Excavations at Beidha

Project summary

On completion of the 1967 excavations of Beidha a new area of the village was found lying 25 metres east of the excavations which was interpreted as a sanctuary. Aims of the 1983 season were to clarify the nature of the new quarter; join it to the main village by trench; make small soundings inside the village to understand the relationship between the different levels; and try and find the extent of Natufian horizon running below the Neolithic village.


Project details

Location: Beidha (Jordan)

Year(s): 1983

Project director(s): Diana Kirkbride

Project team:

  • Brian Byrd (site supervisor, back up surveyor, draughtsman, photographer),
  • Don Bunyan (photographer, site supervisor),
  • Madame Adelaide Fenaille-Kamir (site supervisor, flint sorter),
  • Howard Hecker (zoologist, site supervisor),
  • Brian Johnson (architect),
  • Bob Erskine (surveyor),
  • Niazi Shab’an (DoAJ Representative, site supervisor).

Lead institutions and funding:

  • British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History,
  • Department of Antiquities of Jordan,
  • Yarmouk University.

Partners:

  • British Museum,
  • British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem,
  • Ashmolean Museum,
  • Society of Antiquaries of London,
  • Gerald Averay Wainwright Foundation,
  • University of Oxford,
  • University Museum Manchester.

Project description

The new area found at the end of the 1967 season of excavations at Beidha consisted of three curvilinear, semi-subterranean structures built in the same style as the earliest houses, but without wall slots. Each had carefully laid stone floors, the largest house a standing stone in the centre, aligned to the cardinal points, below the floor a circular enclosure outlined with small stone slabs. The area was interpreted as a sanctuary and, before the end of the excavations, a trench was open to join this area to the village.

During the 1983 season, four main activities were carried out:

1. Soundings around the sanctuary area: Remains of Neolithic huts, hearths and camping floors were found, earlier than both the village and sanctuary. The structure with the standing stone was built over this level, the paved floors cut down through the huts. The Neolithic huts had clay walls, floors of stamped clay or fine gravel, hearths outlined with stone. The character of remains is different to the pre-village levels found in the main village, less substantial, possibly a camping area, in use for a season or two, with no accumulation of occupational debris.

2. Trench joining sanctuary area to the village: Continued work on wall found in 1967, running diagonally from the village and turning south to cut off sanctuary area from the village. Sections of wall were robbed out anciently to create the terraces of Nabataean period. The area was greatly disturbed and there was little to be gained by continuing excavation.

3. Soundings and excavations in the village: A series of small soundings were made below floors or in open spaces outside the earliest buildings. The soundings clarified the relationship of levels across the site. In addition, two houses with west walls visible were fully excavated. The houses excavated are of Level IV type. One cut into by third Nabataean terrace wall, had fine plastered floor, two platforms of stone boulders, a quern and large stone bowl set into floor. The second house was later, with a small round hearth, rough stone platform, a quern and various ground stone implements. Remains of the floor of a third house was found, with red painted plaster, a quern and flat flagstone table, the rest of which had been destroyed by the Nabataean terrace wall.

4. Investigation of the Natufian levels: In previous seasons, evidence of Natufian levels was found along talus of the tell weathered by Seyl ‘Aqlat and from soundings inside the village, however the new soundings made in the trench joining the village to the sanctuary area showed no evidence of Natufian levels.


Project bibliography

Byrd, B.F., 2005. Early Village Life at Beidha, Jordan: Neolithic Spatial Organization and Vernacular Architecture. The Excavations of Mrs. Diana Kirkbride-Helbaek. Oxford: Oxford University Press/CBRL.

Kirkbride, D., 1984. Beidha 1983: An Interim Report, Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ) 28, 9–12.

Kirkbride, D., 1985. The Environment of the Petra Region during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic, in Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan, ed. A. Hadidi. Amman: Department of Antiquities, 117–24.


Project media gallery

Neolithic settlement at Beidha (Jordan). (Credit: Michael Gunther).