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New project to promote Neolithic site of Beidha in Jordan

More than 10,000 years of human history will come to life in Petra under a project launched on Wednesday.

The Pre-Pottery Neolithic village of Beidha was occupied from 7200 BC to 6500 BC, in the first half of Pre-Pottery Neolithic B. The Department of Antiquities (DoA), Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority (PDTRA), USAID/Jordan Tourism Development Project (Siyaha) and the Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL) teamed up yesterday to protect and promote the Neolithic site of Beidha, one of the first settled villages in human history.

The site, 10 kilometres north of the Petra Archaeological Park, was once home to Neolithic farmers who used the area's rich soil and flood plains to cultivate wheat and barley and tend to domesticated goats.

The remnants of one of the first transitions from semi-settled nomads to settled villagers and the start of an agrarian economy, Beidha provides an important insight into the origins of modern society, according to experts.

Under the project, USAID/Siyaha, the DoA, the CBRL and the PDTRA will work to better protect the site, and develop trails, signage and a visitors facility to showcase the site in a sustainable manner.

Due to its archaeological and historical value, Beidha can add to the Petra visitor experience, according to USAID/Siyaha Chief of Party Ibrahim Osta, who signed the agreement to launch the project yesterday.

"The fact that it is so old, from the Neolithic era 10,000 years ago, it is a sight that is unparalleled. This is where human development found its roots and it's a story of a global proportions," he noted.

DoA Director Ziad Saad said the site serves as a rare example of well-preserved Neolithic archaeology and will add a new dimension to Petra tourism.

"There is a fascination with Petra and the Nabataeans, but many fail to appreciate Neolithic archaeology as they don't see any monuments," he told The Jordan Times over the phone yesterday.

Under the project, replicas of housing structures will be developed to recreate daily life several millennia ago and enhanced interpretation will explain the importance of the site. Once completed, Beidha's proximity to Petra will allow tourism officials to introduce pre-historic Jordan to visitors from across the world, noted Saad, who also signed the agreement.

"We have very important Neolithic sites in Jordan such as Beidha and Ain Ghazal which have always been an attraction for archaeologists and specialists. This is a chance to share this wonder with the general public," he added.

The project, estimated to take up to year-and-a-half, will include presentation, visitors facilities and interpretation, to ensure a balance of visitor management and preservation, industry officials said.

"This effort will open up the site to visitors in a sustainable way that conserves the archaeology, preserves the history and provides tourists with an interesting and additional attraction to explore when they are in the Petra area," Tourism Minister Suzanne Afanah said in a statement sent to The Jordan Times.

The Beidha Neolithic site, which was excavated between the 1950s and through the 1980s, dates back to the 7th millennium BC with several housing and agricultural structures still visible.

HRH Prince Raad, Chief Chamberlain and president of the Petra National Trust, and CBRL Director Bill Finlays also attended yesterday's signing ceremony.

Author: Taylor Luck | Source: Zawya [August 20, 2010]


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