11-أ ، 12-أ،ج.

Gesichter des Orients: 10,000 Jahre Kunst und Kultur aus Jordanien, exhibition catalogue, Bonn, 2004, p.242, fig. 11.9.

Kennedy. D. L., 'Archaeological Explorations on the Roman Frontier in North-East Jordan', BAR International Series , 134, Oxford, 1982, pp.96–107, Plates XXIII-B, XXIX-B (for more information on the water reservoirs).

Citation of this web page:

Aida Naghawy "Four basalt reliefs" in Discover Islamic Art , Museum With No Frontiers, 2019.;ISL;jo;Mus01_C;18;en&id=architectural_elements

Prepared by: Aida NaghawyAida Naghawy

Aida Naghawy is an archaeologist and the Director of Jordan Archaeological Museum. She studied archaeology at the University of Jordan where she gained her MA. She was affiliated to the Jordanian Department of Antiquities from 1974 as a curator of Jordan Archaeological Museum. In 1981 she became inspector of Jerash antiquities and co-ordinator of the Jerash International Rehabilitation project. She was also head of the archaeological awareness section at the Department of Antiquities. Aida is the author of numerous publications on Islamic coins. She has carried out excavation work in Jerash and is the founder of Jerash Archaeological Museum and the Islamic Museum of the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs.

Copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: JO 36