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MADABA Jordan.

A town in Moab, E of the Dead Sea, taken by the Israelites from Sihon king of the Amorites, and later conquered by Mesha king of Moab. In the Hellenistic period the town was in the hands of the sons of Iambre (I Macc. 9:36). John Hyrcanus conquered it early in his reign (Joseph. AJ 13.255; BJ 1.63). It was subsequently ceded to the Nabateans, in whose hands it stayed until their kingdom was annexed by the Roman Empire when it became one of the cities of the newly founded Provincia Arabia. At this period Madaba minted coins. It flourished also in the Byzantine period.

The earliest remains at Madaba were discovered in a natural cave that had served as a burial ground for many centuries. The earliest burials go back to about 1200 B.C. In the Roman period Madaba was a fortified city with a wall and seven gates. Outside one of the gates was a pool 94 m square. The city itself has hardly been investigated, but a paved colonnaded street and remains of a Roman temple are discernible. On the acropolis a public building and a bath were observed. Here and there houses of the Byzantine period were investigated. Some of these houses had mosaic floors decorated with scenes from Greek mythology. To the same period also belong ten churches, situated in different quarters of the city. Most important is a church situated close to the N gate. The outstanding feature of this church is the mosaic pavement on which is depicted the earliest known map of the Holy Land. It shows the natural landscape of the country, against which are marked towns, villages, holy places, and fortresses. In the more important towns one may identify buildings known from ancient sources or from archaeological finds. In the compilation of the map Roman road maps and the Onomasticon of Eusebius were used. The Madaba mosaic map is now a major source for the study of the geographical history of the Holy Land in the Byzantine period. Another church, the Church of the Apostles, dated to 578-579, has been excavated.


S. J. Saller & B. Bagatti, The Town of Nebo (1949) 80-82, 147; G. L. Harding, Palestine Exploration Fund Annual 6 (1953) 27-33; S. J. Isserlin, ibid., 34-37; M. Avi-Yonah, The Madaba Mosaic Map (1954); V. R. Gold, Biblical Archaeologist 21 (1958) 50-70; Lux, ZDPV 84 (1968) 106-29; M. Noth, ibid., 130-42.


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