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RUINS OF THE ANCIENT GAMALA.
we approached these ruins from the east, our attention was first attracted by the sight of several grottoes facing towards that quarter, and forming apparently the necropolis of the city on the eastern brow of the hill. The first two that we examined, were plain chambers, hewn down so as to present a perpendicular front, and having the posts and architraves of door-ways, but destitute of sculpture or other ornament, either interior or exterior. The third, however, delighted and surprised us as much as if it had been a discovery of the highest importance. We had heard much of the stone-doors and ceilings of the ruined towns in the Hauran, which were thought to be the works of the old Chaldean age, and we had seen with regret the destruction of those which closed the tombs of the kings at Jerusalem, and which, from their being supposed to be unique, had given these monuments a claim to a higher antiquity than they perhaps possess; so that our gratification was higher than can be described in finding here a tomb with its stone
door as perfect as on the day of its being first hung.
On entering it, we found an excavated chamber of about seven feet in height, twelve paces long, and ten broad : and within it a smaller room not more than ten feet deep and twelve wide; the whole irregularly hewn, without regard to uniformity of dimensions or design, and having its walls and roofs quite rough. The outer front, however, was extremely perfect; and was descended to by a gradual slope, the space being cut away out of the hill.
The rock out of which the chambers were excavated was a coarse grey lime-stone ; but the portals and architrave of the door-way, as well as the door itself, were all of the black basaltic stone, of which we had seen sarcophagi at Bahrahah. The portals were solid, and, though plain, were well-hewn and squared. The architrave, which was broad and deep, was ornamented in front with three busts of coarse execution; the head bare, the face full, and the ears prominent, like the heads sometimes, but rarely, seen among Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The door, which was seven spans high, was pannelled by a double moulding, in four oblong squares, and divided by a perpendicular line, left in relief upon its centre, and resembling exactly a bar of iron, with five studs, like the
heads of iron bolts. The greatest peculiarity was, perhaps, the small stone knocker, in the centre of one of the pannels, cut like the seeming iron bars and bolts, all of it of one solid stone, and of a piece with the door itself, so as to give it the appearance of a well-secured dwelling on approaching it.
The door was fixed like those in the tombs of the kings at Jerusalem, by a long circular spindle, running up into a cell in the thick and solid architrave above, and a short lower pivot bedded in a shallower socket in the threshold below; these pivots being both of a piece with the door itself. By clearing away the rubbish, we found the door to traverse easily on its hinges, and we could see that the manner of hanging it must have been to insert first, the upper spindle into the circular hole in the architrave, and then to bring the lower pivot immediately over its socket, suffering it to fall into it; as the space between the upper part of the door and the foot of the architrave, was just equal to the length of the pivot below. A small overlapping piece was left to descend like a moulding, at the foot of the architrave in front, so that, though the vacant space was visible when the door was open, this stone ledge completely covered it when the door
Leaving this tomb, we ascended the hill, and
found others still more interesting ; as, besides the door of the same construction still standing, we entered one in which were ten sepulchres, ranged along the inner wall of the chamber in a line, being pierced inward for their greatest length, and divided from each other by a thin partition left in the rock, in each of which was cut a small niche in front, for a lamp, as in the royal tombs at Jerusalem. Several of these niches were seen also on the side-walls of this excavation ; and though every sepulchre had been violated, some of the sarcophagi, broken and reversed, still remained in the room.
At the side of this chamber was an opening, communicating with a larger and more rude excavation, in which was a dark arched passage of some length; as a stone which was thrown in returned no sound, though propelled with all our force.
The outer door was exactly similar to the one last described, both in size and design ; having the pannels, the studded bar, and the knocker, as well as a small cavity near the centre of its side-edge, with a corresponding opening in the opposite portal, for some kind of fastening or bolt to be let in. The ornament of the architrave, instead of the busts before described, was a garland in the centre, with a full blown flower on each side.
Among a number of other tombs which we entered, all very similar in design, some without sarcophagi, and others containing several, both perfect and broken, we found one door entirely plain ; another having only the studded bar down the middle, without pannels or knocker ; and another more strongly ornamented with imitations of iron-bolts, as if to represent an additional effort for security. The ornaments of the architraves were chiefly garlands and flowers, and' these, with their portals and thresholds, were all of the black stone. The door last described was still hanging, and some sarcophagi were lying within the chamber which it guarded. *
Beyond these we found innumerable sarcophagi of the same basaltic material, some highly ornamented with garlands and wreaths, others with heads of Apollo, and little Cupids, or genii with wings, joining hands together beneath those heads; and some with shields, as we had seen them at Geraza. The covers, which were numerous,
* Capt. Beaufort met with tombs similar to these in Asia Minor. He says, “ At Makry, Myra, and other places, is the excavated catacomb, with the entrance carefully closed by a slab, which is not inserted, but worked in the external face of the rock, and curiously pannelled, in such exact imitation of a wooden door, that even the representation of the nail-heads and hinges is not omitted.”. Beaufort's Caramania, p. 191. 8vo.