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Dramatic Entrance

September/October 2023

DD Jordan Jerash MasksFour miniature terracotta masks found in the Roman city of Jerash in Jordan shed light on its theater district in the second century A.D. Excavators from the University of Jordan unearthed the masks in a doorway of a structure. The four-inch-tall artifacts depict a bearded Hercules, two horned and goateed faces—likely satyrs—and a curly-haired man who researchers believe is a slave. Such masks were common offerings to Dionysus, the god of theater, and were collected as souvenirs. The masks, whose designs are unique to this location, were probably produced locally. They may have hung on the wall of the structure in whose doorway they were found, which United Arab Emirates University archaeologist Saad Twaissi believes could be a temple dedicated to Dionysus, based on its architectural decorations and proximity to Jerash’s northern theater. The finds challenge previous assumptions that this area was used for industry or dumping refuse and was marginal to Jerash’s center. “Now we can understand the plan of the city better and the relationship between its northern and southern halves,” says Twaissi.

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