Abstract

A Roman theater is recently being excavated at Beit‐Ras/Capitolias in Jordan, which is one of the Decapolis cities, founded before A.D. 97/98. This is an archaeoseismological study that aims to investigate the temporal and intensity impacts of past earthquakes on the theater’s existing structure. A rich set of earthquake archaeological effects were identified, including deformed arches, tilted and collapsed walls, chipped corners of masonry blocks, and extensional gaps, indicating a seismic intensity of VIII–IX. The study identified at least two significant destruction phases that took part in the damage of the theater, which may have contributed to the abandonment of its major use as a theater at different periods. This is based on field observations of construction stratigraphy and damage features, the assessment of the observed destruction, and literature reports. The date of the first phase is bracketed between the establishment of the city (before A.D. 97/98) and the date of an inscription found in the walled‐up orchestra gate (A.D. 261). The most likely candidate earthquake(s) for this immense destruction are the A.D. 233 and/or 245 events. Other moderate and less damaging events may have also occurred within the region but are not mentioned in available catalogs. After a major restoration, another earthquake phase occurred between A.D. 261 and Late Roman–Early Byzantine times, when the scaena wall tilted and collapsed, rendering the building useless and beyond repair. Subsequently, the theater was then filled with debris and was abandoned. The most probable causative earthquake of the second phase of destruction is an event in A.D. 363. The article provides a rich discussion of potential causative earthquakes, based on archaeoseismological, construction stratigraphy observations, and calibrated intensity of historical earthquake‐based attenuation modeling. It identifies the potential phases and types of destruction and reuse.

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