The excavation campaigns
Laïla Nehmé (CNRS – UMR 8167 Orient & Méditerranée)
Daifallah Al-Tahli (University of Hail, Saudi Arabia)
François Villeneuve (University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne- UMR 7041 ArScAn)
The eighth excavation season of the Franco-Saudi project at Hegra took place from 17 January to 5 March 2016, under the direction of Laïla Nehmé (CNRS), François Villeneuve (University of Paris 1-Panthéon-Sorbonne) et Daifallah al-Talhi (University of Hail).
This year, the project had four main aims:
– continue the excavation of the Roman military camp discovered in 2010, studied since then and excavated since 2015
– continue the excavation of the town’s south-east gate, on the rampart – continue the excavation of the only large sanctuary clearly identified inside the town
– excavate a building whose role is not yet known
– possibly public or residential
– which is joined on to the sanctuary.
Éveha International’s participation was focused on the only sanctuary structure intra muros.
This structure, which has been excavated since 2010, lies on the summit of a sandstone outcrop and its main feature is a tetrapylon surrounded by a courtyard and a low wall. Access to the platform was from the north-west via a monumental entrance marked by two pillars, and stairs which have been largely destroyed or eroded.
Based on current knowledge, this group of structures has been interpreted as a sanctuary dedicated to the worship of the Sun, and probably Dushara, the principal deity of the Nabataeans.
It is likely that the sanctuary was originally surrounded by an outer wall, a peribolos, as were many other examples of Nabataean temples. In an attempt to find the remains of this wall, a large excavation area was opened to the east of the sandstone outcrop. In addition, a few sondages were also opened, some of which were dug down to the bedrock. These revealed several occupation phases between the 1st and 4th centuries AD. A long wall, of which almost 40m was uncovered, ran along the south edge of the excavation trench; this may be the peribolos.
At the foot of the sandstone outcrop, excavations reached the bedrock and revealed that the first phase, at the end of the 1st century BC, corresponded with the construction of a Nabataean cistern which may be contemporary with the sanctuary. In the final phase, during the 4th or 5th century, imposing stone basins were built at the base of the outcrop, whose function was probably one of water storage. They would have been part of a domestic or craft activity requiring large quantities of water. In the intermediate phases, walls and wells – or cisterns – were constructed in this area, which was therefore always strongly linked to hydraulic activity.