Aarid Shumar BouRkeb and Aarid Zinnar mountains

ARCHAEOLOGY OF MLIKH


By Dr. Hassan Badawi of the Lebanese University*

Translated from French by Dr. George AbouZeid

 

I - LOCALIZATION AND HYDROLOGICAL SITUATION

Mlikh is surrounded by some of the highest mountains of southern Lebanon and is located at the north of Jabal Rihane. This area lies 90 km south of Beirut, 46 km east of Saida, and 10 Km south of Jezzine. Its altitude varies between 850m and 1100m. The depression between the mountains is made up of narrow fertile strips of land along the river: two vast terraces to the East and to the West intersected by high plateaus laid out in terrace. We made an excursion into the high plateaus in the East of the river in order to inspect the site of Tanas (at an altitude of 890m and 50m from the edge of the river). It is the place of a famous known archaeological vestige known in Mlikh under the name of “temple of Tanas.” The mountainous zone around the site, very favourable to the seasonal animal breeding, was little populated in antiquity due to the difficulty of access.

From a more general point of view, this area belongs to Jabal Rihane, and more precisely the depression of Mlikh, on western foot of Jabal `Aride Zannar. This situation explains the relief: narrow and boxed valleys Jabal Nabi Bourkab, Jabal `Arid Zannar, Qassayer, Jabal `Arid Shoumar, Jabal Safi, Tellat Al' Dahra, Shwarat and Qal‘et el Ghar. They are intersected by high plateaus from where the sources abound (`Ain Al' Sohhah, `Ain Al' Hayat, `Ain Abou el Fateh, Naba `At Qla`it, `Ain Achchamiyé, `Ain Kfarchanna, `Ain el `Arajé, etc). This localization explains the density of the hydrographic network and the perennial abundance of water, coming mainly from the snows and the rains. This climatic situation contributed to the intensive culture, which explains the settlement of human communities.

Strong precipitations take place between the months of October to April. For the winter period, the high plateaus of Jabal Rihane receive, in the form of rain and of snow, a quantity of water ranging between 300 and 7000 mm. For example, between 2nd and 5th January 2002, 75cm of snow fell into the village Mlikh and more than one meter at the top of the high mountains of Jabal Rihane. The subterranean waters and those coming from the streams meet on the surface of the limestone marls and the clay-ferruginous grounds (terrae Rossae: rich red topsoil, discontinuous and not very deep.) The faults in the limestone make it possible for water to penetrate the impermeable layers and carry them to the surface. This is why it is possible to see the spouting out of several sources in the area.

The source and rainwater having traversed the valleys while passing by the territory of Mlikh, is presented in the form of a network of winter rivers, therefore seasonal. The surface layer of the grounds consists of fine fertile particles which explain the richness and the diversity of the landscape. Various types of trees coexist what gives an impression of extreme opulence.

 

II - THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL LEGACY

The archaeological interest in Mlikh is very recent. The first evidence of a human occupation was made possible at the time of the visit of the persons in charge for the office for the Directorate-General for Antiquity (DGA) for Saida, to this site. It took place on May 23, 2001, as evidence by a letter of Dr. Shafiq Abouzayd and recorded with the DGA of Beirut. Following this visit, Dr. Abouzayd asked me to personally visit the historical places of Mlikh and to write a preliminary report in order to give a general idea of the archaeological and historical importance of this Lebanese village. The inspection of the archaeological places was made possible thanks to the authorization of the DGA of Beirut. Indeed without a serious study on Mlikh, no historical or cultural truth would be revealed which would be detrimental, given the quality and the richness of this site. By comparing the information collected by Dr. Shafiq Abouzayd, and those following our research, we highlighted rich elements on the existence of a past civilization. These elements invite us to push our study further and prove the importance of the area of Mlikh.

 

1-METHODOLOGY

The historical approach of Mlikh and the preparation of this preliminary report are based on the inspection of the zones where vestiges of old occupation were found and on the collecting of the ceramics and terra cotta shards which do not enable us however to date this place in a precise way.

