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Exhibitions/ Art Object

Block Carved with an Arch

ca. 720–724
Made in Jordan, Qasr al-Qastal
Limestone, carved
39 x 23 3/4 x 19 1/2 in. (99.1 x 60.3 x 49.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Department of Antiquities, Qasr al-Qastal Archaeological Site, Jordan
Not on view
Qasr al-Qastal
Built in the badiya (border zone) marking the desert’s edge, Qasr al-Qastal is typical of the architectural patronage of Umayyad elites in its combination of palace retreat and vast tracks of cultivated land. The site is connected to the caliph Yazid II (r. 720–24) and his son Walid II (r. 743–44), who built several such palaces in neighboring areas in present-day Jordan. Qasr al-Qastal is noteworthy for its impressive palace structure. The compound’s mosque was located outside the palace precinct and includes one of the world’s earliest surviving minarets. A luxurious bathhouse was also built at the site and featured floors covered in figural mosaic.
This block likely decorated the upper walls of the audience hall at Qasr al-Qastal; similar blind niches framing foliate designs have been discovered in the audience hall of the Umayyad citadel in Amman, Jordan. The ornamentation recalls the type frequently employed in the decoration of Sasanian royal palaces, suggesting the prestigious appeal of that style among Umayyad elites. The similarity of this fragment to examples in Amman may indicate a group of traveling artists responsible for the decoration of both buildings.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.