Jordan Language Stats


Languages Arabic (official), English widely understood among upper and middle classes 2008
Linguistic diversity index 0.666 2009 55th out of 200
Major language(s) Arabic 2013



The Making of Transjordan

Although the Sykes-Picot Agreement was modified considerably in practice, it established a framework for the mandate system which was imposed in the years following the war. Near the end of 1918, the Hashemite Emir Faisal set up an independent government in Damascus. However, his demand at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference for independence throughout the Arab world was met with rejection from the colonial powers. In 1920 and for a brief duration, Faisal assumed the throne of Syria and his elder brother Abdullah was offered the crown of Iraq by the Iraqi representatives. However, the British government ignored the will of the Iraqi people. Shortly afterward, the newly-founded League of Nations awarded Britain the mandates over Transjordan, Palestine and Iraq. France was given the mandate over Syria and Lebanon, but had to take Damascus by force, removing King Faisal from the throne to which he had been elected by the General Syrian Congress in 1920.

In November 1920, Emir (later King) Abdullah led forces from the Hijaz to restore his brother’s throne in the Kingdom of Syria. However, the French mandate over Syria was already well planted, and Emir Abdullah was obliged to delay his pan-Arab goals and focus on forming a government in Amman. Since the end of the war, the British had divided the land of Transjordan into three local administrative districts, with a British “advisor” appointed to each. The northern region of ‘Ajloun had its administrative center in Irbid, the central region of Balqa was based in Salt, and the southern region was run by the “Moabite Arab Government,” based in Karak. The regions of Ma’an and Tabuk were incorporated into the Kingdom of the Hijaz, ancestral home of the Hashemites. Faced with the determination of Emir Abdullah to unify Arab lands under the Hashemite banner, the British proclaimed Abdullah ruler of the three districts, known collectively as Transjordan. Confident that his plans for the unity of the Arab nation would eventually come to fruition, the emir established the first centralized governmental system in what is now modern Jordan on April 11, 1921.
King Faisal I, meanwhile, assumed the throne of the Kingdom of Iraq in the same year. The Hashemite family ruled Iraq until King Faisal’s grandson King Faisal II and his immediate family were all murdered in a bloody coup by Nasserist sympathizers led by Colonel Abdel Karim Qassem on July 14, 1958. The Hashemites suffered another major blow in 1925, when King Ali bin al-Hussein, the eldest brother of Abdullah and Faisal, lost the throne of the Kingdom of the Hijaz to Abdel Aziz bin Saud of Najd. The loss, which was brought about by a partnership between Ibn Saud and followers of the Wahhabi movement, led to the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and brought to an end over one thousand years of Hashemite rule in Mecca.
Emir Abdullah soon succeeded in loosening the British mandate over Transjordan with an Anglo-Transjordanian treaty. On May 15, 1923, Britain formally recognized the Emirate of Transjordan as a state under the leadership of Emir Abdullah. This angered the Zionists, as it effectively severed Transjordan from Palestine and so reduced the area of any future Jewish national home in the region. The treaty stipulated that Transjordan would be prepared for independence under the general supervision of the British high commissioner in Jerusalem, and recognized Emir Abdullah as head of state. In May 1925, the Aqaba and Ma’an districts of the Hijaz became part of Transjordan.

The period between the two world wars was one of consolidation and institutionalization in Transjordan. Abdullah sought to build political unity by melding the disparate Bedouin tribes into a cohesive group capable of maintaining Arab rule in the face of increasing Western encroachment. Abdullah realized the need for a capable security force to establish and ensure the integrity of the state in defense, law, taxation, and other matters. Accordingly, he set up the fabled Arab Legion as one cornerstone of the fledgling state. The Arab Legion was set up with assistance from British officers, the most well-known of whom was Major J. B. Glubb.

