Discovery and Excavation

The mosaic of the Madaba Map was discovered in 1896 in a byzantine church in the city of Madaba in Southern Jordan. A number of mosaics had already been discovered in the city in the process of building new homes. The inhabitants of Madaba were made aware of the significance of the mosaics by their priests, but it was not until the discovery of the map that Madaba became known as the ‘City of Mosaics’ in Jordan. 

The first photo of the Madaba Map

The first photo of the Madaba Map in 1897 protected by railings.

The Madaba map was first discovered by builders who were building a new church on the ruins of the old church in 1894. In the building of the new church the mosaic floor was not well preserved due to the ignorance of the workers. The rest of the floor was covered with cement slabs. When Cleopas Koikylides, a young scholar interested in archaeology, arrived to take a look at the mosaic he found it covered in dirt and debris from the construction of the rest of the building. He was the first person to recognise the importance of the mosaic map. He reported back to his seniors and on the 13th December 1896 the Madaba map was first presented to a scholar who could verify its importance and uniqueness making sure it would be preserved by others in the future.

In order to protect the map iron railings were installed around it. Archaeologists were also allowed to study the map as long as they caused no damage and it was studied intensely by many groups of scholars from all over the world. In 1965 the mosaic underwent some restorations lead by Prof. H. Donner. It was cleaned and parts that had sunk due to not being on solid ground were raised and re-set and the mosaic was reinstalled back in the same place in the church. Nowadays the mosaic and church is a popular site for tourists and still intrigues scholars.

Madaba map in St George church

The Madaba Map as it looks in St George's Church today.