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Research Paper on the Madaba Map

7 pages
1737 words
Wesleyan University
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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The Madaba Map is a globally renowned floor mosaic of the ancient early Byzantine church. The map is also referred as the Madaba Mosaic Map, and it featured the Saint George church, which was situated in Madaba, Jordan. The map is dated 6th century AD, and it features the oldest cartographic depiction of the ancient Holy Land. Additionally, the map offers a comprehensive guideline of the ancient City of Jerusalem. Since its discovery, the map has significantly expounded the knowledge of Jerusalem as the original cradle of the Christian faith. Nevertheless, what is the significance of the map in regards to comprehending the Byzantine Palestine, particularly Jerusalem?

Research Outline

In order to understand the worth of the map, this research will provide a brief history of the Madaba Map. Additionally, this part of the research will focus on the discovery as well as the components of the map. Additionally, the research will focus on the description of the map in terms of its physical topographic representation. Lastly, the research will focus on the scientific significance of the map in regards to providing information pertaining Byzantine Palestine, and specifically Jerusalem.

Map Description

Physical Description

Today, the renowned floor mosaic is situated in the apse of the Saint George Christian church, in Madaba. Also, unlike other contemporary maps that are oriented northwards, the map is placed in such a way that it faces east, which is also the direction of the altar. Nevertheless, the position of different places in the map coincides with the real geographical directions of the actual places on a modern compass. Originally, the map was 21 meters by 7 meters in its dimensions, with more than 2 million tesserae. Nevertheless, the current dimensions of the map are 16 meters by 5 meters.

Topographical Representation

The Madaba Map portrays a large region starting from Lebanon on its northern side, all the way to the Nile Delta on the Southern side of the map. Additionally, the map also spans from the Mediterranean Sea in its western side all through to the Eastern desert situated in the East part of the map. Furthermore, among its components, the map illustrates the Dead Sea and two fishing boats docked at the edge of the sea. Also, the map has several types of bridges, which connects the banks of the sea to the river Jordan. Also, there is an image of a lion that appears to be hunting a gazelle in the ancient Moab desert.

Additionally, the map has a good depiction of the cities of Bethlehem as well as Jericho, which are significant Biblical-Christian sites (Gold, 1958). Moreover, archaeologists have argued that in the past, the map may have been employed to facilitate the orientation of the Christian pilgrims into the ancient Holy Land (Wilkinson, 2002). Moreover, all the components of the map are labeled with explanations offered in Greek diction. Additionally, when the map is viewed from a folding perspective as well as aerial view, it illustrates approximately 150 ancient towns as well as villages that are all well labeled.

Nevertheless, the largest, as well as the most topographically detailed element in the map, is the ancient City of Jerusalem. The famous landmarks of the city that are featured include the Damascus Gate, Tower of David, Lions' Gate as well as the Golden Gate. Additionally, other elements of the ancient city of Jerusalem that are depicted in the map include Cardo Maximus, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the famous Zion Gate as well as New Church of the Theotokos (Michael, 1954). In this case, the recognizable depiction of the ancient urban topography in the map, made the mosaic to become a viable source of ancient data of Byzantine Jerusalem.

Furthermore, the map contains vivid illustrations of famous ancient cities such as Gaza, Charachmoba, Neapolis, Askalon as well as Pelusium. Additionally, these cities are remarkably well mapped in the mosaic to classify it as street maps. Moreover, in the map, the towns are represented using small towers. Additionally, walls are clearly visible on the map, and they create a perimeter for the large cities in the map including Jerusalem, Ashdod as well as Jericho. Also, in Jerusalem, the North-South Cardo, as well as the valley streets in the city, are lined with columns.

The perimeter walls can also be evidenced around the Damascus Gate plaza and Damascus Gate pillar. Furthermore, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Justinians Church as well as the Church of Holy Zion also have perimeter walls. Unfortunately, despite the vivid depiction of numerous renowned topographical destinations in the mosaic, the northern section of the map is greatly dilapidated. Nevertheless, the remaining part of the map is of paramount importance because it shows the entire sketch of the ancient city of Jerusalem. Consequently, this makes the map to have great importance in todays history of ancient biblical topography.

Scientific Significance of the Map

The mosaic has also had a great significance in the scientific field in the contemporary period. This is because, from a scientific perspective, the mosaic is considered to be the oldest geographic floor map in the entire art history (Alliata & Piccirillo, 1999). Additionally, the mosaic provided a significant source of localization as well as the verification of various biblical sites. Furthermore, the mosaic played a significant scientific role in answering the questions pertaining the topographical location of the ancient Askalon. Also, in 1967, the mosaic was resourceful in aiding the Jewish Quarter excavations in the City of Jerusalem.