The distribution of the settlement and the historical legacy that we restored through the discoveries are particularly interesting. Our interpretation is founded on the precise analysis of the data of the distribution of the vestiges. This research, was limited to:

- giving an estimate of the archaeological vestiges

- using the number of ceramics collected as an indicator relating to the period of occupation of the vestiges.

The interest of these estimates is to draw the traces of human settlement, which one will try to associate with the known history of Mlikh in addition. The location of the sites was done in several stages, with the aim of creating an inventory of the archaeological vestiges and of replacing it within the framework of the natural reserve of Mlikh. Let us specify here that all the phases of work were limited, due to the existence of mines in the area of inspection.

The archaeological search for Mlikh was undertaken by myself, Dr. Hassan Badawi, with collaboration of Dr. Shafiq Abouzayd, the archaeologist Joumana Khoury, with the assistance of Dr. Ahmad Youssif Abou-Melhem (Lebanese University), of Dr. Ali Youssif Abou-Melhem (Lebanese University), of Mr. Jean Bahjat Abouzayd, and the mayor of Rihane, Mr. Mohammad Faqih. This first research was completed in 2001 - 2002 after several visits. It is summarized in four occasions:

September 2001: Zone I: Zone of Tanas and the middle zone. It corresponds to the southernmost sector called Tanas, where the semi-sedentary settlement is confirmed by the archaeological vestiges. It corresponds to the middle sector which extends to the edge from the brook. It is a zone rich in arboriculture. We suppose that this sector was characterized by a profitable vine growing in antiquity.

At the time of the first phase, we studied the zone of Tanas and the plates - terraces along Wadi (the valley). It took place at the time of an excursion of 3 hours, in the afternoon of September 16, 2001, accompanied by Dr. Shafiq Abouzayd and Jean Bahjat Abouzayd. This phase was our first contact with the ground. It was the occasion of a meticulous excavation of the surface of a rock hill side of 1000 m2. We located the traces of a fortification still apparent today.

October - 2001: Zone II. It corresponds to the Western sector where the Christian cemetery dates back to 1927. It is rich in trees of the type “Quercus ilex”, and of an astonishing natural landscape, mixture of “tree-rocks” and some terraces of modern arboriculture. No traces of old settlements are seen in this zone. The visit was carried out with the assistance of Jean Bahjat Abouzayd. We visited in addition the sector corresponding to the north-eastern entry of Mlikh, along the brook coming from Kfar Houné, taking the new tarmac road connecting the two villages. We observed here ten installations of houses built out of stone. This sector probably corresponds to a zone of old settlement.

November 2001: Zones III and IV. They correspond to the village itself and to the Western sector called Dahr el' Borj. Research in the Eastern sector of the village (Zone III) took place during the visit with the assistance of Dr. Ali Youssif Abou-Melhem. We visited the Moslem cemetery which dates back to 1890 and the mosque dated 1903. The excavations of Zone IV were led in collaboration with Dr. Shafiq Abouzayd, the architect Mohammad Faqih, the archaeologist Joumana Khoury and Mr. Jean Abouzayd. We found two kinds of old settlements of great historical value:

- the presence of two ancient rupestral tombs (sector IVa.)

- The existence of foundations of a wine factory (sector IV.b). We excavated the IV.c sector in search of traces of settlement in the zone called Dahr el' Borj. This research did not give any convincing result. We nevertheless announced work corresponding to activities in arboricolous character and of cattle breeding of the 20th century.

January 2002: Zone V. the southern zone of Tanas was excavated in January 2002 with Dr. Shafiq Abouzayd. We found hypogean rupestral there.

 

2-BOTANICAL ARCHAEOLOGY OF THE NATURAL RESOURCES OF MLIKH

Within the framework of a botanical archaeology study of the site of Mlikh, research was limited to general order. The study focused on the varieties of trees wild and cultivated and their links with the archaeological vestiges. It is that we called “the influence of the occupants on the natural vegetation”. This approach must constitute the principal data base for future surveys and excavations. The study of the remainders of plant species coming from this archaeological site made it possible to discover charcoal remnants, seeds, pollens etc. These pieces of evidence make it possible to deduce that the occupants of this area practiced arboriculture during Antiquity.

