Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Enduring Christianity in a Muslim world

The early Christian community of Udhruh (South Jordan) not only had an own bishop, but also played a unique role in the rapidly changing religious world of early Islam. Our project aims at understanding the complicated process of religious transformation in one of the centres of the early Muslim world.

2016 - 2018
Mark Driessen
NWO, Stichting van Moorsel en Rijnierse

The Nabataean Centre for Archaeological Studies

Department of Antiquities of Jordan

Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society

Centre for Isotope Research, Groningen University 

Netherlands Centre for Luminescence Dating

Religious transformation

Udhruh, a Late Roman fortress and Byzantine town in Southern Jordan, not far from the famous site of Petra, surrendered to Mohammed’s armies in 630. This was not, however, the end of its Christian community. Two churches on the site, one of which an important religious centre, witness of Christians continuing to live there for at least six centuries under Islam. This project aims to study the churches, their architectural history, the inscriptions and the changing conditions of the site together with historical texts, to understand better the religious transformation from Late Antiquity into the Middle Ages in the Levant.

Having surveyed the churches and excavated parts in previous campaigns, we have now started to excavate untouched parts and collect samples for scientific dating to advance this important project.


Excavation of one of the ‘non-cleared’ areas of the Udhruh church in 2016 (picture: Frans Theuws – Udhruh Archaeological Project)
One of the 12th-13th century Arab-Christian inscriptions from the Udhruh Church (Picture: Hani Falahat)
Students at work in the nartex of the church (picture by Mark Driessen - Udhruh Archaeological Project)
Preliminary 3D visualization of the current state of the extra-mural church of Udhruh, created through the application of SFM (structure from motion) techniques (Pictures taken and model created by Maarten Sepers – Udhruh Archaeological Project).

Driessen M.J., F. Abudanah, 2018. A new early Christian inscription from the church of Udhruh (South Jordan). In: Kars M., R. van Oosten, M.A. Roxburgh, A. Verhoeven (eds.) Rural riches & royal rags? Studies on medieval and modern archaeology, presented to Frans Theuws. Zwolle: SPA Uitgevers. 184-188.

Al-Bashaireh K., F. Abudanah, M.J. Driessen, 2020. Provenance analysis of marble ecclesiastical elements from the extra-mural Byzantine Church of Udhruh (South Jordan), Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 2020(1): 1-13.

Driessen M.J., F. Abudanah, F.C.W.J. Theuws (eds.), in prep. Enduring Christianity in a Muslim World: The extra-mural church of Udhruh (South Jordan) – Udhruh Archaeological Papers 1. Leiden-Sidestone Press (Analecta Praehistoria Leidensia 53).

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