Madaba Map

Coordinates: 31°43′3.54″N 35°47′39.12″E / 31.7176500°N 35.7942000°E / 31.7176500; 35.7942000
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31°43′3.54″N 35°47′39.12″E / 31.7176500°N 35.7942000°E / 31.7176500; 35.7942000

Jerusalem on the Madaba Map

The Madaba Map, also known as the Madaba Mosaic Map, is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George in Madaba, Jordan.

The mosaic map depicts an area from Lebanon in the north to the Nile Delta in the south, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Eastern Desert.

It contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem. The map dates to the sixth century AD.


Annotated reproduction of the Madaba Map (19k×12.5k pixels)

The Madaba Mosaic Map depicts Jerusalem with the New Church of the Theotokos, which was dedicated on 20 November 542. Buildings erected in Jerusalem after 570 are absent from the depiction, thus limiting the date range of its creation to the period between 542 and 570.[1] The mosaic was made by unknown artists, probably for the Christian community of Madaba, which was the seat of a bishop at that time.

In 614, Madaba was conquered by the Sasanian Empire. In the eighth century, the ruling Muslim Umayyad Caliphate had some figural motifs removed from the mosaic. In 746, Madaba was largely destroyed by an earthquake and subsequently abandoned.

The newly rediscovered mosaic inside the modern Orthodox church

Elements of the inscribed mosaic were noticed and reported to the Jerusalem Patriarchate in 1884 and 1886, during the preparation work for the construction of a new Greek Orthodox church on the site of its ancient predecessor.[2] Patriarch Nicodemus I of Jerusalem was informed, the church building erected and roofed over (summer 1895-August 1896), but the full mosaic was only noticed during clearing work for a new cement-slab floor in October 1896, and no research was carried out until December of that year, after the floor had already been laid around the mosaic by local workers under the supervision of a Greek architect.[2][3][4]

In the following decades, large portions of the mosaic map were damaged by fires, activities in the new church, and by the effects of moisture. In December 1964, the Volkswagen Foundation gave the Deutscher Verein zur Erforschung Palästinas (lit. "German Association for the Exploration of Palestine") 90,000 DM to save the mosaic. In 1965, the archaeologists Heinz Cüppers and Heinrich Brandt undertook the restoration and conservation of the remaining parts of the mosaic.[5]


Place of John the Baptist's baptism at the mouth of the Jordan and a (nearly-obliterated) lion hunting a gazelle

The floor mosaic is located in the apse of the church of Saint George at Madaba. It is not oriented northward, as modern maps are, but faces east toward the altar in such a fashion that the position of places on the map coincides with the compass directions. Originally, it measured 21 by 7 m and contained more than two million tesserae.[6] Its current dimensions are 16 by 5 m.

Topographic representation[edit]

The mosaic map depicts an area from Lebanon in the north to the Nile Delta in the south, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Eastern Desert. Among other features, it depicts the Dead Sea with two fishing boats, a variety of bridges linking the banks of the Jordan, fish swimming in the river and receding from the Dead Sea; a lion (rendered nearly unrecognisable by the insertion of random tesserae during a period of iconoclasm) hunting a gazelle in the Moab desert, palm-ringed Jericho, Bethlehem, and other biblical-Christian sites. The map may partially have served to facilitate pilgrims' orientation in the Holy Land.[citation needed] All landscape units are labelled with explanations in Greek. The mosaic's references to the tribes of Israel, toponymy, as well as its use of quotations of biblical passages, indicate that the artist who laid out the mosaic used the Onomasticon of Eusebius (fourth-century AD) as a primary source. A combination of folding perspective and an aerial view depicts approximately 150 towns and villages, all labelled.

