The 1997 Season at Ba'ja, Southern Jordan

Hans Georg K. Gebel, Free University of Berlin
Hans-Dieter Bienert, German Protestant Institute of Archaeology, Dept. Amman


The 1997 Season at Ba'ja, Southern Jordan

Site Preservation and Site Survey (Fig. 3)

The walls of the dense terraced housing, probably comparable to that of traditional villages in the area (Tayiba, Dana, Basta, Rajif, etc.), appear well preserved in the excavated squares. Walls reach heights of at least 2.2m. The surface evidence of Neolithic walls concentrates in the upper two-thirds of the site, with highest densities NE and N of the excavated area Areas D/C). While almost no such evidence comes from the steep areas right above the siq (Areas C and F) and the narrow steep western slope (Area A), LPPNB grinding slabs and manos cover all parts of the site in varying densities.

The good wall preservation is explained by the rapid intra-mural deposition of structures (cf. Gebel et al. 1997) and the succeeding colluvially supported stone pavement, the missing walls in at least lower Area C are explained as the result of aquatic impacts by a post-occupationally blocked siq. Actually, we found in Squares C2 and C13 that the rooms were cut sharply at a particular height, and floors that were placed into the fine-grained virgin sediments suddenly stopped in this extreme slope setting (c. 40"). What sort of natural impacts can have caused such a situation? We exclude at present a "sliding-down" of complete rooms or even building parts, since we cannot identify a layer that might have acted as a sliding agent. But any major blocking of the siq below the site could have had an immediate influence on the site's morphology. Just below the area in question, the course of the gorge turns twice in right angles infront of rocky barriers; in addition, the siq is extremely narrow here. If a damming by fallen rocks happened here only once in post-PPNB times, it could well be that accumulated materials raised the bottom of the siq to elevations that were dangerous for the house ruins above, especially in the time of the tremendous winter floods typical for the area. In fact, the morphology of this amphitheater-shaped slope is very much that of a cutbank, suggesting that here the aquatic impact undercut the settlement (cf also Kramer in: Gebel et al. 1997).

Other aspects of site preservation include the interacting influences from field clearances etc. (stone piles, field terrace walls, wall alignments, terracing) in Nabatean times (cf. Müller-Neuhof in: Gebel et al. 1997) and the densely distributed eroded wall stones that created a natural pavement for the cultural sediments underneath.

Fig. 3. Site topography and Neolithic architectural surface evidence
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