Although the Arab Legion provided Emir Abdullah with the means of enforcing the authority of the state throughout Transjordan, he realized that true stability could only be realized by establishing legitimacy through representative institutions. Hence, as early as April 1928 he promulgated a constitution, which provided for a parliament known as the Legislative Council. Elections were held in February 1929, bringing to power the first Legislative Council of 21 members. The Legislative Council was guaranteed advisory powers, and seven of its 21 members were appointed.

Between 1928 and 1946, a series of Anglo-Transjordanian treaties led to almost full independence for Transjordan. While Britain retained a degree of control over foreign affairs, armed forces, communications and state finances, Emir Abdullah commanded the administrative and military machinery of the regular government. On March 22, 1946, Abdullah negotiated a new Anglo-Transjordanian treaty, ending the British mandate and gaining full independence for Transjordan. In exchange for providing military facilities within Transjordan, Britain continued to pay a financial subsidy and supported the Arab Legion. Two months later, on May 25, 1946, the Transjordanian parliament proclaimed Abdullah king, while officially changing the name of the country from the Emirate of Transjordan to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Posted on 12 May 2009




The Great Arab Revolt

Much of the trauma and dislocation suffered by the peoples of the Middle East during the 20th century can be traced to the events surrounding World War I. During the conflict, the Ottoman Empire sided with the Central Powers against the Allies. Seeing an opportunity to liberate Arab lands from Turkish oppression, and trusting the honor of British officials who promised their support for a unified kingdom for the Arab lands, Sharif Hussein bin Ali, Emir of Mecca and King of the Arabs (and great grandfather of King Hussein), launched the Great Arab Revolt. After the conclusion of the war, however, the victors reneged on their promises to the Arabs, carving from the dismembered Ottoman lands a patchwork system of mandates and protectorates. While the colonial powers denied the Arabs their promised single unified Arab state, it is nevertheless testimony to the effectiveness of the Great Arab Revolt that the Hashemite family was able to secure Arab rule over Transjordan, Iraq and Arabia.

In order to discern the motives of the Hashemites in undertaking the revolt, one must understand the policies undertaken by the Ottoman Empire in the years leading up to World War I. Following the Young Turk coup of 1908, the Ottomans abandoned their pluralistic and pan-Islamic policies, instead pursuing a policy of secular Turkish nationalism. The formerly cosmopolitan and tolerant Ottoman Empire began overtly discriminating against its non-Turkish inhabitants. Arabs in particular were faced with political, cultural and linguistic persecution. During this time, Arab nationalist groups in Syria, Iraq and Arabia began to rally behind the Hashemite banner of Abdullah and Faisal, sons of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, King of the Arabs.

When the Ottomans entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers in 1914, they upheld the ban on the official use of the Arabic language and its teaching in schools, while arresting many Arab nationalist figures in Damascus and Beirut. Arabs were further threatened by the construction of the Hijaz Railway, connecting Damascus and Mecca, which promised to facilitate the mobility of Turkish troops into the Arab heartland.

Consequently, in June 1916, as head of the Arab nationalists and in alliance with Britain and France, Sharif Hussein initiated the Great Arab Revolt against Ottoman rule. His sons, the emirs Abdullah and Faisal, led the Arab forces, with Emir Faisal’s forces liberating Damascus from Ottoman rule in 1918. At the end of the war, Arab forces controlled all of modern Jordan, most of the Arabian peninsula and much of southern Syria.

Sharif Hussein’s objective in undertaking the Great Arab Revolt was to establish a single independent and unified Arab state stretching from Aleppo (Syria) to Aden (Yemen), based on the ancient traditions and culture of the Arab people, the upholding of Islamic ideals and the full protection and inclusion of ethnic and religious minorities. Arab nationalists in the Fertile Crescent and the Arabian Peninsula found in the Hashemite commanders of the Great Arab Revolt the leadership that could realize their aspirations, and thus coalesced around them.

