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

2013 excavation campaign

From 14 September to 10 October 2013, the archaeological team from the National Museum of Antiquities was at work in Jordan, at the small (25 by 40 metre) Tell Damiyah on the banks of the River Jordan. A tell is a mound created by human habitation. This is the museum’s second excavation campaign on this site. In 2012, excavation was conducted jointly with Jordan's Yarmouk University.

Byzantine burial ground

In 2013 the team will dig near the burial ground (probably Byzantine) discovered in 2012. The more than 20 graves contain the skeletons of both children and adults from the 1st millennium AD, some with chains of beads, some with inlaid rings, and one with a glass vessel next to its head. This is an exceptional find; Byzantine-period settlements are uncommon in the region.

Late Iron Age village destroyed by fire

The earliest human occupation layers studied in 2012 date from the late Iron Age, roughly the 7th century BC. Here too, fieldwork will continue in 2013. These are the remains of a village destroyed by fire; the finds include a great deal of shattered pottery on the floors. This settlement may be related to Neo-Assyrian artefacts discovered during a preliminary survey in 2004 and 2005. Because it proved time-consuming to investigate the Byzantine graves, only a small part of this earlier occupation layer could be excavated. The excavations in 2013 are expected to provide a fuller picture of the 7th-century settlement at Tell Damiyah and the role of the Neo-Assyrians.

Excavation campaign 2012

In the Persian period, Tell Damiyah was used as a storage site. In 2012 the archaeologists found large, deep pits that were originally filled with livestock feed. The absence of architecture may indicate that the residents or users had a nomadic background. There were also many objects in the pits associated with textile production, such as small spinning wheels and loom weights.

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.