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The Memorial of Moses at Mount Nebo, Jordan: Facing a Difficult Future

The Memorial of Moses at Mount Nebo, Jordan: Facing a Difficult Future

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09/29/2010

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 8th US/ICOMOS International Symposium:Heritage InterpretationCharleston, South Carolina, May 5-8, 2005
Case Study:The Memorial of Moses at Mount Nebo, Jordan:Facing a Difficult Future
W. Brown Morton III, Fellow US/ICOMOSPrince B. Woodard Chair of Historic PreservationUniversity of Mary Washington, Fredricksburg, Virginia,22401-5300e-mail:bmorton@umw.edu, (540) 654-1310
 
ABSTRACT
The Memorial of Moses at Mount Nebo, Jordan:Facing a Difficult Future
 
The on-going conservation, protection, and interpretation of the Memorial of Moses onMount Nebo in Jordan presents a dramatic challenge for international historic preservation in theMiddle East. Seventy years of success are now gravely threatened by rapidly shifting economic,social, political and geophysical factors. These factors must be confronted in a comprehensiveand integrated manner if this place of outstanding importance to three major world religions is tosurvive and retain its integrity.Mount Nebo is identified in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy, Chapter 34 as the site of the death of the prophet Moses in view of the full expanse of the Promised Land, which he,himself, would never enter. On Mount Nebo, today, are located significant portions of the 4
th
to8
th
century A.D. Christian basilica and surrounding monastery complex known as the Memorialof Moses.The site appears to have been gradually abandoned, commencing in the 9
th
century.Then, in 1932, with the consent of Amir Abdullah ben Hussein, the great-grandfather of thepresent King of Jordan, the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, through the Studium BiblicumFranciscanum of Jerusalem, was permitted to acquire the property.Under the direction of archeologist, Father Sylvester Saller and the assistance of BrotherJerome Mihaic, an exacting program of archaeological excavation and discovery began in 1932.In 1963, an extensive shelter was constructed over the basilica to protect the outstanding mosaicfloors and to return the structure to active liturgical use. This shelter, covered in now-deteriorating asbestos panels, is environmentally unacceptable and requires replacement. Since1976 continuing conservation and interpretation work has been advanced under the supervisionof Father Michele Piccirillo, Director of the Franciscan Archaeological Institute at Mount Neboand author of 
The Mosaics of Jordan.
In the year 2000, the Memorial of Moses at Mount Neboreceived over 260,000 visitors, including His Holiness Pope John Paul II.This case study identifies and evaluates the critical conservation and interpretation issuesfacing this outstanding site and explore options for local, regional and international cooperationthat might insure an appropriate future for Mount Nebo and also serve as models for protectingother historic sites caught in the maelstrom of current events.………………………………………………………………………………..W. Brown Morton III, was invited by the Franciscan Archaeological Institute to evaluate theMemorial of Moses at Mount Nebo and to make recommendations for its conservation andinterpretation. Morton’s recommendations were published in 2004 by the Studium BiblicumFranciscanum, Jerusalem in: M. Piccirillo (a cura di),
Un progetto di copertura per il Memorialedi Mosè
. A 70 anni dall'inizio dell'indagine archeologica sul Monte Nebo in Giordania (1933-2003) (SBF Collectio Maior 45), Jerusalem 2004. 336 pp.;
 
Part I: Interventi di Restauro eConservazione .2
 
List of Illustrations
[Not attached to this e-mail version of the text. Available as colorand black and white printed images.]Frontispiece: Mount Nebo: Mosaic detail of a gazelle located in the floor of theTheotokos Chapel. Photo: FAI.Map 1: Map of Jordan from: Franciscan Fathers,
Guide to Jordan,
3rd edition.Franciscan Printing Press, 1982.Figure 1: Mount Nebo: Courtyard of the modern Franciscan convent.Photo: W. Brown Morton III (WBM)Figure 2a & 2b: Mount Nebo: General site-plan of the historic basilica and monastery.Plan: FAI.Figure 3: Mount Nebo: Mount Nebo: Plan of the Mosaics in the basilica. Plan: FAI, fromMichele Piccirillo and Eugenio Alliata.
 Mount Nebo, New Archaeological Excavations1967-1997.
(Jerusalem: Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, 1998, p. 266.)Figure 4: Mount Nebo: His Holiness Pope John Paul with Fr. Michele Piccirillo, March20, 2000. Photo: FAI.Figure 5: Mount Nebo: Recently widened road between Madaba and Ghawr, showingtraffic and parking congestion at the entrance to the Memorial of Moses. The basilica isseen in the upper right. Photo: WBM.Figure 6: Mount Nebo: Intrusive modern residence built in the view-shed of theMemorial of Moses. The basilica is seen to the left of the house. Photo: WBM.Figure 7: Mount Nebo: The Al-Mukhayat Handicraft Center on the left, an unfinishedtourist venture on the right. The basilica is seen in the center. Photo: WBM.Figure 8: Mount Nebo: The Siagha Restaurant and American Express sign. The basilicais seen between the two trees on the right. Photo: WBM.Figure 9: Mount Nebo: New government built parking lot east of the Memorial of Moses.The basilica is seen on the right, beyond the new residential construction. Photo: WBM.Figure 10: Mount Nebo: Western courtyard from the steps of the basilica showing acontemporary sculpture suggesting Moses’ lifting up of the serpent in the desert. Photo:WBM.
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