New Integrated Knowledge based approachs to the protection of cultural heritage from Earthquake-induced Risk

Jerusalem, Akeldama Monastery
Engineering survey of the Crusader burial installation
OrdererIsrael Nature and Parks Authority
DurationFebruary – March 2003
Implemented by: Eng. Yardena Etgar
Eng. Ofer Cohen

The structure was built to provide a suitable, economic and dignified solution for burying the numerous Christian pilgrims who died on their way to Jerusalem. During the Crusader period the place was considered sacred. The bodies of the dead were lowered into the installation through openings in the roof, where they were laid in place inside. The corpses were covered with white lime to prevent the smell of decay.
The aim of the project was to perform an engineering survey in order to stabilize and conserve the site.
The structure measures 6.4 x 21.0 m and is 5.0- 6.0 m high. On the south the installation abuts the bedrock where it is borne atop 3 pillars; in the northern part the installation is built on a wall founded directly on the bedrock. The installation’s ceiling consists of a number of barrel vaults. The vault is built of rectangular ashlar stones. The pillars of the vault are built of ashlar stones quarried from the indigenous limestone; the bonding material between the stones is made of white lime. The walls consist of two rows of unworked stones with a core of fieldstones and bonding material.
The building is mostly destroyed; it is derelict and has not been maintained. At the site there are problems of stone erosion, missing stones, cracked stones and bonding material that is missing from the joints between the stones. The northern wall is destroyed and rainwater penetrates into the core of the pillars and the wall. The profuse vegetation is causing considerable damage. The vault collapsed and is mostly destroyed and there is a danger that more stones will fall. The site is open and visitors there are in jeopardy owing to the considerable height of the structure and its poor state of preservation.
A number of conservation measures are essential in order to stabilize the site: missing masonry work must be completed; fissures have to be injected with bonding material, masonry joints need to be pointed up with lime based bonding material; the vegetation should trimmed and sprayed with a herbicide; the upper surface of the pillars needs to be stabilized and the vaulting protected by coping (water proofing on the tops of walls); the area should be graded to ensure proper drainage and the outer facade of the northern wall should be reconstructed.
In addition a comprehensive plan dealing with safety issues at the site is required.

To view the figures, click on the figure caption
General plan of the structure

General section of the structure

General photograph of the structure

Photograph of a typical pillar

View of the vault

View of the northern wall

Additional Projects
 The New City - Survey of selected antiquity sites in the New City. An appendix to the master plan (Report No. 4 in the Local Master Plan, Jerusalem 2000.
 The Old City Walls - Physical-conservation survey
 Underground Prisoners Museum - Survey and documentation of the ‘Policeman’s House’
 The Old City and Old City Basin - Survey of Selected Monuments
 Lifta - A Preliminary Urban Survey
 Lifta - The Survey of Lifta

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