Hisham's Palace (Arabic: Khirbat al-Mafjar) is the archaeological remains of an Umayyad winter palace located
five km north of Jericho in the West Bank.
Construction and layout -
The palace was built on the northern outskirts of Jericho, then an imperial domain, in 743–744 BCE by Al-
Walid ibn Yazid during the caliphate of his predecessor Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, who ruled the Umayyad
empire from 723 until his death in 743. It was modelleed on a Roman bath house and was covered with exquisite
colored mosaics and stucco.
The complex comprised a palace, a paved courtyard, a bath house, a mosque, a fountain courtyard, a 60-hectare
enclosure containing plants, animals, mosaic and decoration of the highest standard. The palace itself was
a large square building with a monumental entrance and rooms on two floors around a long porticoed courtyard.
A sophisticated system of underground pipes was constructed to provide hot water and portions of the system
still exist. The bath house also served as an audience room and banqueting hall. The architecture of the
bath's main hall and fountain contain many examples of late antique and classical secular building techniques
not known elsewhere.
Recent excavations have uncovered workshops and storerooms, which may indicate that the palace was also an
In the top right corner of the Bath is a small room that was reserved for the Prince. In this room a luscious
mysterious mosaic panel stood. The main panel depicts a large tree and underneath it a lion attacking a deer
(right side) and two deer peacefully grazing (left side). The panel's interpretations have varied, with some
claiming that the panel probably represents good and bad governance, while others wrote extensively to
explain that the Lion represents the prince and the deer his wives or harem. The latter back their claim with
the argument that the deer seem peaceful and un-intimidated by the lion's presence. Thousands of fragments of
the mosaics are stored in the Rockefeller Museum in East Jerusalem, but few were able to study them.
The stucco features depictions of semi-naked women and is unique in Islamic art.
Many of the details of the palace are known to historians as a result of the excavation and reconstruction of
its layout by Robert Hamilton.
The luxurious decoration throughout the palace surpasses that known in late Roman equivalents, something that
is often taken as evidence of the irreligious nature of the Umayyads.
The palace was destroyed in 747 by an earthquake....