The archaeological surveys of al-Lajat region in Sweida province over the past three years have revealed the abundance of human settlements since the Neolithic period (3600 BC) till the Ottoman era.
Al-Lajat nature reserve, already recognized under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve Program, includes 9 sites from the Bronze era, dating back to the 3rd millennium BC.
Located in Sweida Province, 60 km to the south of Damascus, al-Lajat region is a plateau with interspersing volcanic cones of basalt and pumice, and volcanic springs, surrounded by agricultural plains.
Head of Sweida Antiquities Department, Wassim al-Sha'rani, indicated to a network of underground water canals beneath the basalt layer.
"Over 200 housing sites over 350 km have been surveyed in the region chronicling life in the early Bronze and Roman eras," said al-Sha'rani in a statement to SANA, adding that settlements in the Early Bronze era constituted a transitional stage between the Chalcolithic period and the urban life which came later.
He noted that the architectural style spread in the Early Bronze era was that of double-sided houses, common in the southern Levant. An area of 80 hectares and 650 houses of that style were uncovered in the north eastern part of al-Lajat region.
Pasturing and farming were the prominent handicrafts for the relatively huge human settlements in the Bronze era of about 110 sites, discovered in the internal sides of the region, exploiting the fertile soil and abundant water, al-Sha'rani said.
Cities and urban life emerged for the first time in al-Lajat region in the Early Bronze era, such as al-Labwa city. Housing gatherings were categorized under two systems; city centers and small gatherings.
Al-Sha'arani added that "during the Middle Bronze Age different networks emerged, with changes in settlement patterns, clearly detected in fortified hilltop settlements in the middle of agricultural plains or plain areas," pointing out that the number of sites revealed in the region during this era reached 109.
Small gatherings scattered outside the large hilltop settlements, in addition to isolated agricultural settlements provided with tower silos for dry grain storage.
The archaeological surveys showed that the decline in the number of sites documented in the New Bronze Era, extending over 450 years, to 22 signified the start of dry period of the climatic cycle along with a decrease in rainfall rate at the beginning of the 6th century BC, casting long shadow over al-Lajat region.
Patterns of nomadic life later reappeared due to the instability resulting from the Egyptian-Hittite conflict which brought about the collapse of the evolving urban system.
A series of double-wall towers and fortified buildings, heavily concentrated in the western and southern parts of the region, were discovered, dating back to the first and second centuries BC.
Al-Sha'rani noted in this context that the demise of settlements and the multiple forts are quite consistent with the scripture citations which indicate the occurrence of a set of conflicts around the end of the Hellenistic period. (SANA)