Tall el-Hammam (Jordanie): Archaeologists Excavate Massive Ancient Gateway
A team of archaeologists and excavators are uncovering a site that could be among the largest ancient Bronze Age cities of the Near East. Current efforts are focusing on a massive, newly discovered Middle Bronze II Period (1800 - 1540 BCE) city gate complex and associated structures, part of a nearly impenetrable defensive system that ringed and protected a city that the excavators suggest may have commanded and controlled a group of other nearby ancient settlements.
The city gate was revealed during excavations conducted during January of 2012 under the direction of Dr. Steven Collins of Trinity Southwest University and Yazeed Eylayyan of the Department of Antiquities, Jordan. It was one of a number of major architectural features associated with a massive defensive fortification system built to protect the city.
The fortifications boast a 4m-thick city wall which was built on a foundation of large stones up to 5m high and topped by a mudbrick superstructure. The entire construction was reinforced by an earthen/mudbrick rampart/glacis system that sloped outward and downward about 35 to 38 degrees from the city perimeter wall. Based on current excavated evidence and analysis, the newly discovered gateway constitutes the main, monumental gateway leading into the city through these fortifications.
Reports Collins, et. al.: "The sheer size and extent of the MB2 (Middle Bronze Age II) defensive system would have been most impressive, and virtually impregnable. Indeed, thus far there are no evidences of conquest-destruction for the duration of the Bronze Age defenses. There's also evidence of a substantial ring-road between the inner face of the MB2 city wall and the first row of houses."
The remains of the ancient city encompass an area so large that it dwarfs surrounding ancient settlements that feature finds and structures roughly contemporaneous with the city, and analyses of the city's context, finds, and other data have led associated scholars to suggest that it may have been the hub of a collection of settlements that had relations economically, politically, or in other ways, as a Bronze Age city-state.
The recent discoveries are part of an ongoing excavation project conducted jointly by Trinity Southwest University in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The site, called Tall el-Hammam, is a large tel located in the southern Jordan River Valley, about 14 kilometers northeast of the Dead Sea. Now entering the 8th season, investigations there have revealed a long occupational history, beginning with the Chalcolithic Period through to Islamic times, with a distinctive occupational gap of at least five centuries following the Middle Bronze period. The reasons for the gap have not been confirmed, and scholars involved with the project are continuing to search for clues.
Archaeologists and a team of students and volunteers will be returning to the site to excavate and explore more of the city gate and other related structures in January, 2013.
For more information about the project, see the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project website.