Roman temple. Conservation work carried out to preserve the monuments.
The village of Mushennef in Southern Syria is situated in the eastern foothills of the volcanic Basalt massif of the Jabal al-Arab, about 20 km east of the district capital of Suweida at a height of 1400m above sea level.
The ancient name of the village Mushennef is not known. Several historians attempt to identify the site as the ancient Nela. There is, however, no certain evidence to support this thesis. During the Roman period the site was a Kome (=village) belonging to the Province of Syria. One of the earliest monumental stone structures known today is the sanctuary in the northern part of the modern village. It was built and dedicated to Zeus Patroos around the birth of Christ (see image). Several inscriptions, funerary monuments and basalt statues are clear indicators of extensive settlement activity at the site in the Roman and early Christian periods.
The sanctuary at Mushennef is one of the best preserved sacred structures from the Roman period in Syria. The leaking roof of the Temple, as well as modern interferences with the building structure and the original floor levels of the ancient temple precinct caused a significant amount of damage, which made conservation measures necessary for prolonged preservation of the monument as a whole.
In view of the aforementioned problems, a concept for the presentation of Mushennef Sanctuary was commissioned by the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums and the DAI-Damascus. This was presented by the architects K. Nohlen and F. Wenzel and realized by local workmen under the direction of C. Hamzé. Work included repairs to the roof and the creation of a drainage system for rainwater. The temple precinct was given a boundary in form of a basalt wall and the animal pens within were removed (see image). The site was officially termed an archaeological zone, thus protecting the remaining structures to a large extent. A local custodian and family have been placed in charge of supervising and cleaning the entire area containing ancient remains, ensuring that the site is presented in a state befitting its importance.
Conservation measures at the site are being carried out as part of a cooperation project between the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums, the Directorate of Antiquities at Souweida, the respective Departments of Architecture at the Universities of Karlsruhe and the University of Applied Sciences at Wiesbaden.
Archaeological research at the site is published in the monograph Damaszener Forschungen, 6, 1998, 59-62.