Jordan: Tell Damiyah

Excavation on Tell DamiyahExcavation on Tell Damiyah
The excavation of one of the gravesThe excavation of one of the graves
Jeroen Rensen, a member of the excavation team, at work on Tell DamiyahJeroen Rensen, a member of the excavation team, at work on Tell Damiyah

2012 Fieldwork Season

The archaeology team of the National Museum of Antiquities was in Jordan from 7 October to 8 November 2012. The team worked with Yarmouk University of Jordan, excavating the small (25 x 40 metres) settlement mound Tell Damiyah on the banks of the River Jordan.

2012: Byzantine burial ground discovered

Against all expectations, the team discovered what was probably a Byzantine burial ground dating from the first millennium CE. More than twenty graves containing the remains of children and adults were discovered. Strings of beads were found on several of the skeletons. Others wore inlaid rings. A small glass flask was found next to the head of one of the bodies. This is a rare find because settlements from this period are uncommon in this area.

2012: Persian era storage site

During the Persian era, Tell Damiyah was used as a storage site. The archaeologists found large, deep holes that originally contained animal feed. The absence of architecture suggests that the inhabitants or users had a nomadic background. The holes also contained multiple objects used in textile production, such as spindles and loom weights.

2012: Ceramics in Late Iron Age occupation layers

The oldest occupation layers excavated this year date from the Late Iron Age, roughly the seventh century BCE. The site was a small village destroyed by fire. Many broken ceramic items were found on the floors. It may be possible to link this settlement to Neo-Assyrian objects found during the preliminary survey in 2004 and 2005. Because the examination of the Byzantine graves was time-consuming, it was only possible to excavate a small portion of this occupation layer in 2012. Future excavations are expected to reveal more about the seventh-century settlement at Tell Damiyah and the role of the Neo-Assyrians.

Objective of excavation

The site is being excavated in order to reconstruct its occupational history between 1400 and 500 BCE. The team hopes to explain why superpowers like Assyria and Egypt were interested in the mound, and how the settlement survived for a millennium despite drought and earthquakes. The excavation can also provide background information about the museum’s Jordanian collection, which is from this region. Little is known about its historical context.

With support from the Jordan’s Department of Antiquities

Dr Lucas Petit, curator of the museum’s Ancient Near East Collection, is in charge of the Tell Damiyah excavation. The project is supported by Jordan’s Department of Antiquities and funded by the museum. Research is expected to continue in Jordan in September and October 2013.

History of Tell Damiyah

In the ninth century BCE, the village on Tell Damiyah was destroyed by an earthquake. In 2004 and 2005, archaeologists found the scorched remnants of ceramics, spindles, millstones, and animal bones among the rubble of the cottages. Other finds dating from the seventh century BCE include a clay block with cuneiform script (a rarity in this area), Assyrian ceramics, and sections of a fortified wall, which suggests there was once an Assyrian fort there which was in use for just a few decades. After the destruction of the fort, the mound was used sporadically as a settlement and as a storage site for animal feed. There is no evidence of occupation at Tell Damiyah after approximately 500 BCE.