Monthly Archives: August 2012

Preservation of the Double Window – The Solution

The problem of the preservation of the Double Window was described in the previous post. This post, the “Solution,” will briefly describe the strategy we developed and tell the story of the work done in pictures. To begin, we solved the problem of access by abandoning the traditional use of scaffolding and instead working on the east side of the wall from a truck-mounted safety bucket. The west side was fairly accessible because it was possible to step from the walls of the rooms behind onto a row of corbels below the two windows.

Access of the east facade from the safety bucket

The west facade. Siyah, standing on the corbels, and Mousa, in the safety bucket, begin work on the window sill.

The preservation strategy began with the goal of doing minimal intervention in order to preserve the ruin “as a ruin” (see “Planning Principles” in Progress Report, the 26-March post on this blog.) To achieve this, we decided not to dismantle and rebuild the windows, but preserve them as they are and take only measures deemed necessary to prevent their further collapse under adverse conditions (high winds; high velocity overflights and sonic booms, and moderate earthquakes). The actual work plan we adopted was the product of advice from a number of conservation specialists who visited us during the planning stages as well as the collective wisdom of my entire staff. (*See the end of this post for a special thank-you note to the key contributors.)   In the end, credit for judging how the work was to be done, and what was possible within the realms of budget and safety, goes to Awda Masa’eid, whose work on the repair of the hole in the roof has already been described (see “Hole in the Roof,” the 9-June post).

The following photo journal gives a visual account of the implementation of this preservation strategy. It comes in four segments: The Setup, Restoration of the Window Sill, The South Window Post Buttress, and The Relieving of the South Window Arch.

The Setup

Before any work was begun the stones loading the arches were numbered in preparation for the removal of some and as precaution for the accidental dislodging of others. The second photo  shows the setup of the two cranes as the work is about to begin and Awda and his assistant Na’if ready to work. The greatest concern in this operation was the safety of the people on the wall. It is testimony to their patient caution and the precision skills of the crane operators that no injury greater than a cut finger occurred during the entire three weeks of this Double Window operation.

To begin, the blocks resting on the two arches were numbered.

Poised to begin. Awda Masa’eid in the safety bucket, and his constant working partner, Na’if, on the wall.

Restoration of the Window Sill

In the photo with the numbered stones you can see that most of the window sill of the left window is missing, and the masonry below has been weakened. A key to the stabilization of the whole window unit is the repair of the wall and the sill, which ties the two faces of the wall together. As this window operation began, we had been clearing the soil and collapse masonry from the water reservoir below. Here we found the stones to restore the sill as shown in the following sequence of pictures. The blond color of the restored blocks is surface pigmentation coated onto the black basalt from the centuries of being buried in a mixture of russet soil (used as roofing material) and lime from eroded plaster and mortar (used on the walls).

The first restored sill stone is in place.

The crane lifts a sill stone out of the birkeh (water reservoir).

Muaffaq Hazza has this sill stone ready to fly.

… airborn …

… approaching… Think about the delicacy of the crane operator’s control manipulation, which is preventing the pendulous block from swinging into the arch like a giant sledge hammer.

… landing …

Siyah and Abdu al-Rahman wrestle the block into its slot.


Buttressing the South Window Post

Meanwhile, Awda Masa’eid and his crew began the buttressing of the south window post.

The south window post and, to its left, the wall to be reinforced. Notice that the installation of the last sill block described above has not yet taken place when this photo was taken.

Na’if and Awda place the first blocks with the rest of his team poised to help.

The buttressing has begun, but the numbered stones are still high above.

The careful selection and laying of stones continues.

On the left, a rectangular window is reconstructed to expand the support base for the higher courses of the buttress.

As the courses grow higher the work becomes more and more delicate and deliberate and balancing on the wall itself, as Abdu en-Nur is doing, more difficult and scary.

Until finally …

… stones 15 and 21 to the left of the arch …

… are locked in by the buttress!

As Awda Masa’eid and Muaffaq Hazza show here, every move along the way was carefully discussed until all involved agreed. This cooperation through patient discussion was key to the success of the operation.

The Relieving of the South Window Arch

The final step was the removal of the top three courses overloading the slumping south window arch in order to protect it and also remove some of the sideways pressure on the central column and the unloaded arch of the north window. While the buttressing operation took over two weeks, this procedure was completed in two days.

First, the slumping arch was supported with steel posts.

Then the stones were …

… carefully lifted off.

… and the remaining course sealed with lime mortar, darkened with ashes – so that things will look natural to overflying pilots and the resident Hudhud (Hoopoe bird).

The new look will take some getting used to; like that of a person who has changed from long unruly tresses to a short-cropped flat-top hairdo.

Na’if and Awda descend triumphant!!!

The result was celebrated with a light show, put on and photographed by Jeff DeKock and Muaffaq Hazza.


Advice on preservation: *I’m especially grateful to the following for their kind and clever ideas on the preservation of the Double Window: Elana Ronza, Christina Danielli and Chris Tuttle, who are working on the Temple of the Winged Lion in Petra; Barbara Perlich and Tobias Horn, preservation architects on the Qasr Mshatta Project, and Amer Qimash, architect/engineer of the Department of Antiquities, Amman.  On my own project staff, key input was given by Abdul Qader al-Housan (Director of the Mafraq office of the Dept of Antiquities and partner in this field work), Abdulla Shorman (Structural specialist in the Dept of Archaeology, Yarmouk University), Na’il Tuhamer (DoA-Mafraq engineer assigned to the project) and Muaffaq Hazza (UJ Project senior staff).

In addition to those in the bucket and on the wall, immense credit goes to the rest of the 30+ work force doing their essential tasks away from the camera with energy and enthusiasm.

The light show was created and photographed by Jeff DeKock and Paul Christians of Open Hand Studios ( and Muaffaq Hazza.

Text by Bert de Vries; photographs by Bert de Vries and Muaffaq Hazza.


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