The largest and most detailed element of the topographic depiction is Jerusalem (Greek: ΙΕΡΟΥΣΑ[ΛΉΜ]), at the centre of the map. The mosaic clearly shows a number of significant structures in the Old City of Jerusalem: the Damascus Gate, the Lions' Gate, the Golden Gate, the Zion Gate, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the New Church of the Theotokos, the Tower of David, and the Cardo Maximus. On Jerusalem's southwest side is shown Acel Dama (lit. "field of blood"), from Christian liturgy. The recognisable depiction of the urban topography makes the mosaic a key source on Byzantine Jerusalem. Also unique are the detailed depictions of cities such as Neapolis, Askalon, Gaza, Pelusium, and Charachmoba, all of them nearly detailed enough to be described as street maps. Other designated sites include: Nicopolis (Greek: ΝΙΚΟΠΟΛΙΣ); Beth Zachar[ias] (Greek: ΒΕΘΖΑΧΑΡ[ΊΟΥ]); Bethlehem (Greek: ΒΗΘΛΕΕΜ); Socho (Greek: Σωχω), now Kh. Shuweikah (southwest of Hebron); Beth Annaba (Greek: ΒΕΤΟΑΝΝΑΒΑ); Saphitha (Greek: CΑΦΙΘΑ);[7] Jericho (Greek: Ίεριχω); Beit-ḥagla (Greek: ΒΗΘΑΓΛΑ); Archelais (Greek: ΑΡΧΕΛΑΙϹ); Modi'im (Greek: ΜΩΔΕΕΙΜ); Lydda (Greek: ΛΩΔΗ); Bethoron (Greek: Βεθωρων); Gibeon (Greek: ΓΑΒΑΩΝ); Rama (Greek: ΡΑΜΑ); Coreae (Greek: ΚΟΡΕΟΥΣ);[8] Maresha (Greek: ΜΟΡΑΣΘΙ);[9] Azotos Paralos (Ashdod-Coast) (Greek: ΑΖΩΤΟΣΠΑΡΑΛΣ); The Great Plain (Greek: ΡΟΣΔΑΝ), literally meaning, "The Tribe of Dan";[10] Jamnia (Greek: ΊΑΒΝΗΛΗΚΑΙΊΑΜΝΙΑ) (Lit. "Jabneel, which is also Jamnia"), among other sites. One site represented on the map that is no longer extant are the stones at Gilgall which are clearly represented on the Madaba Map and may be hidden underneath one of the churches in Qas'r Al-Yahud[11] Many of these sites are marked on the mosaic map with various artistic vignettes representing the site in the Province of Palestina Tertia. For example, Jericho and Zoar (Greek: ΖΟΟΡΑ) are, both, represented by vignettes of date palm orchards.[12] Zoar is seen on the far south-eastern side of the Dead Sea.

Scientific significance[edit]

The mosaic map of Madaba is the oldest known geographic floor mosaic in art history. It is used heavily for the localisation and verification of biblical sites. Study of the map played a major role in answering the question of the topographical location of Askalon (Asqalan on the map).[13]

In 1967, excavations in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem revealed the Nea Church and the Cardo Maximus in the very locations suggested by the Madaba Map.[14]

In February 2010, excavations further substantiated its accuracy with the discovery of a road depicted in the map that runs through the center of Jerusalem.[15] According to the map, the main entrance to the city was through a large gate opening into a wide central street. Until the discovery, archaeologists were not able to excavate this site due to heavy pedestrian traffic. In the wake of infrastructure work near the Jaffa Gate, large paving stones were discovered at a depth of four meters below ground that prove such a road existed.[16]

Copies of the map[edit]