 

A The oak (Quercus ilex)

The acorns constitute a basic food for various species of wild and domestic animals. They also had other very important uses since antiquity: one is the extraction of tannin used for the acidification of the wines. The other use is in the human consumption: the dry fruit entered the diet of various populations, constituting even basic food. To be consumed, the fruit required a simple operation of extraction of the tannin of which the quantity varies from one season to another. Two possibilities are offered to the populations: the cooking of the fruits or the dissolution of tannin in water.

The acorn is, since the Neolithic era, an essential fruit in the animal and human feeds. They remained an emergency food up to recently. Apart from their food use, the acorns are used to obtain dyes of brown or grey colours. The bark and the fruits are especially known for tanning leathers. They also had medical uses in antiquity.

The acorns were of use in even older times since they appear in Phoenicians accounts. The artistic representation of the acorn was very widespread in Phoenicia. The archaeological sites of Lebanon dating back to the time Romano-Byzantine reveal mosaics decorated with acorns, as it is the case with Beit Meri, Tyre or Ouza'i. This proves therefore that the acorns constituted a basic food in ancient times in Lebanon.

 

B The Vine

Its geographical distribution in Phoenicia seems to have been very wide originally. The vine was used as a fruit during meal time and in the production of wine and molasses. The elders of Mlikh recall that the vine was the principal plant of the peasants of Mlikh before the Second World War. They used the grape as a fruit and as a basis for the manufacture of Lebanese drink `arak' and in the production of the molasses. An unknown disease caused the almost-total disappearance of the vineyards. This devastation took place during the year 1941. After this natural disaster, the peasants of Mlikh never tried to replant their vineyards but preserved the rural Lebanese tradition of planting vines in front of each house to shade the sun in summer and to produce grapes to consume.

The vine study is particularly difficult to carry out because of the characteristics of the plant. What remains is some evidence proving the existence of the “manufacture of the wine” during old times. There’s the wine complex with its structure of pressing and its tank of decantation, visible in the fields of Mr. Hanna Zahran Abouzayd in the area of Khalleh. This ancient complex proves a thorough knowledge in the culture of the grape and its transformation by fermentation, in order to obtain wine.

The extension of the vine growing is due to the oak, the tree of Mlikh par excellence, from which tannin was extracted. The tannic acid coming from the extraction, is in variable proportion in the fruits of the oak (the acorns= balloutes). They were used as raw material in antiquity for the acidification and the conservation of the wines. Sources mention that oil was extracted from bay trees and that the mastic tree is used to scent the wines. We can also associate the mastic trees’ disappearance from the forest of Mlikh with the planting of vineyards on this territory. This important exploitation of the natural resources of Mlikh invites us to suppose a kind of proto-agriculture in the area.

The wine installation visible in Mlikh is made up of elements of pressing and 4 tanks of decantation dug in the rock. Terraces of vines cultivated today are associated with this complex. Mr. Zahran Zaidan Abouzayd and his two sons Assaad and Massaad Abouzayd had dug this press in the rock in 1910. Mr. Hanna Massaad Zahran Abouzayd showed me the vestiges, and said to me that his grandfather, Zahran Zaidan Abouzayd, had used this press to manufacture molasses and arak (Lebanese alcoholic drink) until 1941.

Measurements of the grape press:

- The surface of the press (baydar) to crush the grapes with bare feet: Length 250 cm. Width 177 cm. Depth 18 cm.

- First trough (jorn) to receive the first pressing of the juice of the grapes crushed in the surface (baydar) of the press: Length 124 cm. Width 140 cm. Depth 84 cm.

- Second trough (jorn) to receive the excess of the juice of the grapes which comes from the first trough: Length 81 cm. Width 118 cm. Depth 80 cm.

- Third trough (jorn) to receive the excess of the juice of the grapes which comes from the second trough: Length 88 cm. Width 101 cm. Depth 71 cm.

