Wadi Feinan in the Fourth and Third Millennia BC, Wadi Feinan, Southern Jordan

Co-Directors: Dr Katherine I. Wright, Dr Mohammed Najjar

A project of the British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History (BIAAH), the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, and the Department of Antiquities, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

The Wadi Feinan 4th and 3rd millennia Project is one of several sub-projects of the British Wadi Feinan Regional Project, co-ordinated by the British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History (BIAAH). The overarching general goals of the BIAAH Wadi Feinan Project are to explore long-term land use, human adaptations and social change in the Feinan valley from the late Pleistocene to the present. Other sub-projects include the Geomorphology, Landscape and Field System Survey (G. Barker, D. Mattingly, University of Leicester, D. Gilbertson, University of Aberystwyth), the Feinan Palaeolithic Project (S. Mithen, University of Reading, B. Findlayson, Univ. of Edinburgh), Roman-Byzantine Project (P. Freeman, University of Liverpool).

Wadi Feinan lies in an arid landscape but has access to considerable amounts of water by virtue of its proximity to a permanent spring. The wadi is also one of the largest sources of copper in the Levant. Consequently, Wadi Feinan represents a region of particular importance for understanding the development of technology, exchange systems, prestige goods and emerging social complexity in the Levant in the 4th and 3rd millennia BC. The aims of the 4th-3rd millennia BC project are therefore to explore regional settlement, interregional interactions and social changes in Wadi Feinan at the dawn of the Early Bronze Age.

Wadi Feinan lies in an arid landscape but has access to considerable amounts of water by virtue of its proximity to a permanent spring. The wadi is also one of the largest sources of copper in the Levant. Consequently, Wadi Feinan represents a region of particular importance for understanding the development of technology, exchange systems, prestige goods and emerging social complexity in the Levant in the 4th and 3rd millennia BC. The aims of the 4th-3rd millennia BC project are therefore to explore regional settlement, interregional interactions and social changes in Wadi Feinan at the dawn of the Early Bronze Age.

The focus of an initial survey season in 1996 were the sites Wadi Feinan 100 (an occupation site) and Wadi Feinan 101 (a cemetery). Survey and mapping in 1996 revealed that Wadi Feinan 100 is an Early Bronze Age I-II site of 11 hectares in size (at the surface). The site is a very low mound which lies on a colluvial apron south of the main bed of Wadi Feinan. It consists of an extremely dense distribution of ceramics, lithics, basalt vessels, and small amounts of slag. The vast majority of surface materials are consistent with a late fourth millennium and early third millennium date. A very few artifacts indicate traces of Neolithic, Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Ill-IV occupations. Nabataean, Roman and Byzantine wheelmade ceramics are present but these artifacts account for less than 10% of sherd counts in the surface collections. If the surface distribution of artifacts accurately reflects the extent and date of subsurface in situ deposits, Wadi Feinan 100 would be the largest known site of 4th-3rd millennium date located in the immediate vicinity of a Levantine copper source.

Immediately to the south of WFIOO lies one of many cemetery sites on the low hills south of the main wadi bed. This site, designated WFIOI, consists of some 100+ tombs and other structures. Most of the tombs are marked by low circular cairns about 5 metres in diameter. Other structures observed include an apsidal building with a petroglyph of an ibex on one of its walls. This site has a low density scatter of artifacts formed in part by the effects of tomb robbing. Such diagnostics as were observed include a few coarse sherds comparable to those of WFI00; thinner and finer handmade ceramics; and fragments of basalt vessels. It is likely that the cemetery dates to the Chalcolithic / Early Bronze Age time range. Plans for further fieldwork on these sites are now in preparation. The first extended field season will take place in 1997.

We are very grateful to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan for permission to carry out the fieldwork; to our representative, Mr Emad ed-Drooz; to the staff of the British Institute for much advice and help; and most of all to Alexander Wasse, Ariane Marcar and Gail MacKinnon, the 1996 field team. For valuable discussions and information about the region, we are grateful to Russell Adams, George Findlater, Bill Findlayson, Matthias Flender, Herrmann Genz and Andreas Hauptmann. Finally, we are especially indebted to the members of the Wadi Feinan Geomorphology and Landscape Survey directed by Professor Graeme Barker and Dr David Mattingly, University of Leicester, and Professor David Gilbertson (University of Aberystwyth) for invaluable aid in designing trial methodologies for the first seasons work.

RELEVANT REFERENCES

  1. Adams, R. (1992). Romancing the stones: new light on Glueck's 1934 survey of eastern Palestine as a result of recent work by the Wadi Fidan project. In Early Edom and Moab, edited by P. Bienkowski, pp. 177-186. Sheffield Archaeological Monographs 7, Sheffield.
  2. Adams, R and Genz, H. (1995). Excavations at Wadi Fidan 4: a Chalcolithic village complex in the copper ore district of Feinan, southern Jordan. Palestine Exploration Quarterly (January-June 1995): 8-20.
  3. Algaze, G. (1993). Expansionary dynamics of some early pristine states. American Anthropologist 95: 304-333.
  4. Barker, G. et al. in press (1997) Geomorphology and landscape archaeology in Wadi Feinan, southern Jordan. Levant.
  5. Barnes, H, Flender, M, Ruben, 1, Shafiq, R and McQuitty, A. (1995). Wadi Faynan Project, 1994- 1995 (Phase 3)-. Report on March 1995 Season. British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History (manuscript), Amman.
  6. Harrison, T. (1993). Economics with an entrepreneurial spirit: Early Bronze Age trade with Predynastic Egypt. Biblical Archaeologist 56(2): 81-93.
  7. Hauptmann, A. (1989). The earliest periods of copper metallurgy in Feinan, Jordan. In Old World Archaeometallurgy, edited by A Hauptmann, E Pernicka and G Wagner, pp. I 1 9-13 5. Selbstverlag des Deutschen Bergbau-Museum, Bochum (Germany).
  8. Najjar, M. et al. (1990). Tell Wadi Feinan: the first Pottery Neolithic tell in the south of Jordan. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 34..27-56.
  9. Wright, K. (1996). Palestine: social transitions, diverse concerns. Antiquity 70(267): 214-217.
  10. Wright, K. et al. in press (1997). Notes and news: report on an initial season of fieldwork at Wadi Feinan 100 and 101. Levant.