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Comments on E. J. Vardaman's article,
"The Lost Fortress of Herodium Beyond Jordan Rediscovered"(1)

Installed on 08 Jun 2010.
Latest Update - 22 Oct 2018 - Additions or corrections are in bold.

Copyright © 2010-2018, Robert S. Fritzius

A Communicator's Speculation

Jabal Al Jarwān, denoted by (C) in the drawing below, is the highest real-estate in the area of the fortress at er Raya, in Jordan, Vardaman's candidate for The Other Herodium, shown at (D). If the Other Herodiun was at er Raya then I think that the top of Jabal Al Jarwān may have have been used as a relay site in the Herodian Optical Communications System.

The Connected Earth Line of Sight Communications Introducing Communications webpage says, "Most primitive distance communications used visual devices that on a clear day could be seen up to 25 miles away."

The following drawing shows a speculative visual signalling relay path connecting Herodium (A) near Bethlehem ("Herodium West" in the drawing) and the hypothetical Herodium adjacent to the spring ('Ain) at er Raya. There is a clear optical path between Herodium West (A) and Machaerus (not shown) but a highlands ridge at (B) prevents direct signalling between (A) and my proposed relay site at (C). If this (A) to (C) path is required then a relay beacon site would be needed at (B).

Herodium to Herodium relay
Hypothetical beacon relay system spanning the Dead Sea

An alternate route between Herodium West and the fortress at er Raya might consist of a 25 mile leg to the south from "Herodium West" to Masada, followed by a 24 mile leg (across the Dead Sea) between Masada and the Mountain peak relay site (C); and a one mile leg between the mountain peak (C) down to the fortress at er Raya (D).

Bald Face Speculation

[Added 15 October 2010.]

Above, I considered the top of Jabal Al Jarwān to have been a communications relay point. It may be that rather than it having been a relay site, it was the end point, i.e., the Other Herodium site, itself.

The following Google Earth image shows elevation contours around the mountain top and a black circle which represents the size of the cylindrical footprint of the Herodium southeast of Bethlehem. If there ever was a fortress at Jabal Al Jarwān, then it must have been disassembled and its building stones transported to other locations. There is a fairly level highlands road system to the Northwest of Al Jarwān which could have facilitated transportation of the stones.

Top of Al Jarwān in Jordan
Top of Jabal Al Jarwān showing the speculative footprint of a Herodian fortress

I installed a note on the left side of this image to indicate a speculative visual signaling relay site [which corresponds to Beacon site (B) in the lines-of-sight drawing above]. It could have connected Herodium West (A) to Herodium East (C) at Jabal al Jarwān. Herod's fortress at Machaerus and Herodium East could also communicate with each other via Beacon relay site (B). The coordinates of this relay site would be approximately 31o 33'N 35o 38.5'E.

Jabal Al Jarwān is not an uplift mountain. An examination of the topology of the region shows that the flat topped "peak" is actually a small mesa-like structure surrounded by erosion canyons.

If Herod's observers had the use of telescopes (See: http://ancientskyscraper.com/224801.html "Ancient Technology in Telescopes" Link needs update.) the top of Jabal Al Jarwān would have been a much better location for observing Nabataean activity than er Raya. (The er Raya mound is some 1600 feet lower in elevation.) From a hundred foot tall tower, Herodian observers would have had a 430 foot height advantage with respect to the Nabataean population center of Dibon located some 6.6 miles ESE from Jabal Al Jarwān.


"The Lost Fortress of Herodium Beyond Jordan Rediscovered," Copyright, E. J. Vardaman, 1981.

Contact: R.S. Fritzius at: fritzius@bellsouth.net