- Fourth trough (jorn) to receive the excess of the juice of the grapes which comes from the third trough: Length 87 cm. Width 77 cm. Depth 19 cm.

- The press was dug in only one part from the flat rock which measures 10.50 m length and 4 m of width. It is in an excellent condition.

- The hearth of fire (mawqad) is out of the rock towards the east and very close to the fourth trough

The assumption of the vine growing rests on the architectural study of this complex. This zone preserves at its centre the structures of installations used at the time antiquity for the manufacture of wine. This element is shown in all the territory of Byzantine Phoenicia.

 

C The olive tree

The history of the olive tree in Mlikh is very old. It has become today the tree most widely used in arboriculture in Mlikh. There was never an olives press in Mlikh, but rather in the valley of Zahrani which is 2 km from Mlikh.

 

3-THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL VESTIGES

A-The site of Tanas

The located site is of reduced size, and seems to be associated with a way of life semi-sedentary related to arboriculture.

Measurements of the site:

The length of the site that we photographed is 60 meters and its width varies between 20 and 25 meters. It lies on one flat rock with a view of the Wadi (valley) of Mlikh towards the west and a view of the Wadi (valley) of Tanas towards the south. It is a temporary establishment comprising two types of arrangements. The first is the closed fortification built above a vast rock promontory of 1000m2 area; the second is a natural shelter to the south and below the fortification. This part is called Tanas. It comprises internal subdivisions. Built arrangements are limited to low stone walls, mixed with well cut stones, describing an irregular circle a quarter of which is an entrance opened towards the East through a small entry.

Cut stones of the site:

Western stones:

1st stone: Height 58 cm. Length 92 cm. Width 70 cm.

2nd stone: Height 57 cm. Length 72 cm. Width 49 cm.

3rd stone: Height 55 cm. Width 73 cm. Length 97 cm.

4th stone: Height 51 cm. Width 68 cm. Length 61 cm.

North-western stones:

5th stone: Height 55 cm. Width 53 cm. Length 52 cm.

6th stone: Height 95 cm. Width 155 cm. Length 100 cm.

7th stone: Height 80 cm. Width 94 cm. Length 136 cm.

8th stone: Height 102 cm. Width 67 cm. Length 135 cm.

9th stone: Height 93 cm. Width 103 cm. Length 158 cm.

Eastern stones:

1st stone: Height 50 cm. Width 50 cm. Length 120 cm.

2nd stone: Height 71 cm. Width 66 cm. Length 106 cm.

3rd stone: Height 64 cm. Width 94 cm. Length 75 cm.

The Eastern dry stone wall:

It is the longest dry stone wall of the site: Height 1.30 cm. Length 20 meters. There are other dry stone walls on the eastern and northern sides, but they are smaller, and they had undergone recent human work.

Not far from the eastern site entry, the monument is contains a water point. It is a rectangular basin of form used either for drinking water or for the cattle breeding. There is in addition, on the rock of this site a winter water fountain, which suggests a religious or medical use related to the temple. The height of the low walls is approximately a meter, which makes one think of sites of tents or timber constructions. We think that the installation highlighted in the zone of Tanas, could answer different crafts:

- The existence of a river at Tanas and of a source of winter water located in the rock of the monument, enable us to consider the following assumption. This installation would correspond to a primitive temple of Tanas, god of the river and the protector of the sources of water. This rite comes from Greek mythology. It should be noted that the most recent archaeological research did not make it possible to confirm this thesis.

- The shards collected from inside the installation dated to the Byzantine period, point to an occupation during ancient times. We think that some Christian faithful during later Roman Empire faced persecution because of their membership of another religious belief. They were forced to take refuge in this zone, protected by its mountainous nature.

- Benefiting from its natural resources: water, acorn, fertile ground for arboriculture, the inhabitants of this area developed particular architectural structures and transformed this place into a small hamlet or a small farm intended to accommodate the farmers. The natural shelter below this installation had to be used in antiquity for daily activities such as cattle breeding or agriculture.

