Wednesday, December 13

The Prehistory of Southern Jordan And Relationships With The Levant

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The Prehistory of Southern Jordan and Relationships with the Levant

Excavations in Jordan as revealed more than 81 pre-historic sites, suggesting that the prehistoric inhabitants of southern Jordan interacted more with populations of the northern Levant rather than with adjacent southern Levantine groups.

Archaeologists have been studying the southern Levant in recent years, enabling us to correct the many misconceptions introduced through previous geographic bias which, unfortunately, have been a common occurrence. Archaeologists undertook a series of intensive digs to help improve our knowledge of the people and the relationships they had with each other.

Archaeologists located four dig sites near the villages of Ras en Naqb and El Quweira, which are located on the edge of the Jordanian Plateau and on the floor of the broad Wadi Hisma, respectively. 77 sites were found in this region, one of these, the Wadi Qalkha site, was the only Lower Paleolithic site discovered. Four Levantine Mousterian sites were identified, one being Tor Sabiha.

Tor Sabiha is an important site; archaeologists determined that occupation here began after a period of cold-dryness. “The angularity and light oxidation of the layer D sediments argues for less moisture and possibly lower temperatures than today. Occupation of the site apparently began during a slight climatic amelioration. An increase in temperature and moisture for this episode is reflected in the increased weathering of the pinkish gray (S YR 6/2) friable sand of Layer C. Preliminary analysis of the palynological and faunal remains from Layer C indicates that these remains are consistent with this interpretation, since they are characteristic of a dry steppe environment. Continued climatic improvement is suggested by the light reddish brown (S YR 6/4) sand of Layer B, but Layers C and B are separated by an erosional hiatus of unknown duration”.

A mass of artefacts, including flint tools, have been found from the four different layers at this site. It provides the evidence to suggest a Levantine Mousterian tradition from early last glacial times (c. 80,000-90,000 BP) until the emergence of an Upper Paleolithic technology (c. 45,000 BP).

This site, and many more dating from the Neolithic and the Chalcolithic periods, suggests a strong relationship the Timnian industry of Sinai. The artefacts found strongly resemble the ones unearthed in the Judayid Basin; dating these artefacts also falls within Timnian dates.

Some scholars have suggested that the “Judayid Basin sites may well reflect winter encampments in which family groups coalesced into larger social units and availed themselves of the winter runoff from the plateau and the seasonal abundant grasses of the piedmont”.

Looking at the available evidence, it appears that the inhabitants of prehistoric southern Jordan had significant contact with the Levantine inhabitants during most of the Late Pleistocene and Holocene periods. In addition to this, contacts with southern Levantine appear to have occurred more strongly in times of drought. In conclusion, it appears that prehistoric interaction contacts “within the region appear to have been influenced more by environmental setting than geographic proximity”.


Henry, Donald O. (1982) The Prehistory of Southern Jordan and Relationships with the Levant, Journal of Field Archaeology, Boston University.


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