The Clash of Promises and Interests

The political aspirations of the Arabs were not to be realized, however, due to the conflicting promises made by the British to their wartime allies. The first of these came during 1915 in an exchange of ten letters between Sir Henry McMahon, Britain’s high commissioner in Egypt, and Sharif Hussein. Essentially, Britain pledged, in what became known as the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, to support Arab independence if Hussein’s forces revolted against the Turks.

But the agreement excluded three areas: the wilayets (Ottoman provinces) of Basra and Baghdad, the Turkish districts of Alexandretta and Mersin, and, most importantly, “portions of Syria lying to the west of the districts of Damascus, Homs, Hama, and Aleppo.” The interpretation of the last section was to be the source of great controversy. The British later claimed that Palestine was meant to be excluded from the area of Arab rule, as it is technically located west of Damascus: for obvious reasons the Zionists took the same position. The Arabs interpreted the letter as it reads: Lebanon, not Palestine, is to the west of Damascus and the other areas mentioned.

In any case, the interests of the colonial powers took precedence over promises made to the Arabs. While accepting the principle of Arab independence laid down in the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence, the Sykes-Picot Agreement, signed by Britain, France and Russia in 1916, divided the area into zones of permanent colonial influence. The agreement recognized French interests in Greater Syria and northern Iraq, while acknowledging British designs on a belt of influence from the Mediterranean to the Gulf to protect its trade and communications links with the Indian subcontinent. The Sykes-Picot Agreement specified that most of Palestine was to be entrusted to an international administration. The agreement clearly contradicted the promises made to Sharif Hussein of Mecca.

To further complicate matters, in a totally deceitful move British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour in 1917 issued a letter to a prominent British Jew, Lord Rothschild, promising Britain’s commitment and support for a Jewish home in Palestine. Known as the Balfour Declaration, the letter calls for the "establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people . . . it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine...”

Posted on 12 May 2009




Christendom and the Byzantines

The Byzantine period dates from the year 324 CE, when the Emperor Constantine I founded Constantinople (Istanbul) as the capital of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire. Constantine converted to the growing religion of Christianity in 333 CE. In Jordan, however, the Christian community had developed much earlier: Pella had been a center of refuge for Christians fleeing persecution in Rome during the first century CE.

During the Byzantine period, a great deal of construction took place throughout Jordan. All of the major cities of the Roman era continued to flourish, and the regional population boomed. As Christianity gradually became the accepted religion of the area in the fourth century, churches and chapels began to sprout up across Jordan.

Many of these were clustered together on the foundations of ancient Roman settlements, and a good number of pagan temples were plundered to build churches. Church-building witnessed extraordinary growth during the reign of Emperor Justinian (527-65 CE). Most of these churches were of basilica type, with semi-circular apses to the east and two parallel rows of pillars supporting a higher roof over the nave.
One indication of the prosperity of the period can be seen in the mosaic floors which decorated many of these newly-built places of worship. These ornate mosaics often portrayed animals, people and towns. The most impressive examples of Byzantine mosaic artistry can be seen in Madaba, and the greatest of these is the famed sixth-century Map of the Holy Land, also known as the Mosaic Map of Palestine.
In the sixth and seventh centuries CE, Jordan suffered severe depopulation. The plague of 542 CE wiped out much of the population, while another cause may have been the Sassanian invasion of 614 CE. The Sassanians, who had ruled Persia and Iraq since the early third century CE, occupied Jordan, Palestine and Syria for fifteen years, but the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius managed to recover the area in 629 CE. His gains were not to last for long.

