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Kraków archaeologists investigate traces of first settlements in Jordan

Kraków archaeologists investigate traces of first settlements in Jordan

Mid-April marked the end of JU Institute of Archaeology researchers’ investigations in southern Jordan. For several years now, the Kraków archaeologists have been collecting valuable information that will eventually provide them with insights as to how the region had changed between the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age.

The team led by Dr Piotr Kołodziejczyk from the Department of Egyptian and Near East Archaeology has studied the several dozen thousand square kilometre mountainous area of the At-Tafilah region since 2014. Based on both archaeological and environmental data, the researchers want to learn more about the transformations that occurred there several thousand years ago. They are particularly interested about the period between 3700 and 1950 BCE, when first larger settlements started appearing in the region.

‘We’ve learned a lot in the last five years. We uncovered traces of a vast settlement that was inhabited from the Palaeolithic to the Bronze Age. We also found another hamlet, one with sturdy walls, a central building, and plenty of tools and equipment that was scattered around, including pestles, quern-stones, arrowheads, and pottery. It’s worth to stress that it’s the south-easternmost Jericho IX culture settlement discovered so far’, said Dr Piotr Kołodziejczyk.

This season, Dr Kolodziejczyk’s team worked on several remote sites reachable only by narrow and steep paths without any safety measures. They managed to discover a 100-metre wall made out of large stone blocks filled with earth. They believe this well-preserved structure might have been used to protect an encampment, pastures or crop fields. It is tentatively estimated to have been erected in the Iron Age.

‘We’ve also encountered more village-type settlements. We’ve found numerous examples of pottery and flint tools. We’re planning to continue to study and catalogue the data we gathered in the previous years. We’re also going to team up with researchers from the Silesian University of Technology and Poznan Radiocarbon Laboratory to conduct palaeobotanical studies to more accurately assess the age of our specimens’, explained Dr Kołodziejczyk.

He emphasised that it is not the role of his team to uncover beautiful cultural heritage sites, but to gain better knowledge about the history of southern Jordan in ancient times. Although in archaeology an answer very often leads to more questions, every year the image of the region’s history becomes clearer. The researchers are sure that the area was largely used for pasturing, similarly to how it is today, though the climate used to be much more favourable. The people of southern Jordan were also pioneers when it came to mining copper ores in the Feynan Valley and transporting them to be processed in what is known today as Aqaba, near the Red Sea.

‘During our stay, we’ve closely monitored the state of archaeological heritage in the region due to environmental processes, particularly floods. Of course, there are also man-made changes. It’s secondary to our other objectives, but important nonetheless. We need to help the Jordanians protect their historical sites, because they are part of the world history’, said the expedition’s leader, adding that he firmly believes in success of two new JU archaeological teams that have recently began operating in Jordan: Dr hab. Jarosław Bodzek will investigate the extent of the Roman Empire’s impact on the region, while Dr Przemysła Nocuń and Agnieszka Ochał-Czarnowicz will focus on the medieval period.

Dr Piotr Kołodziejczyk’s research is funded by the National Science Centre for the years 2017–2021. Its participants include the staff and students of the JU Institute of Archaeology. This season, they were be joined by a representative of the Polish Centre for Mediterranean Archaeology in Warsaw, who helped promote the activities of Kraków researchers amongst the local community.

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