Built in AD 191, this elaborate public fountain was once a large, two-storey complex with water features, mosaics, stone carvings and possibly a 600-sq-metre swimming pool – all dedicated to the nymphs.
The Nymphaeum, or main public fountain of old Philadelphia, as Amman was named in Hellenistic and Roman times, dates back to the end of the 2nd century AD.
It is only a short stroll away from the Roman Theater and Odeon.
Nymphaea were built over caves with running water, which were believed to be sacred to mythological nymphs. They were areas of public gathering and seen as a sign of a city’s wealth.
The Roman urban plan organized Philadelphia into two main parts: the upper one with the main Roman Temple of Hercules, and the lower part, which follows a typical Roman city plan, with two colonnaded streets (Cardo and Decumanus) along the major two valleys of the city.
The Nymphaeum was located close to the point, where the Cardo intersects with the Decumanus.
With its monumental structure that used to be richly decorated with carvings, mosaics and statues, the Amman Nymphaeum, is a half octagonal building of symmetrical design with a restored length of 68 m.
The lower part is the foundation built on barrel vaults.
The second floor consisted of three large apses, with two rows of niches designed to host statues.
The height of the apses, is around 12 m in front of which was a gallery, with columns of Corinthian order.
The apses were terminated in semi-domes, which probably collapsed, in one of the earthquakes of the 7th cent AD.
After a bit more than 3 years of restoration, the Nymphaeum Archaeological Park reopened in March 2018.
This is an important project to put the site on the Kingdom’s tourism map. This process follows the documentation of the site in 3D using the latest technology, noting that the last documentation of the Nymphaeum is around 100 years old.
Over 40 students from UJ, Petra University and the Hashemite University, along with technicians, are working to clean, coat and consolidate the structure’s stones, with new groups of students coming regularly, to gain practical experience in archaeological restoration.
Students, technicians, and experts from the fields of conservation, cultural resource management, archaeology, tourism, and architecture were involved in the project and fifty on-job field training opportunities, were offered for university students from fields of conservation, cultural resource management, chemistry, biology, tourism management, architecture, and urban planning.
Students were mainly from University of Jordan, Hashemite University, University of Petra, and Jordan University of Science and Technology.
The project (August 2014–March 2018) has been supported by the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, at the US Embassy in Amman, Jordan and successfully safeguarded, the internal environment of the site including removal of non-site related structures and visual pollution, cleaning the front area of debris, landscaping and installing terraces compatible, with the site which proved to be effective during winter season.
The open areas and part of the basin of the Nymphaeum, were covered with gravel to provide a unified look, enhance visitor circulation, and limit the possibility of vegetation growth.
Preparations were made for nine fully illustrated bilingual site interpretive panels, a 3D printed reconstruction model of the Nymphaeum, and online and promotion materials.
In summary, this project is a new model for downtown Amman, in the way it revives and transforms urban heritage into an open public space, and provides opportunities as a cultural forum.