Pella lies at sea-level in the eastern foothills of the north Jordan Valley, 27 kilometres (17 miles) south of the Sea of Galilee and 130 km (80 miles) northwest of Amman. The first settlers arrived in the region around Pella in the Neolithic period and the site itself has been continuously occupied from around 8000 BC. Originally known by the Semitic name Pihilum, as mentioned in the 19th century BC Egyptian execration texts, Pella was one of the ten Decapolis cities that were founded during the Hellenistic period. Its name was Hellenised to Pella after the birth town of Alexander the Great in Macedonia. The Romans settled in ancient Pella in the 1st century AD and developed it into a thriving economic centre. Pella is exceptionally rich in antiquities and the University of Sydney and the Jordanian Department of Antiquities have been conducting excavations there since 1979.

Coordinates: 32° 27′ 0″ N, 35° 37′ 0″ E

Situated near a major intersection of trade routes through the Jordan Valley, Pella has a long history. Excavations over the past thirty-eight years have unearthed many important discoveries including; a Chalcolithic settlement from the 4th millennium BC, the remains of Bronze and Iron Ages temples (Canaanite temple) and administrative buildings, an odeon, baths and a nymphaeum of the Roman Imperial city, Byzantine churches and houses, an Early Islamic residential quarter and a small medieval mosque.

In 63 BC, the Roman General Pompey captured the city and it was integrated into the Eastern portion of the Empire. Pella came to be one of the Decapolis cities that would become centres of Greek and Roman culture in a region which was inhabited by ancient Semitic-speaking peoples (Nabataeans, Arameans, and Judeans). In the 1st century AD, the Romans began to build temples, theatres, collonaded streets and to integrate civic architecture and city planning into the pre-existing Greek city. According to Eusebius (History of the Church 3:5), Jewish Christians of Jerusalem took refuge here during the first Jewish revolt against Rome (AD 66-70) and Pliny mentions its famous spring (HN 5.16.70).

Pella reached its greatest size during the Byzantine era when trade routes strengthened and local industries developed. During this time many monasteries were constructed and the city had its own Christian bishop as early as AD 451. The population at this time may have been as high as 25,000. The city is the site of the battle between Byzantine troops and Muslim invading forces in AD 635 at the Battle of Fahl. The city proper was largely destroyed by the devastating Galilee earthquake in 749.

Today Pella is one of the most important archaeological sites in Jordan.


Foundations of the Canaanite Migdol Temple, originally constructed around 1650 BC during the Middle Bronze age with two major rebuilds; the first in 1350 BC during the Late Bronze age and the second in 900 BC.
The Canaanite temple was dedicated to the god Baal. Excavation of this structure has shown that this temple is the largest of its type and antiquity yet uncovered in the Levant.
Atop the site’s main hill are the ruins of an Umayyad settlement (c. AD 660-750), which consisted of shops, residences and storehouses.
The remains of the Umayyad settlement (c. 660-750 AD).
The remains of the Umayyad settlement (c. 660-750 AD).
The Middle Church built atop an earlier Roman civic complex in the 5th century AD and expanded in the 6th and 7th centuries.
The columns of the Middle Church, which formed the atrium, have been restored to standing position. The church had three apses, decorated with mosaics and marble.
The Middle Church.
The Middle Church.
In the 7th or 8th century, a monumental staircase was built in the west of the Middle Church, using the stone seats of the nearby Odeon.
The adjacent Odeon, a small theatre used for musical performances, once held 400 spectators.
The Odeon with the Middle Church in the background.
The East Church built at the end of the 5th century AD on the lower slope of Tal Abu El Khas overlooking the valley.
The East Church had a basilica design with two rows of columns and three apses.
The West Church, built in the 6th century AD and used during the Islamic (Umayyad) period.
Abbasid domestic houses.
An ancient mosque built commemorates the death of one of the Companions of the Prophet Mohammed, who fell in battle here during the Battle of Fahl in January AD 635.


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