- The discovery of two rupestral tombs and a wine installation in the northern zone of the site is an indication of colonization of the Byzantine time. The occupation in question was of short duration but it is fundamental to the history of Mlikh. It seems that the area had been abandoned since the Middle Ages, and was re-occupied again in the 18th century. It should be noted that if the occupation was of short duration, once abandoned and subjected to natural erosion, the vestiges built out of mud and wood fell down. What remained at the surfaces are only the objects built out of non-perishable materials and recoverable only through any future survey organized in collaboration with the Directorate-General of Antiquities.

 

B- Rupestral tombs

On the southernmost part of the rocky plateau of Mlikh extends the ancient and Byzantine necropolis site: two hypogea dug in the rock of the slope of the hill bordering the terraces to the north of the river. The architectural typology of these two rupestral tombs is similar to that of Sidon (Saida), Ornithpolis (`Adloun) and Tyros (Tyr-Sour), all three of Byzantine period.

b1- The first hypogeum is composed of an opening leading to a small rectangular court around which tombs with loculi are arranged.

Measurements of first hypogeum:

Entrance: height 96 cm. Width 97 cm of outside. Width of the interior 60 cm. Court: Length 71 cm. Width 135 cm. I could not take the height because there was a lot of accumulated earth.

The interior chamber: Length 172 cm. Width 250 cm. Height 152 cm with the top of the debris. For that I could not see the two sarcophagi which are covered by the debris. Inside the chamber, there is a sarcophagus carved from stone towards the west (on the left) which rises to the level of the other sarcophagus of 50 cm. Its length is 182 cm. Its depth is 40 cm. and its width is 71 cm. With a 37 cm height of the level of the sarcophagus towards the west, there is a niche which is 41 cm in length, and of a width of 33 cm and 22 cm depth. Above this niche, rises another smaller niche whose length is 23 cm, its width 23 cm, and its depth is 11 cm. Mr. Elias Zeidan Abouzayd told me that he had found in 1975 in this niche a rusted oil lamp. There is also the form of a door carved on the eastern wall of the chamber. This tomb is located in the property of Mr. Elias Zeidan Abouzayd. It was used, during the First World War, by the Christians of the village to bury their dead.

b2- the second hypogeum can be found 250 cm to the east of the first hypogeum, but it was closed by Mr. Elias Zeidan during 1984. But, it appears that the interior chamber of the tomb contains two stone sarcophagi, one is located towards the east (to the left) and the other is located towards the north facing the entrance.

b3- the third hypogeum can be found ten meters to the south-east of the first tomb and below the road. It is located in the property of Mr. Hassan el' Hajj Abou-Melhem. This tomb has been hidden by the road since 1968. Dr. Shafiq Abouzayd gave me a detailed enough explanation of this tomb. It is composed of an opening similar to that of the first hypogean rupestral one. It leads to a court extended in length with two tombs dug vertically on the west side of the chamber. Their height is somewhat similar to that of a man of average size. The mother of Dr. Abouzayd, Mrs. Emilie Zeidan Abouzayd, indicated to me that during her childhood, her parents had used it from time to time for working and sleeping because it is located five meters from their current house. The tomb is completely dug in the rock, and will soon be re-opened.

b4- The fourth hypogeum can be found about thirty meters in the west of the first tomb and is in the property of Mr. Soleiman Dawoud Abouzayd. It is of a more imposing size than the first one. It is composed of an opening leading to two rectangular funerary chambers around which the tombs with loculi are arranged. The ground of the large funerary room is arranged by tombs with loculi.

Measurements of the fourth the hypogeum:

The door: It is deformed by the recent human development, and by consequence, I could not take measurements of its original dimensions. Moreover, the debris which blocks part of this door did not enable me to take the exact height of the entry. Its width varies between 88 cm and 160 cm. The door leads to the two chambers right and left hand sides.

The first chamber to the left: Length 360 cm. Width 230 cm. There are 4 sarcophagi dug in the rock which align south to north by length, and another horizontal sarcophagus (facing the entrance) which aligns east to west and it intersects with three sarcophagi. Measurements of this horizontal sarcophagus are 175 cm of length and 45 cm of width.