Posted on 12 May 2009




The Mysterious Nabateans

Before Alexander’s conquest, a thriving new civilization had emerged in southern Jordan. It appears that a nomadic tribe known as the Nabateans began migrating gradually from Arabia during the sixth century BCE. Over time, they abandoned their nomadic ways and settled in a number of places in southern Jordan, the Naqab desert in Palestine, and in northern Arabia. Their capital city was the legendary Petra, Jordan’s most famous tourist attraction. Although Petra was inhabited by the Edomites before the arrival of the Nabateans, the latter carved grandiose buildings, temples and tombs out of solid sandstone rock. They also constructed a wall to fortify the city, although Petra was almost naturally defended by the surrounding sandstone mountains. Building an empire in the arid desert also forced the Nabateans to excel in water conservation. They were highly skilled water engineers, and irrigated their land with an extensive system of dams, canals and reservoirs.
The Nabateans were exceptionally skilled traders, facilitating commerce between China, India, the Far East, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. They dealt in such goods as spices, incense, gold, animals, iron, copper, sugar, medicines, ivory, perfumes and fabrics, just to name a few. From its origins as a fortress city, Petra became a wealthy commercial crossroads between the Arabian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures. Control of this crucial trade route between the upland areas of Jordan, the Red Sea, Damascus and southern Arabia was the lifeblood of the Nabatean Empire.

We still know comparatively little about Nabatean society. However, we do know that they spoke a dialect of Arabic and later on adopted Aramaic. Much of what is now known about Nabatean culture comes from the writings of the Roman scholar Strabo. He recorded that their community was governed by a royal family, although a strong spirit of democracy prevailed. According to him there were no slaves in Nabatean society, and all members shared in work duties. The Nabateans worshipped a pantheon of deities, chief among which were the sun god Dushara and the goddess Allat.

As the Nabateans grew in power and wealth, they attracted the attention of their neighbors to the north. The Seleucid King Antigonus, who had come to power when Alexander’s empire was divided, attacked Petra in 312 BCE. His army met with relatively little resistance, and was able to sack the city. The quantity of booty was so great, however, that it slowed their return journey north and the Nabateans were able to annihilate them in the desert. Records indicate that the Nabateans were eager to remain on good terms with the Seleucids in order to perpetuate their trading ambitions. Throughout much of the third century BCE, the Ptolemies and Seleucids warred over control of Jordan, with the Seleucids emerging victorious in 198 BCE. Nabatea remained essentially untouched and independent throughout this period.

Although the Nabateans resisted military conquest, the Hellenistic culture of their neighbors influenced them greatly. Hellenistic influences can be seen in Nabatean art and architecture, especially at the time that their empire was expanding northward into Syria, around 150 BCE. However, the growing economic and political power of the Nabateans began to worry the Romans. In 65 BCE, the Romans arrived in Damascus and ordered the Nabateans to withdraw their forces. Two years later, Pompey dispatched a force to cripple Petra. The Nabatean King Aretas III either defeated the Roman legions or paid a tribute to keep peace with them.

The assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE augured a period of relative anarchy for the Romans in Jordan, and the Parthian kings of Persia and Mesopotamia took advantage of the chaotic situation to attack. The Nabateans made a mistake by siding with the Parthians in their war with the Romans, and after the Parthians’ defeat, Petra had to pay tribute to Rome. When they fell behind in paying this tribute, they were invaded twice by the Roman vassal King Herod the Great. The second attack, in 31 BCE, saw him take control of a large swath of Nabatean territory, including the lucrative northern trading routes into Syria.
Nonetheless, the Nabateans continued to prosper for a while. King Aretas IV, who ruled from 9 BCE to 40 CE, built a chain of settlements along the caravan routes to develop the prosperous incense trade. The Nabateans realized the power of Rome, and subsequently allied themselves with the Romans to quell the Jewish uprising of 70 CE. However, it was only a matter of time before Nabatea would fall under direct Roman rule. The last Nabatean monarch, Rabbel II, struck a deal with the Romans that as long as they did not attack during his lifetime, they would be allowed to move in after he died. Upon his death in 106 CE, the Romans claimed the Nabatean Kingdom and renamed it Arabia Petrea. The city of Petra was redesigned according to traditional Roman architectural designs, and a period of relative prosperity ensued under the Pax Romana.
The Nabateans profited for a while from their incorporation into the trade routes of the Roman Near East, and Petra may have grown to house 20,000-30,000 people during its heyday. However, commerce became less profitable to the Nabateans with the shift of trade routes to Palmyra in Syria and the expansion of seaborne trade around the Arabian peninsula. Sometime probably during the fourth century CE, the Nabateans left their capital at Petra. No one really knows why. It seems that the withdrawal was an unhurried and organized process, as very few silver coins or valuable possessions have been unearthed at Petra.

