AMMAN – In the hype of the recent unearthing of what archaeologists are calling ‘priceless’ full body sculptures of Zeus and Aphrodite, Jordan’s geographical importance only increases as these relics of the past continuously emerge all over the region. With numerous functions, artifacts that are being found are corresponding to various civilizations that have once settled on the land that we know today as Jordan. There is no dispute that Jordan hosted many cultures throughout the years which gave birth to both its cities and their names. The ancient terms have echoed through time into our moderns languages  today, like Rabbath Amon – our Amman, and Kir of Moad – our Kerak, and Gerasa – our Jerash, amongst others as well. All the way through ancient times back from the Bronze Age, to the Nabateans, to the Islamic Age that stretches towards the Ottoman Empire and modern history to the Kingdom of Jordan. Most of these artifacts were tools used for agriculture, cooking and trade, but a significant number of artifices left for us to discover are indeed sculptures and ruins meant to enrich the viewer culturally.

This list aims to highlight the most prominent of these hidden gems, most of which are in the care of the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Antiques as well as other art institutions.

Ayn Al Ghazal – Jordan National Museum/Jordan Archaeological Museum:

Ayn Al Ghaza Sculptures seen at the Jordan Museum, image courtesy of Shahrouri.

Any listicle combining general history and art of the region must begin with the Ayn al Ghazal sculptures. They are one of Jordan’s most valuable findings simply because they are believed to be some of the world’s oldest found sculptures depicting the human form. The purpose of the ancient humanoid sculpture has been the subject of several discussions, some claiming them being deities, others disputing they were made for self expression thus they are indeed ‘art’. However those discussions conclude, you can bask at the sheer eeriness of the sculptures in awe in the capital of Jordan, Amman. Just from their bizarre shape, people drawn to them are bound to ask several questions, be it on their existence, purpose, or maker. It is also worth pointing out that this is not the only sculpture dug up in the Ayn al Ghazal region; almost 30 sculptures and artifacts were unearthed from the region. Two similar humanoid sculptures are also currently on display in both the Louvre in Paris and in Abu Dhabi.

Travel back to 6,500BC when you see the Ayn al Ghazal sculptures at the Jordan Museum in Ras Al Ain and the Jordan Archaeological Museum at the Amman Citadel.

The Hand of Hercules – Jordan Archaeological Museum:

Hand of Hercules, The Amman Citadel, image courtesy of Shahrouri.

Jabal al Qal’a (the Amman Citadel) is home to numerous forgotten ruins from the Romans, the Byzantines and Umayyad periods. It is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places on earth. Resting under the shadow of Amman’s most famous Roman Pillars is the monolithic hand of Hercules. Although one can only see three of Hercules‘ fingers – almost as if in a fist, one cannot fail to ask themselves the question: based on the size of these fingers, how big was the actual statue? Well, anthropologists and specialists have predicted it to have been 12m high, but dethroned by time and various uncontrollable events, all that is left of Hercules is his hand.

You can easily find the hand in one of the main courts of the famous Jordan Archaeological Museum located in the heart of Amman, Jabal al Qal’a.

Nabataean Sculptures – Petra Museum:

 Sculptures on display, image courtesy of the Petra Museum Website.

It is not a secret that the Rose City of Petra has many hidden gems. Many forget about the beautifully adorned city with its great attractions because of the worldwide popularity of Petra’s Khazneh (The Treasury) that jumps right up in front of you after the magical walk through the famous Siq. The Nabataeans who have so masterfully carved the city, had a culture of their own which they have so elegantly preserved through many abandoned relics left for us to ponder on. The Petra Museum was established to highlight the Nabataean culture, their masterful tools, water management schemes and of course, their many sculptures. Amongst those sculptures that can be found in both the Museum in the visitor’s center and inside the Rose City itself (etched onto pillars and walls), are of the pre-Islamic Gods, most notably Dushara and Al Uzzá

Pillars, cave, inscription – Darat Al Funun:

Ancient grounds and Roman pillars seen at the Darat Al Funun courtyard, image courtesy of location’s website.

Perhaps the most hip location on this list, Darat Al Funun has been loved dearly by Ammanis for its ampt concentration and determination in preserving art and culture. Amongst its grounds, you can find the ruins of a sixth century Byzantine Church that is believed to have been a Roman temple dedicated to Hercules. A walk about the court through the dimly lit Roman pillars adorned with minute details leads you towards a cave which scholars believe is a sort of temple or shrine. Inscriptions around the area indicate that the place was important for the Romans whom referenced Hercules as well as for the Byzantines whom have referenced St. George (the one who killed a dragon, yes).

Tyche Goddess of Amman – Jordan Archaeological Museum:

Tyche Goddess of Amman seen at the Jordan Archaeological Museum, image courtesy of Shahrouri.

Daughter of Zeus and Aphrodite and protector of the ancient city of Philadelphia (modern day Amman) rests comfortably now within the Jordan Archaeological Museum. The bust was discovered during excavations in 1957 when the museum itself was being planned out! She governed the fortune and prosperity of Philadelphia amongst other cities in the region in the old Hellenistic period while keeping the region safe from any incoming force.

Zeus/Aphrodite sculptures – Jerash Museum:

Aphrodite and Zeus at the Jerash Museum, image courtesy of Shahrouri.

Zeus and Aphrodite now welcome visitors as they enter the Visitor’s Center in the Jerash Archeological Site. The great detail of the sculptures are apparent even as one enters the main hall of the Visitor’s center. Zeus being the sky and thunder God who rules the Greek gods of Mount Olympus is perhaps the most famous of all the Greek gods. Aphrodite the goddess of love, beauty and passion is the daughter of Zeus in some tales.

Apollo – Jordan National Museum:

Apollo at the Jordan National Museum, image courtesy of Shahrouri.

This almost perfect marble sculpture of Apollo now stands in the Jordan National Museum. Apollo, God of music, poetry, archery, truth and healing is considered to be one of the most important gods within the Greek and Roman religions. Known as the most beautiful of the gods, his sculptures can be found in many temples worldwide. This sculpture here represents an ideal example of a Kouros; which in itself is a form of Greek sculptures that represent the beauty of male youths and has been heavily used to represent Apollo

Read more from Tariq Shahrouri.
Image courtesy of Shahrouri except where indicated.