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Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan


Since 2010 the Orient Department of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) has been carrying out a research project in the basalt desert of Northeastern Jordan, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft –DFG).

Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan
Aerial view of Khirbet al-Jabariya, in northeastern Jordan [Credit: R. Bewley/APAAME]
In the context of this project several fortified settlements have been discovered which were built in the early to mid-4th millennium BC on volcanos in this region and are therefore among the earliest fortifications in Southwest Asia.

Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan
Khirbet al-Jabariya: Dwelling after excavation of a trench with fire place in the centre 
[Credit: B. Müller-Neuhof/Dai-Orientabteilung]
Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan
Khirbet al-Jabariya: View of the fortification wall [Credit: B. Müller-Neuhof/Dai-Orientabteilung]
For a detailed investigation of these newly discovered Early Bronze Age settlement activities in this arid region, the DAI carried out several expeditions to these sites in the last two years.

Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan
Aerial view of Tulul al-Ghusayn [Credit: B. Müller-Neuhof/APAAME]
Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan
Aerial view of Tulul al-Ghusayn from south [Credit: R. Bewley/APAAME]
Due to the current arid conditions in this region it was initially expected that the basalt desert could only be used on a regional base during the wet season in winter and spring. This assumption has to be revised, and it can therefore be expected that it was possible at least at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age to establish permanently occupied settlements on specific sites.

Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan
Tulul al-Ghusayn: View of some garden terraces in the crater [Credit: B. Müller-Neuhof/Dai-Orientabteilung]
Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan
Tulul al-Ghusayn: Excavated dwelling [Credit: B. Müller-Neuhof/Dai-Orientabteilung]
Surface investigations and excavations revealed not only fortification walls and simple dwelling structures, but also terraced gardens that were irrigated through sophisticated irrigation systems with run-off rainwater to enable the cultivation of grain.

Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan
Aerial view of Khirbet Abu al-Husayn [Credit: M. Dalton/APAAME]
Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan
The surface of the basalt desert in north-eastern Jordan [Credit: B. Müller-Neuhof/Dai-Orientabteilung]
Due to these discoveries a hitherto as peripherally considered region comes into the focus of the exploration of the Near Eastern civilizations of the 4th millennium BC, which to date concentrated on the cultural developments in Mesopotamia and the Southern Levant.

Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan
The dam of Jawa [Credit: B. Müller-Neuhof/Dai-Orientabteilung]
Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan
Section of the double-face fortification wall in Jawa [Credit: B. Müller-Neuhof/Dai-Orientabteilung]
The 4th millennium BC is a crucial period in the history of civilization as this phase is characterized by the beginning of cultural evolutionary processes that enabled the development of the subsequent cultures and had also effects on Europe.

Prehistoric fortifications found in the Basalt Desert of Eastern Jordan
Neolithic petroglyph at Khirbet al-Jabariya showing cheetah hunting an oryx 
[Credit: B. Müller-Neuhof/Dai-Orientabteilung]
Among these processes are the beginning of urbanisation, the evolution of artificial irrigation, mass production of commodities, long-distance trade, and finally the invention of the precursors of writing and economic administration.

Source: Deutsches Archaologisches Institut [September 16, 2016]
TANN

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