Posted on 12 May 2009




The Old Testament Kingdoms of Jordan

The Iron Age (c. 1200-332 BCE) saw the development and consolidation of three new kingdoms in Jordan: Edom in the south, Moab in central Jordan, and Ammon in the northern mountain areas. To the north in Syria, the Aramaeans made their capital in Damascus. This period saw a shift in the level of power from individual “city-states” to larger kingdoms. One possible reason for the growth of these local kingdoms was the growing importance of the trade route from Arabia, which carried gold, spices and precious metals through Amman and Damascus up to northern Syria.
The bulk of the Biblical Old Testament took place during this period. There is little archeological evidence to fully support the Biblical account of the Israelites’ occupation of Palestine. Although archaeologists have demonstrated that certain cities supposedly taken by the Israelites were indeed destroyed during this period, it is equally feasible that they may have been sacked by invading Egyptian armies. It is probable that the “conquest” occurred more gradually than in the Biblical narrative, with the process more akin to waves of ethnic migration than a conventional military campaign
According to the Biblical account of the Exodus from Egypt (c. 1270-1240 BCE), the Israelites requested permission to pass unharmed through the Kingdom of Edom. After having been denied permission, they skirted Edom to the east and continued north until they reached the borders of the Amorite country near Madaba. Not trusting the Israelites’ intentions, and not wishing to place the added strain of thousands of migrants upon his food and water stores, the Amorite leader Sihon refused them passage as well. This time, the Israelites fought back and defeated Sihon, occupying his territory.

According to the Bible, the Israelites then continued their northward trek into the Kingdom of Moab, where the Moabite king set up an alliance between the five tribal kings of Midian (the Hijaz of Arabia). The increasingly powerful Israelites triumphed over the Midianites as well, and some of the tribes settled in the conquered territories. The prophet Moses apparently climbed, or was carried, to the top of Mount Nebo, where, according to some sources, he died. Joshua then led the remaining tribes across the Jordan River into Palestine. A united Kingdom of Israel arose there about 1000 BCE with Saul and David as its first kings. After the death of David’s son King Solomon in 922 BCE, the kingdom divided into two, with Israel in the north and Judah in the south.

The relative ease with which the Israelites made their way north and west into Palestine says much about the situation in Egypt, which still nominally ruled the lands of Jordan and Palestine. Attacks from the “Sea Peoples” of the Mediterranean Sea had weakened the Pharaonic empire and allowed the Philistines to gain a foothold on Egyptian soil as well as in Palestine and Jordan. The primary contribution of the Philistines to local culture was the introduction of iron working to the region. Their superior skills in weapon-making gave them a military advantage and assisted in their early victories over the Israelite tribes. By around 1000 BCE, however, iron was in widespread use throughout the region.

In general, trouble for the Israelites was good news for the kingdoms of Jordan. The split into Israel and Judah in 922 BCE, combined with the invasion of the Egyptian Shishak against Israel four years later, allowed the three kingdoms a bit of breathing room and prosperity. After the death of King David around 960 BCE, Edom regained most of its former independence. The Edomites occupied southern Jordan and their capital at Buseira possessed at least one large temple or palace. They were skilled in copper mining and smelting, and had settlements near modern-day Petra and Aqaba.

The Moabites are best known from the Mesha Stele, a ninth-century BCE stone which extols the deeds of the Moabite King Mesha. He won a victory over the occupying Israelites, who were still clearly a major thorn in the side of the Moabites. The Kingdom of Moab covered the center of Jordan, and its capital cities were at Karak and Dhiban. The Kingdom of Ammon around 950 BCE displayed rising prosperity based on agriculture and trade, as well as an organized defense policy with a series of fortresses. Its capital was in the Citadel of present-day Amman.

