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Madaba
The mosaics
Later history


Madaba's Later History

After the Muslims defeated the Byzantines at the Yarmuk River in 636, Madaba became part of the Umayyad dynasty’s southern Jund al-Falastin (Palestine Administrative District). The transition was peaceful, and because of Islam's general policy of respect for other peoples "of the book," Madaba was able to retain its distinctive Christian character throughout this era. As in its sister town of Um Er-Rasas, the Madabans continued to build churches and lay mosaic floors at least until the 8th century. A mosaic inscription found in Um Er-Rasas mentions a bishop of Madaba as late as 785.

The town appears to have been abandoned at some point during the Mameluke period (1250-1517). It lay in ruins, which hid the mosaics. European explorers came through in the 19th century but saw little to interest them. Only Henry B. Tristram, in his The Land of Moab (1873, pp. 306-315), spent four days here and understood the potential: "Excavations we were not able to attempt; but I have seen no place in the country where they seem more likely to yield good results."

In 1880 a large group of Christian Arabs from Karak came to Madaba after a dispute with their Muslim neighbors. Under the Ottoman laws of the period, they were not allowed to build new churches, but they could build on the ruins of previous ones. These projects led to the discovery of the mosaics described above, including that of the celebrated map.