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History of Jordan
 
 
 

Early History

Evidence of human activity in Transjordan dates back to the Paleolithic period (500000-17000 BC). While there is no architectural evidence from this era, archaeologists have found tools, such as flint and basalt hand-axes, knives and scraping implements.

In the Neolithic period (8500-4500 BC), three major shifts occurred. First, people became sedentary living in small villages and concurrently, new food sources were discovered and domesticated, such as cereal grains, peas and lentils, as well as goats. The population increased reaching tens of thousands of people.

Second, the shift in settlement patterns was catalysed by a marked change in the weather, particularly affecting the eastern desert, which grew warmer and drier, eventually becoming entirely uninhabitable for most of year. This watershed climate change is believed to have occurred between 6500 and 5500 BC.

Third, between 5500-4500 BC pottery from clay, rather than plaster, began to be produced. Pottery-making technologies were likely introduced to the area by craftsmen from Mesopotamia. The largest Neolithic site is at Ein Ghazal in Amman. There are many buildings, divided into three distinct districts. Houses were rectangular with several rooms, and some of them had plastered floors. Archaeologists have unearthed skulls covered with plaster and with bitumen in the eye sockets at sites throughout Jordan, Israel and Syria. A statue was also discovered at Ein Ghazal that is thought to be 8,000 years old. Just over one metre high, it depicts a woman with huge eyes, skinny arms, knobby knees and a detailed rendering of her toes.

It was during the Chalcolithic period (4500-3200 BC) that copper was first smelted and used to make axes, arrowheads and hooks. The cultivation of barley, dates, olives and lentils, and the domestication of sheep and goats predominated over hunting. In the desert, the lifestyle was probably very similar to that of modern Bedouins.

Tuleitat Ghassul is a large Chalcolithic era village located in the Jordan Valley. Houses were made of sun-dried mud bricks and roofs of wood, reeds and mud. Some were based on stone foundations, and many planned around large courtyards. The walls are often painted with bright images of masked men, stars and geometric motifs, that were perhaps connected to religious beliefs.

During the Early Bronze Age (3200-1950 BC), many villages were built that included defensive fortifications, most likely to protect against marauding nomadic tribes. Simple water infrastructures were also constructed.
At Bab al-Dhra in Wadi ‘Araba, archaeologists discovered over 20,000 shaft tombs with multiple chambers as well as houses of mud-brick containing human bones, pots, jewellery and weapons. Hundreds of dolmens scattered throughout the mountains have been dated to the late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Ages.

While in Egypt and Mesopotamia, writing developed before 3000 BC, writing was not really used in Transjordan, Canaan and Syria until some thousand years later, even though archaeological evidence indicates that the Transjordanian population was in fact trading with Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Between 2300-1950 BC, many of the large, fortified hilltop towns were abandoned in favour of either small, unfortified villages or a pastoral lifestyle. There is no consensus on what caused this shift, though it is thought to be combination of climatic and political changes that brought an end to the city-state network.

During the Middle Bronze Age (1950-1550 BC), migration patterns in the Middle East increased. Trading continued to develop between Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Canaan and Transjordan, resulting in the spread of civilisation and technology. Bronze forged out of copper and tin resulted in the production of more durable axes, knives and other tools and weapons. Large and distinct communities seem to have arisen in northern and central Jordan, while the south was populated by a nomadic, Bedouin-type of people known as the Shasu.
New fortifications appeared at sites like Amman's Citadel, Irbid, and Tabaqat Fahl (or Pella). Towns were surrounded by ramparts made of earth embankments and the slopes were covered in hard plaster, making it slippery and difficult to climb. Pella was enclosed by massive walls and watch towers.


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