The wealth of these kingdoms made them targets for raids or even conquest by the neighboring Israelites, the Aramaeans in Damascus, and the Assyrians with their capital at Ashur in northern Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). From the ninth century BCE on, the Assyrians campaigned against the Aramaeans, and in the late eighth century BCE they captured Damascus as well as Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. The kingdoms of Ammon, Moab and Edom retained their independence, however, by buying the Assyrians off with tribute.

The Assyrian Empire came crashing down in 612 BCE, when Nineveh fell to an alliance of Medes of Persia and the Chaldean kings of Babylonia. In its place arose the Babylonian Empire and King Nebuchadnezzar, whose defeat of the Egyptians at Carchemish in 605 BCE threw much of the region into turmoil. Considerable population shifts took place under the Babylonians, exemplified by the Edomites’ migration from Jordan into the area in southern Palestine known as Idumaea. In fact, there was a decline in urban development and power swung back again to nomadic tribes. In 587 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and deported thousands of Jews to Babylonia.

In 539 BCE, the Persians under Cyrus II ended the disruptive rule of the Babylonian Empire and paved the way for a period of more organized life and prosperity. The Persian Empire became the largest yet known in the Near East, and Cyrus’ successors conquered Egypt, northern India, Asia Minor, and frequently conflicted with the Greek states of Sparta and Athens. Internal turmoil continued in Jordan, with numerous clashes occurring between the Moabites and Ammonites.

Jordan and Palestine were placed under the control of a Persian viceroy with subordinate governors. Meanwhile, Cyrus freed the Jews from captivity in Babylonia and allowed them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. The Moabites and Ammonites interpreted this as a virtual declaration of sovereignty, and hence organized attacks upon the resettled Jews. They were led in this campaign by Tobiah, whom the Persians had appointed as governor. Tobiah set up a short-lived local dynasty, but ultimately the Persian leader Darius I (522-486 BCE) safeguarded the Jewish community and the temple was rebuilt.

After establishing the greatest empire yet known in the Near East, economic decline, revolts, murders and palace conspiracies weakened the Persian throne. In 332 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered the Persian capital of Persepolis (in modern Iran) and established Greek control over Jordan and surrounding countries.

Posted on 12 May 2009




Rise of the City States

Early Bronze Age

By about 3200 BCE, Jordan had developed a relatively urban character. Many settlements were established during the Early Bronze Age (c. 3200-1950 BCE) in various parts of Jordan, both in the Jordan Valley and on higher ground. Many of the villages built during this time included defensive fortifications to protect the inhabitants from marauding nomadic tribes still inhabiting the region. Water was channeled from one place to another and precautions were even taken against earthquakes and floods

Interesting changes took place in burial customs during this period. At Bab al-Dhra, a well-preserved site in Wadi ‘Araba, archaeologists have discovered over 20,000 shaft tombs with multiple chambers, thought to have contained the remains of 200,000 corpses. There were also charnel houses of mud-brick containing human bones, pots, jewelry and weapons. The hundreds of dolmens scattered throughout the mountains of Jordan are dated to the late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages. It is possible that the dolmens are evidence of new peoples from the north bringing with them different burial traditions.

Spectacular advances in urban civilization were taking place during this period in Egypt and Mesopotamia, where writing developed before 3000 BCE. Although writing was not really used in Jordan, Palestine and Syria until over a thousand years later, archeological evidence indicates that Jordan was in fact trading with Egypt and Mesopotamia.

From 2300-1950 BCE, many of the large, fortified hilltop towns constructed during the Early Bronze Age were abandoned in favor of either small, unfortified villages or a pastoral lifestyle. Archaeologists do not know for sure what prompted this shift, but it is possible that many cities were destroyed by an earthquake. It is clear, however, that a sharp climatic change at this time resulted in less rainfall and higher temperatures across the Middle East. The predominant theory is that many of these Early Bronze Age towns were victims of changes in climate and political factors which brought an end to a finely-balanced network of independent "city-states."

