Tabaqat Fahl (Pella) House Complex

Pella, was an administrative district in the military province of Jordan in the early 7th century, serving the link between Damascus and Jerusalem; the two most important centres in southern Bilad al-Sham in 659-660 AD. The damage and the partial collapse of the domestic quarter of the main mound from an earthquake is evident, as seen in the complete destruction, as well as from neighbouring sites. This led to an urban re-organization, translated by a rebuilding program, which produced large houses with an encroachment on public areas that continued until the end of the Umayyad period. Six courtyard structures, dating to the seventh and eighth centuries, were also completely destroyed in the 749 earthquake. Generally, the houses at Pella, at the ground floor level, represented the mixed function of the household; living arrangements, animal stables, storage of food, workshop production, and some aspects of daily living (cooking, transit accommodation).

At the upper floor spaces, much of the social activities took place, and perhaps at least three had roof-top access. The upper floor could be reached through the courtyards by means of stone-built staircases. One of the well preserved examples of those houses is the two-storied courtyard house (230 m2), whose corner entrance led to a simple rectangular courtyard to the east. The rooms on the lower level were used as storerooms and stables. The presence of carbonized wooden beams, suggests that the roofs were made of matting over oak beams, sealed with clay. The upper storey floors may have been carried on timber beams.

An out of the ordinary house, dated to the late 7th century, and destroyed in the severe earthquake of 749, represents another fine example of an urban, but not primarily residential complex. The complete ground floor plan remains unknown. It was a large complex (560m2), with two courtyards. The front façade of the house had three doorways, opening on to the street. The group of living rooms in the west side of the house were accessible from the main entrance through a small entrance hall. The eastern entrance was used to connect the two courtyards, meanwhile in the western side a separate space was probably used as a shop. The excavators explain the parallel existence of the two courtyards to the extended family daily-life activities that occupied the house, of which the closest courtyard to the street belonged to the men’s wing. A large room was also built in the outer courtyard as a guest room, while the inner courtyard and the rooms surrounding it, might have served as the women’s wing.