Measurements of the four sarcophagi:

1st Sarcophagus: Length 194 cm. Width 46 cm.

2nd Sarcophagus: Width 40 cm. The length is hidden.

3rd Sarcophagus: Width 45 cm. The length is hidden.

4th Sarcophagus: Width 45 cm. The length is hidden.

It was impossible for me to measure the length and the height of the majority of these sarcophagi because of the debris which covers the ground of the hypogeum.

The second chamber to the right: Length 470 cm. Width 160 cm. It was very difficult to see all the sarcophagi of this chamber because of the debris, but I could see the width of the sarcophagi which each measures 45 cm. The bottom of this chamber opens to the first chamber on the left by a hole which makes it possible for a kitten to pass through.

b5- the fifth hypogeum dug in the rock with a semicircular terrace built in broken stones, and which constitutes an ante chamber of the hypogeum, leads to a small chamber through a small arched opening. There are two niches dug in the western sides of the chamber. The architectural characteristics of this hypogeum suggest that it is a tomb for children. This tomb is on the property of Mr. Bahjat Najib Abouzayd in the fields called Nawouss.

Measurements of the fifth hypogeum:

- Door: Height 67 cm. Width 62 cm. There is a semi-circle dug around the door in the rock with a 9 cm depth.

- The interior chamber: Height 113 cm. Width 192 cm and 188 cm. There are three niches dug in the walls inside the hypogeum. The western niche (on the right): Depth 96 cm. Width 58 cm. Height 85 cm. The eastern niche (on the left): Depth 176 cm. Width 63 cm. Height 113 cm. The niche opposite the entrance: Depth 24 cm. Width 63 cm. Height 69 cm.

If any hypogeum was destroyed or covered by cultivated terraces, the three that were unearthed on the territory of the village prove the occupation density of Mlikh at Phoenician and Byzantine periods. All the hypogea that we visited are still to be unearthed.

 

C- Vestiges of the monuments of 19th and 20th centuries

The urban growth of Mlikh dates only from the end of the 19th century, the time during which all the factors which contribute to the emergence of the Lebanese house came together. Architectural elements of local and foreign sources are found together in only one type, which is essentially like a single model of a Lebanon house precisely in the mountainous zones including on Mlikh. We can follow the transformations through a fast study of its monuments.

The vestiges and the monuments of the last two centuries are shown here according to a chronological order based on the dates mentioned on the vestiges: cemetery-tombs, buildings of worship: Church-Mosque, private buildings: dwelling houses, and public buildings.

 

c1- The Muslim Cemetery

It is certain that the Muslims have used their current cemetery in Mlikh since at least the middle of the 19th century according to the testimony of the old folks of the village. The dating of the tombs is possible thanks to the epitaphs of about thirty of them from the Muslim cemetery (1290 Héjira, 1890 A.D). The names of the artists and of stone masons were affixed on the epitaphs and they constitute one of their characteristics.

c2- The parish Church of Saint Elias

It is in the middle of the urban centre of the village constituting a place of exchange and popular gathering. The following inscription is engraved above the principal door of the church:

ﺸﻴﺩﻫﺬﺍﺍﻠﻤﻘﺎﻢﻋﻠﻰﺍﺴﻢﻤﺎﺮﺍﻠﻴﺎﺲﺒﻌﻮﻦﺍﻠﻠﻪﻮﻤﺎﺮﻮﻦﻤﻮﺴﻰﺍﺒﻮﺯﻴﺪﻋﻠﻰﻧﻓﻗﺔﻧﺼﺎﺮﻯﻤﻠﻴﺦ۱٩۰۱

The translation is as follows:

“This monument of worship has been built in the name of Saint Elias, with the assistance of God and Maroun Moussa Abouzayd, at the expense of the Christians of Mlikh, 1901.”

