Hundreds of archaeological sites discovered in Jordan
Archaeologists from Leiden University have discovered hundreds of archaeological sites in an inaccessible desert area in the north-east of Jordan. This means that a forgotten region is once again being put on the map.
‘These are exceptional finds,’ says Leiden archaeologist Professor Peter Akkermans, who is leading the research. ‘Just think that until now there has been as good as no archaeological research in this desert and that this area was always dismissed as marginal and insignificant.’ The Leiden fieldwork in May and June of this year showed, however, that this remote region is exceptionally rich in archaeological sites, the oldest of which go back to about 7000 BC. ‘An area that archaeologists had forgotten is now being put on the map,’ says Akkermans.
The archaeological sites were discovered in a rough and inaccessible area in the north-east of Jordan, close to the border with Saudi Arabia. The area consists of endless plains interspersed with mountains that are fully covered in basalt. It is boiling hot there in the summer and sandstorms are commonplace. Nomadic Bedouin are the only people nowadays who can endure it in this region, but the researchers think this must have been different in the past.
A study of satellite pictures and air photos first put the archaeologists on the scent of large numbers of archaeological sites. Follow-up research in the field confirmed the pictures: everywhere they looked the researchers came across round structures erected from roughly stacked stones. They also found prehistoric hunters’ camps and the 9000-year-old dwelling-places of herdsmen.
The archaeologists also found hundreds of small and large burial mounds from the first centuries AD. The countless rock paintings and inscriptions in Safaitic, a northern Arabic dialect the nomads used, come from this period too. ‘This abandoned desert was once teeming with life,’ says Akkermans. ‘We now have the pleasant task of putting a face to that life.’ The archaeologists hope to return to the desert in the spring of 2013.
The new research in the desert of Jordan, or the ‘Jebel Qurma Archaeological Landscape Project’, of the Faculty of Archaeology of Leiden University has the backing of the Leiden University Fund (LUF)/Bijvanck and the Jordan Oil Shale Company (JOSCo), as well as the support of the Dutch Embassy in Jordan.
Global Interactions of Civilizations and Cultures is one of the six themes for research at Leiden University.