  • The Archaeological Institute of Göttingen University contains a copy of the map in its archive collections. This copy was produced during the conservation work at Madaba in 1965 by archaeologists of the Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Trier.
  • A copy produced by students of the Madaba Mosaic School is in the foyer of the Akademisches Kunstmuseum at Bonn.
  • The entrance lobby of the YMCA in Jerusalem has a small replica of the Jerusalem part of the map incorporated in its floor.[17] At the Byzantine Cardo in the Old City there's another copy of the Jerusalem section, with explanations.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Keyser, Paul T.; Scarborough, John (2018). The Oxford Handbook of Science and Medicine in the Classical World. Oxford: Oxford UP. p. 937. ISBN 978-0-19-973414-6. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  2. ^ a b Meimaris, Yiannis (1999). Eugenio Alliata; Michele Piccirillo (eds.). "The Discovery of the Madaba Mosaic Map. Mythology and Reality: The Madaba Map Centenary. 1897-1997. Travelling through the Byzantine Umayyad Period". Collectio Maior (40). Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press. pp. 25–36. Archived from the original on 3 October 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2011 – via (Franciscan Cyberspot), 2000 webpage expanding on 1999 book.
  3. ^ Donner, 1992, p.11
  4. ^ Piccirillo, Michele (21 September 1995). "A Centenary to be celebrated". Jordan Times. Franciscan Archaeology Institute. Retrieved 18 January 2019. It was only Abuna Kleofas Kikilides who realised the true significance, for the history of the region, that the map had while visiting Madaba in December 1896. A Franciscan friar of ltalian-Croatian origin born in Constantinople, Fr. Girolamo Golubovich, helped Abuna Kleofas to print a booklet in Greek about the map at the Franciscan printing press of Jerusalem. Immediately afterwards, the Revue Biblique published a long and detailed historic-geographic study of the map by the Dominican fathers M.J. Lagrange and H. Vincent after visiting the site themselves. At the same time. Father J. Germer-Durand of the Assumptionist Fathers published a photographic album with his own pictures of the map. In Paris, C. Clermont-Ganneau, a well known oriental scholar, announced the discovery at the Academie des Sciences et belles Lettres.
  5. ^ Donner, Herbert (1992). The Mosaic Map of Madaba: An Introductory Guide. Kampen: Pharos. p. 12. ISBN 978-90-390-0011-3. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  6. ^ Ute Friederich: Antike Kartographie [permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Kallai-Kleinmann, Z. (1958). "The Town Lists of Judah, Simeon, Benjamin and Dan". Vetus Testamentum. 8 (2). Leiden: Brill: 155. doi:10.2307/1516086. JSTOR 1516086.
  8. ^ Where is now the "Old Roman Bridge" (Arabic: Mukatta' Damieh), near the confluence of the watercourse Naḥal Yabok, not far from Wadi Fara'a, and which once marked the entry into Judea when one passes over the midland countries.
  9. ^ Donner, Herbert (1995). The Mosaic Map of Madaba: An Introductory Guide. Palaestina antiqua 7 (2 ed.). Kampen, the Netherlands: Kok Pharos Publishing House. p. 22. ISBN 90-390-0011-5. OCLC 636083006.. This particular entry has inscribed in Greek uncials: "Morasthi, whence was Micah the prophet." The text is said to have been borrowed from Eusebius' Onomasticon.
  10. ^ Beside which is inscribed a verse taken from Judges 5:17, "Why did Dan remain in ships?"
  11. ^ "Where Our Fathers Left off". 12 July 2022.
  12. ^ Dalman, Gustaf (2013). Work and Customs in Palestine. Vol. I/1. Translated by Nadia Abdulhadi Sukhtian. Ramallah: Dar Al Nasher. p. 65 (note 4). ISBN 978-9950-385-00-9. OCLC 1040774903.
  13. ^ Vogt, Jana (19 August 2006). Architekturmosaiken am Beispel der drei Jordanischen Städte Madaba, Umm al-Rasas und Gerasa – via
  14. ^ ARCHEOLOGICAL SITES NO. 5 Jerusalem- the Nea Church and the Cardo
  15. ^ "Archaeologists find Byzantine era road". CNN. 11 February 2010.
  16. ^ "Dig uncovers ancient Jerusalem street depicted on Byzantine map".
  17. ^ "Jerusalem Architecture in the British Mandate Period". Retrieved 13 November 2021.


Early sources[edit]

Later sources[edit]

External links[edit]