Middle Bronze Age

During the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1950-1550 BCE), people began to move around the Middle East to a far greater extent than before. Trading continued to develop between Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Palestine and Jordan, resulting in the refinement and spread of civilization and technology. The creation of bronze out of copper and tin resulted in harder and more durable axes, knives and other tools and weapons. It seems that during this period large and distinct communities arose in parts of northern and central Jordan, while the south was populated by a nomadic, Bedouin-type of people known as the Shasu.

A new and different type of fortification appeared at sites like Amman's Citadel, Irbid, Tabaqat Fahl (or Pella) and (Ariha) Jericho. The towns were surrounded by ramparts made of earth embankments. The slope was then covered in hard plaster, making it slippery and difficult for an enemy to climb. Pella was enclosed by massive walls and watch towers.

It was once thought that during the 18th century BCE much of Syria, Jordan and Palestine were overrun by a military aristocracy from northern Mesopotamia known as the Hyksos, who went on to conquer much of Egypt and help overthrow the Middle Kingdom there. Now, however, archaeologists believe that the Hyksos -a Greek form of the ancient Egyptian hkaw haswt, which means "rulers of foreign lands"- were from Jordan and Palestine. We do know that the Hyksos brought with them the war chariot, horses and a new type of defensive architecture.

Archaeologists usually date the end of the Middle Bronze Age to about 1550 BCE, when the Hyksos were driven out of Egypt by the rulers of the 17th and 18th Dynasties. The destruction of many of the Middle Bronze Age towns in Palestine and Jordan is usually blamed on the Egyptian armies pursuing the Hyksos, although there is little direct evidence of Egyptian involvement.

The Egyptian Pharaoh Tuthmosis III, who acceded as ruler in 1482 BCE, succeeded in settling many of the internal disputes which had diverted Egypt's attention away from the outlying northern areas. He carried out at least 16 military expeditions and set up an empire in Canaan (Palestine, Jordan and Syria) after the successful conclusion of a seven-month siege of the combined Canaanite forces at Megiddo, in northern Palestine. Tuthmosis installed rulers of his choice in major towns and introduced a system of Egyptian governors in general control over administration of the province. A system of Canaanite city-states under varying degrees of Egyptian influence existed throughout Jordan and Palestine during this period. In the north, meanwhile, the Egyptians fought a series of inconclusive battles against the kingdoms of the Mitannians and Hittites for control of Syria.

The relative peace brought by the Egyptians encouraged international trade, especially with the Mediterranean and Aegean. Pottery from Mycenaean Greece and Cyprus is found throughout Palestine and Jordan. Originally it probably contained fine oils and perfumes, but it was also used as elegant tableware or buried with the dead. In this relatively optimistic and prosperous period, a large number of new towns and temples were constructed.

Late Bronze Age

The Late Bronze Age was brought to a mysterious end around 1200 BCE, with the collapse of many of the Near Eastern and Mediterranean kingdoms. The main cities of Mycenaean Greece and Cyprus, of the Hittites in Anatolia, and of Late Bronze Age Syria, Palestine and Jordan were destroyed. It is thought that this destruction was wrought by the "Sea Peoples" marauders from the Aegean and Anatolia who were eventually defeated by the Egyptian pharoahs Merenptah and Rameses III. One group of Sea Peoples were the Philistines, who settled on the southern coast of Palestine and gave the area its name.
The Israelites may have been another cause of the Late Bronze Age devastation in Palestine. Although the archeological record does not always agree with the Biblical narrative, it is certain that the Israelites destroyed many Canaanite towns including Ariha (Jericho), Ai and Hazor.

