2.0 Background

2.1 Archaeological background

Deir 'Ain 'Abata is located at the south-east end of the Dead Sea, on a north-west facing scree slope. The site has been occupied since at least the Late Chalcolithic-Early Bronze Age, but all the surviving structures date to much later in the 4th to the 8th centuries AD (Politis 1989). The main structure is a Late Antique basilical church built on the site of St Lot's Cave, and incorporating a monastic complex (Figure 2). This Early Christian church was constructed in the 7th century AD, being dated by two mosaic inscriptions. The church of St Lot is depicted on the famous Late Antique mosaic floor map at Madaba (Avi-Yonah 1954). In the Late Antique period, monasteries were commonly built not only in urban centres, such as Jerusalem and Jericho, but also in the deserts of the Holy Land, usually associated with holy places (Patrich 1995). Pilgrims came from all over the Byzantine Empire and beyond to visit the holy sites associated with biblical characters, and to retreat from civilisation. The latest pottery and glass at Deir 'Ain 'Abata are of early Abbasid date, indicating that the church probably ceased functioning in the late 8th century AD (Politis 1992). The discovery of earlier pottery, walls and arches recovered from beneath the mosaic floor, and reused inscribed architectural stones, point to the existence of an earlier building on the same spot in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Associated with the church, to the north, is a monastic refectory with related rooms, structures and a pilgrims' hostel (Politis 1993 and 1995).

2.2 Geological background

Deir 'Ain 'Abata is located on Precambrian conglomerates that are intruded by diorite and by dolerite dykes. To the west of Deir 'Ain 'Abata lies the Late Pleistocene Lisan Marl, composed of laminated marls, calcarenite and siliclastic sand and gravel. Recent alluvial sediments bordering the Dead Sea are derived from the erosional effects of wadis that cut through deposits between the Dead Sea and to the east of Deir 'Ain 'Abata. These deposits include sandstones, arkoses, mudstones, siltstones, dolomites, limestones, marls and cherts (Figure 3). A more detailed account of the geology of the area has been presented by Powell (1988a; 1988b)


© Internet Archaeology URL:
Last updated: Tue Oct 24 2000