Additionally, during the excavation, the map revealed the exact locations of the Nea Church as well as the Cardo Maximum sites in Jerusalem. Also, in 2010, the excavations that were conducted in Jerusalem supported the accuracy of the map by revealing a road that ran across the middle of the ancient City of Jerusalem. Additionally, according to the map, the road entered Jerusalem through a large gate that opened to a wide central street. During the excavation, which was near the Jaffa Gate, there were large paving stones that were discovered on the ground. The stones were approximately 4 meters below the surface of the ground, which proved that the ancient road existed.

How the Scholars Used the Map to Reconstruct Jerusalem During the Byzantine Period

The Madaba map was a very important historical tool that was employed by the scholars in the reconstruction of Jerusalem. This is particularly during the Byzantine Period. Additionally, the Byzantine period was characterized by the Byzantine Empire, which was also known as the Eastern Roman Empire. Furthermore, this period marked by the continuation of the Roman Empire to the East, especially during the Late Antiquity as well as Middle Ages, when the capital of the region of Constantinople. Additionally, todays modern day Istanbul was the same as Constantinople.

During the reconstruction of Jerusalem, at the first stage, the researchers consented that there was a close resemblance of Jerusalem as it appeared in the map and the actual state of Jerusalem as it occurred in the sixth century. As such, the planners sought to find out the ancient boundaries, streets and major landmarks of the ancient Jerusalem by performing various excavations at the Jerusalem city at the time. Furthermore, their research led them to the great discovery of the foundations of some of the major landmarks and foundations of the ancient city of Jerusalem.

For instance, the excavation of the column in the square, which was positioned in the Northern gate or the Damascus Gate, solved the mystery of the nomenclature of various historical figures in Jerusalem. Moreover, such columns aided in the reconstruction of the Damascus Gate during the Byzantine Period, which had already become dilapidated. Subsequently, the builders of the Byzantine period ensured used the excavated landmarks to lay back replicas of the buildings and other major landmarks that existed in during the Ancient Jerusalem.


Ultimately, the Madaba Map had a major significance in the depiction of numerous ancient locations that held an immense meaning to the narrative of the New Testament. Precisely, the map provided a detailed topographical sketch of the first City of Jerusalem as well as the Christianity renowned banks of the river Jordan. Other historical features that were depicted by the Madaba Map include the Damascus Gate, Golden Gate, Tower of David, New Church of the Theotokos as well as Cardo Maximus.

Furthermore, the map was essential to the archeologists that occurred both during the Byzantine Period and in the twenty-first century. This is because, to the fore, it helped the Byzantine archeologists to reconstruct the City of Jerusalem. Also, in the latter, the Madaba Map was employed as an essential historical tool that led to the discovery of numerous ancient landmarks that existed during the ancient Jerusalem. Moreover, the map also provided a vivid outline of the ancient landmarks of Jerusalem, which had already been dilapidated over time.

Moreover, from a scientific perspective, the discovery of the Madaba Map played a crucial role in facilitating successful discoveries that were made in 2010 by the contemporary archeologists. This is mostly in their precision in illustrating the road that ran across the middle of the ancient City of Jerusalem. Furthermore, today, the map has been classified as the oldest historical artifact that clearly depicts the topography of the ancient City of Jerusalem as it was before the Byzantine reconstruction.


In conclusion, the Madaba Map had a great significance in regards to improving the understanding of the ancient Byzantine Palestine, especially Jerusalem. Additionally, some of the major landmarks of the City of Jerusalem that were indicated on the map include the Damascus Gate, Tower of David, Lions' Gate as well as the Golden Gate. Others were the Cardo Maximus, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the famous Zion Gate as well as New Church of the Theotokos. Also, the map portrayed 150 ancient towns as well as villages that existed in the ancient City of Jerusalem. Ultimately, the Madaba map was a very significant historical tool that was utilized by the scholars in the reconstruction of Jerusalem.



Alliata, E., & Piccirillo, M. (1999). The Madaba Map Centenary 1897-1997. Travelling through the Byzantine Umayyad Period. Proceedings of the International Conference Held in Amman, 7-9 April 1997. Jerusalem: Franciscan Printing Press.

Gold, V. R. (1958). The Mosaic Map of Madaba. The Biblical Archaeologist, 21(3), 49-71. doi:10.2307/3209272

Michael, A.-Y. (1954). The Madaba mosaic map with introduction and commentary by Michael avi-Yonah. Jerusalem: Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society.

Wilkinson, J. (2002). Jerusalem Pilgrims before the crusades (Middle East Studies). Oxford: Aris & Phillips, Ltd.



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