Name of Object:

Wooden beam

Location:

Jerusalem

Holding Museum:

Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif

About Islamic Museum, al-Aqsa Mosque / al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem

Date of Object:

About hegira 424 / AD 1033

Museum Inventory Number:

12 ص/ 21

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Carved and finished wood.

Dimensions:

Length 183 cm, width 18.5 cm, depth 20 cm

Period / Dynasty

Fatimid

Provenance:

Probably Jerusalem.

Description:

A wooden beam taken from the Dome of the Rock during restoration works of the 1960s. The beam is made from cedarwood, likely to have been imported from Lebanon. It contains an epigraphic inscription written in Fatimid foliated kufic script. The inscription is placed inside a rectangular frame that begins and ends with a tapered niche, and which is adorned with decoration carved in relief. It includes the name of the craftsman who made it and participated in the restoration works in the Dome of the Rock during the Fatimid period in the reign of Caliph al-Zahir bi-Amrillah (r. AH 411–27 / AD 1021–36). It is likely that this craftsman undertook the decoration of other artefacts inside the Dome of the Rock. The inscription beginning with the Basmala, reads: “In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful. The Work of 'Abd al-Baqi bin al-Hasan bin Ismai'l al-Dimashqi. May God support him”. Despite our lack of knowledge about this craftsman, the fact that his name contains the title “al-Dimashqi” indicates that there was a continual flow of craftsmen from Damascus into Jerusalem during the Fatimid period. Damascus was (and is still) famous for its wood-carving, and Jerusalem was supplied with a steady stream of skilled Damascene craftsmen to work on the construction of the Dome of the Rock at the end of the AH 1st /AD 7th century.
The beam does not contain any other decoration. It has fortuitously preserved its splendour without damage, which confirms the skill of its workmanship in the treatment of the wood before it was mounted at the Dome of the Rock.

View Short Description

This beam from the Dome of the Rock was made from cedarwood that was probably imported from Lebanon. The beam bears an inscription in Fatimid foliated kufic script within a rectangular frame that begins and ends with a tapered recess. It is decorated and the text is carved in relief. The piece records the carver who made it in the time of Caliph al-Zahir.

Original Owner:

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem

How date and origin were established:

The beam was dated by way of reliable knowledge concerning the areas that underwent restoration in the Dome of the Rock during the Fatimid period. In addition, the Fatimid script used in the epigraphic inscription is a reliable distinguishing mark.

How Object was obtained:

According to the registers of the Islamic Museum, the piece was transferred from the Dome of the Rock to the Museum in 1960.

How provenance was established:

It is not known whether this beam was crafted in Jerusalem or at another site. Usually, however, the piece would be carved and constructed on site. It is likely, therefore, that it was carved in Jerusalem, while the cedarwood was imported from Lebanon. The craftsman was probably from Damascus, as is evident from the inscription.

Selected bibliography:

Hamilton, R. W., The Structural History of al-Aqsa Mosque: A Record of Archaeological Cleaning from the Repairs of 1938–42, London, 1949.

Citation of this web page:

Nazmi Al-Ju'beh "Wooden beam" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=object;ISL;pa;Mus01;7;en

Prepared by: Nazmi Al-Ju'behNazmi Al-Ju'beh

Nazmi Al-Ju'beh is an archaeologist and historian and Co-Director of RIWAQ, Centre for Architectural Conservation in Ramallah, Palestine. He studied at Birzeit University in Palestine and at Tübingen University in Germany. He taught at Birzeit University and at al-Quds University. He was Director of the Islamic Museum, al-Haram al-Sharif, Jerusalem, and directed various cultural heritage projects in Palestine, including surveys of archaeological and architectural sites. He was a major contributor to Pilgrimage, Sciences and Sufism: Islamic Art in the West Bank and Gaza (Vienna: MWNF, 2004) and is the author of numerous publications on the history, archaeology and cultural heritage of Palestine.

Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: PA 07

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