One of the issues debated concerns the Kingdom of Edom (the area of Jordan south of the Dead Sea). The Book of Numbers states that the Israelites coming from Egypt found Edom a fully developed state. However, no Edomite settlements have been identified before the end of the 8th century BCE, and there was surely no "state" of Edom as early as 1200 BCE, when the Biblical conquest narrative is set. Some archaeologists believe that the "king" of Edom was a Bedouin sheikh, and that his "kingdom" would have left no noticeable ruins for archaeologists to find.

Posted on 12 May 2009




Ancient Jordan

Paleolithic Period

During the Paleolithic period (c. 500,000-17,000 BCE), the inhabitants of Jordan hunted wild animals and foraged for wild plants, probably following the movement of animals seeking pasture and living near sources of water. The climate during this period was considerably wetter than today, and therefore large areas of modern-day desert were open plains ideal for a hunting and gathering subsistence strategy. Evidence has also been found of Paleolithic inhabitation near a large expanse of water at Azraq. Paleolithic man in Jordan left no evidence of architecture, and no human skeleton from this period has yet been found. However, archaeologists have uncovered tools from this period such as flint and basalt hand-axes, knives and scraping implements. Ancient man also left clues to the nature of his existence beginning in Paleolithic times and continuing through the Neolithic and Chalcolithic eras.

Neolithic Period

During the Neolithic period (c. 8500-4500 BCE), or New Stone Age, three great shifts took place in the land now known as Jordan. First, people settled down to community life in small villages. This corresponded to the introduction of new food sources-such as cereal agriculture, domesticated peas and lentils, and the newly-widespread practice of goat herding- into the diet of Neolithic man. The combination of settled life and "food security" prompted a rise in population which reached into the tens of thousands.

The second basic shift in settlement patterns was prompted by the changing weather of the eastern desert. The area grew warmer and drier, gradually becoming virtually uninhabitable throughout much of the year. The distinction between the desert to the east and the "sown" areas to the west dates back to this watershed climatic change, which is believed to have occurred from around 6500-5500 BCE.

The most significant development of the late Neolithic period, from about 5500-4500 BCE, was the making of pottery. Earlier attempts to fashion pottery from plaster have been discovered, but it was during the late Neolithic period that man began to systematically create vessels from clay. It is likely that pottery-making was introduced to the area from craftsmen arriving from the seminal civilizations developing to the northeast, in Mesopotamia.

The largest Neolithic site in Jordan is at Ein Ghazal in Amman. It consists of a large number of buildings, which were divided into three distinct districts. The houses were rectangular with several rooms, and some of them had plastered floors. The stone tower and walls found at Jericho show that defense was a consideration for Neolithic villages, as well. It seems as though Neolithic man practiced ancestor veneration, as archaeologists have unearthed skulls covered with plaster and with bitumen in the eye sockets at sites throughout Jordan (Ein Ghazal and Beidha), Palestine and Syria. Recently, archaeologists finished restoring what may be one of the world's oldest statues. The relic, which was found at Ein Ghazal, is thought to be 8000 years old. The statue is just over one meter high and is of a woman with huge eyes, skinny arms, knobby knees and carefully depicted toes.

Chalcolithic Period

During the Chalcolithic period (c. 4500-3200 BCE), copper was smelted for the first time. It was put to use in making axes, arrowheads and hooks, although flint tools also continued to be used for a long time. Chalcolithic man relied less on hunting than in Neolithic times, instead focusing more on sheep and goat-breeding and the cultivation of wheat, barley, dates, olives and lentils. In the desert areas the lifestyle was probably very similar to that of modern Bedouins.
Tuleitat Ghassul was a large Chalcolithic village in the Jordan Valley. Houses there were built of sun-dried mud bricks with roofs made of wood, reeds and mud. Some dwellings were based on stone foundations and many were planned around large courtyards. The inhabitants of Tuleitat Ghassul used the walls of their houses for artistic or ceremonial purposes, painting bright images of masked men, stars and geometric motifs, perhaps connected with religious beliefs.

Posted on 12 May 2009



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