The inscription is painted in red on the arch of the apse, next to a painted cross:
πρεσβίαις τῆς ὑπερενδόξου Θεοτόκου Μαρίας καὶ ἱκεσίαις τῶν ἁγίων
'Through the intercessions of the exceedingly glorious God-Bearer (Theotokos) Mary and through the supplications of the saints.'
Text: Villeneuve & Al-Muheisen 2000, 1560, based on a preliminary reading by F. Alpi.
Saint NameMary, Mother of Christ : S00033
Unnamed saints (or name lost) : S00518
Saint Name in SourceΜαρία
Type of EvidenceInscriptions - Graffiti
Inscriptions - Inscribed architectural elements
Evidence not before500
Evidence not after600
Activity not before500
Activity not after600
Place of Evidence - RegionPalestine with Sinai
Palestine with Sinai
Palestine with Sinai
Place of Evidence - City, village, etcArindela
Place of evidence - City name in other Language(s)Arindela
Cult activities - PlacesCult building - independent (church)
Cult activities - Non Liturgical Practices and CustomsPrayer/supplication/invocation
SourceThe inscription was found in a church complex built at the site of a former pagan sanctuary, located in the northwest sector of the ancient village. In the mid-4th c. the pagan sacred precinct with its temple were apparently abandoned, as well as the rest of the settlement. The sacred precinct was resettled probably in the 6th c., and the temple was converted into a church with a single apse, and a baptistery. The excavators argue for the existence of a martyr shrine in the building, in the area delimited by a square colonnade (probably former motab) in the north wing of the complex, as it was protected by a chancel screen.
The sacred precinct was excavated by a French-Jordanian mission during three campaigns between 1996 and 1999. The inscription was first published by François Villeneuve and Zeidoun Al-Muheisen in 2000, from a preliminary transcription made by Frédéric Alpi.
DiscussionThe find is interesting for the epithet of Mary, ὑπερένδοξος/'exceedingly glorious', and the term ἱκεσία denoting the intercession of saints, both very rare in inscriptions.
The editors argue that the use of the epithet Theotokos points to the Chalcedonian character of the local Christian community. They add that the church could have been dedicated to Mary, whose cult may have replaced that of Aphrodite/al-Uzza, although any links between the two figures are not clear due to the circa 200-year long chronological gap between the abandonment of the village and the establishment of the Christian settlement.
Dating: the editors date the inscription to the 6th c. based on the shape of its letters.
Chambon, A., Al-Muheisen, Z., Janif, M.M., and others, Khirbet edh-Dharih. Des Nabatéens au premier Islam (Amman: Mairie d'Amman, 2002), no. 25.
Villeneuve, F., Al-Muheisen, Z., "Nouvelles recherches à Khirbet edh-Dharih (Jordanie du Sud, 1996-1999)", Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (2000), 1560.
Villeneuve, Fr., "Dharih (Jordanie méridionale): village chrétien puis musulman (VIe-IXe siècles) dans les ruines d'un sanctuaire nabatéen [with an excursus by B. Pitarakis: Un médaillon-amulette retoruvé à Khirbet Dharih en Jordanie]", in: Borrut, A., Debié, M., Papaconstantinou, A., Pieri, D., Sodini, J.-P. (eds.), Le Proche-Orient de Justinien aux Abbassides: Peuplement et dynamiques spatiales. Actes du colloque «Continuités de l’occupation entre les périodes byzantine et abbasside au Proche-Orient, VIIe-IXe siècles», Paris, 18-20 octobre 2007 (Bibliothèque de lʼAntiquité tardive 19, Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), 323.
Villeneuve, F., Al-Muheisen, Z., "Le sanctuaire nabatéo-romain de Dharih (Jordanie) : nouvelles découvertes, 2001-2008", Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (2008), 1495-1520.
Chroniques d'épigraphie byzantine, 813
Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum 50, 1536.