The executor of the project of a new church in Mlikh was Mr. Maroun Moussa Abouzayd, President of the committee of the church Saint Elias in Mlikh. The room of worship is directed towards the east and made of a central nave and two side aisles with an annex built in 1964-65 in order to enlarge the church towards the west. We noticed a certain architectural deformation in the church due to its widening and its “modernization”. It was the Committee of the Church which decided its transformation in 1964-1975. These changes destroyed the original beauty of the church. Today, it has changed in appearance. The Committee of the Church decided in 1972 to enlarge the main door of the church as well as the old window which overlooks the road outside the church. The Committee also decided to open another window in the old wall on the northern side of the church. On this same side, a small window was opened up over the altar. The old floor of the church, which was tiled by rock coming from the village, was covered since 1974 by marble which betrays the original and rustic beauty of this Maronite village church. Indeed, the original church is not visible any more today more especially as in 1975 the old dome was demolished and replaced by another, built by Mr. Dib Maroun Moussa Abouzayd with a modern architectural style.

Behind the church towards the west, the remainder of the presbytery is visible with its room and its entry. We cannot date it in a precise way but we suppose that it dates from the first decade of the 20th century.

c3- The Mosque

It is found at a rocky slope on the eastern side of the village. Today it is restored and modernized. The transformations carried out in October 2001 modified its original architectural form dating back to 1313 Héjira- 1903 AD. The property of the mosque of Mlikh belonged to the Maronite convent of Saint Anthony in Jezzine, where a very simple room was built at the beginning of 19th century to accommodate the Maronite priest who came from Jezzine to serve the Christians of Mlikh. The ancestors of the village reported to us that the room of the priest contained the baptismal font, but it was transformed into a church because it was a small room of dwelling. With the construction of the church of Saint Elias in Mlikh in 1901, the monks of the convent of Saint Anthony in Jezzine decided to offer this room to the Shiites of Mlikh in reward of their protection they offered the Christians of Mlikh during the fight against the Druzes in 1860. The Shiites of Mlikh demolished the small room and built another larger one in 1903 which was used as a mosque until today. This date is repeated twice on the two limestone commemorative plates being on the northern frontage of the mosque, on the left and on the right of the door of entry. That of left is made up of 6 lines engraved on the low relief of the plate. The Arab text of the writing is a poetry verse:

“This holy place is a mosque for God, built at the request of the king `Abed el' Hamid, 1313 Héjira”, 1903 of our era. ”

The second plate is on the right entry and is made up of 3 lines also engraved on the low-relief in character larger than the first. It carries the following Arab text:

ﻋﻤﻞﺪﺍﻮﻮﺪﺤﺴﻴﻦﻮﻤﺤﻤﺪﺤﻤﺩﺃﺒﻰﻤﻠﺤﻢﺴﻧﻪ۱۳۱۳

The translation is as follows:

“Work of Dawoud Houssein and Mohammad Hamad Abi-Melhem. Year 1313.”

The internal space of the mosque was increased in October 2001, the frontage was moved from its original place and reconstituted in another place. The plan of the place of worship was of square form. The current orientation always respects that of the original one: the south-east (direction of Mecca) showed by the Mihrab. The Minaret is restored today by another modernization due to the destruction having taken place during Israeli bombardments between 1985 and 2000 - period of the occupation of the zone by the Israeli soldiers.

c4- The Christian cemetery

There are two locations for the Christian cemetery at Mlikh. The first is located at about thirty meters to the south-east of the current Muslim cemetery. It resembles that of the Muslims, especially as the Christians buried their dead in the ground, just like the Muslims. According to the elders of the village, it was used by the Christians since their arrival at Mlikh in mid 18th century until the beginning of the First World War. The famine during the First World War exhausting their strength, the Christians of Mlikh used a tomb, mentioned above, in order to bury their dead. They could not indeed dig the ground to open new tombs according to their tradition in the village. But around 1920, the Christians gave up this tomb which had been used as temporary cemetery. They had built the first two funerary rooms of the village between 1920 and 1926, one for the Abouzayd family and another for the Matta family. Two other funerary rooms were built in 1927 for the families Makkhoul Abouzayd and Maroun Moussa Abouzayd. This cemetery is in the south-west of the village. It is composed of small square funerary rooms with rectilinear roofs, built out of limestone. Each one of them is reserved for a family. The interior of the rooms is formed of one or two levels. This type of communal burial was an answer to the wish to bury together the members of the same family. The date of the construction of a family burial place is always carried on the stone plates. The date is always overlaid by a cross and is accompanied by the name of the owner. All its elements are engraved in relief.

c5- private buildings

The typological classification of the houses of Mlikh corresponds to the repertoire of traditional architecture in Lebanon. We obtain same typological classification by adding to it the date and the name of the owner to which the house belongs:

1 - The rectangular house.

2 - The simple house made up of only one room with a beaten mud roof and consisting of arched vaults.

3 - The simple house which is formed of two rooms with a wooden and beaten mud roof.

4 - The house with a liwan (rural or urban.)

5 - The house with gallery or court.

6 - The house with central hall.

- Public and industrial buildings

Industry was limited to the agricultural activities using a mill and a press. Of course these instruments have disappeared today. The geography of the site strongly imposes the architectural landscape of the village, and consequently, the distribution of the commercial activity inside the village urban fabric. The souk (the market) does not exist and the commercial activity is limited to small shops. These buildings are simple private rooms distributed according to individual choices' of the inhabitants. The principal road which crosses the village agglomeration constitutes the backbone of the village from which lanes and dead ends start. It is starting from the passages that the villagers reach their dwellings.

 

4-THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL OBJECTS

Ceramic

The collecting of the shards was limited to a reasonable but sufficiently significant number to date them in order to establish a kind of typo-chronology from ceramics, and hence in order to classify. The final aim is to make a drawing of it when that is possible. The result so obtained is used for the chronological study. The complete study of ceramics (stylistic and systematic analysis of the elements and the search for their parallels) will be sent to the Directorate-General of Antiquities, hoping that an agreement enabling us to make a well organized scientific prospecting and to thus collect new objects out of terra cotta and ceramics.

We collected ten shards coming from various ancient times: Phoenician, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad and late Ottoman. It seems that the ceramics collected correspond to an artisan manufacture for daily use.

The reliability relating to the restitution of the shards on the plates and the terraces is related to possible cases of phases of non occupation of the site. The causes of these obliterations are varied. They are either alluvial coming from the river and of the rain, thus masking the oldest occupations, or of the labouring and the continuous irrigation for two centuries having damaged little by little the vestiges and made them disappear.

All the indexed objects are in the state of fragments. They essentially comprise fragments of rims, bases of vases and handles. They can be divided again in 4 groups:

1 - Dishes and plates (wide-necked vessels).

a. Amphorae (closed containers provided with a neck, with or without a handle, with spherical or oval shapes). They were used to transport or preserve the food products (wine, oil etc.)

b. Pitchers (closed containers being used to pour) provided with one or two handles stuck vertically from the neck to the main body.)

2 - Pots (closed containers used for the cooking of food).

This material thus proves an occupation of the site at the Phoenician, Roman and Byzantine times according to an observation of Claude Doumet Serhal.

 

5-Conclusion

Architecture defines the actions of Man on his environment thus adapting to its needs. We have revealed during our research on the territory of Mlikh two pieces of evidence of the human action:

- The first is the presence of a Phoenician, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad and late Ottoman occupation in this area. This occupation is the subject of comparative archaeological data retrieval: ceramics and vestiges, which had already been found between the coastal cities of Phoenicia and this interior part of the country.

- The second is the reoccupation in the 18th century as witnessed by the history of the first families Aboumelhem and Abouzayd of Mlikh. What marks the beginning of this second occupation is on the one hand the history of the families of Mlikh, and on the other hand the dating adopted by the Muslim and Christian communities. We know that the Muslims have adopted the Arab-Islamic calendar starting from the Héjira. At this same time, the Christians have been following the Christian calendar. This preliminary study has made it possible to emphasize the archaeological resources and histories by placing them in their natural environment. The continuation of research thanks to surveys in the various explored sectors will enable us to give a much more precise chronology of the occupation of the territory of Mlikh.

*This article was first written in French and published in the ARAM Periodical, volume 15 (Oxford, 2003), Chapter B, pp.286-303.