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


Between June 16 and July 20, 1997, the first season of large-scale excavations was conducted at the LPPNB settlement of Ba'ja in southern Jordan (for the project design cf. Gebel and Bienert 1997). It was carried out under the joint directorship of the authors for the German Protestant Institute for Archaeology, Amman Dept. in collaboration with ex oriente e.V., a research association at the Seminar fur Vorderasiatische Altertumskunde of the Berlin Free University, and the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Orient-Abteilung in Berlin.


Project History and Field Operations

After the existence of a "flint site" in the remote rock formations north of Beidha was reported to H.G.K. Gebel in 1983 by M. Lindner and his team (cf. Neo-Lithics 1/97: 9), it was not easy for Gebel to relocate the site in 1984 in the framework of his project: Palaeoenvironrnental Investigations in the Greater Petra Area - Holocene Research (Gebel 1988, 1992; Gebel and Starck 1985). The location than was recorded properly, and three soundings were carried out, after the site was recognized as one of the major PPNB settlements in the Greater Petra Area, probably succeeding Beidha in the function as a regional center. In the following years, Ba'ja's protected setting, the difficult access and the magnificent scenery of its nature made it an attractive goal to reach for only a few insiders. In 1996 H.-D. Bienert approached H.G.K. Gebel for an infield cooperation. Since it had become imperative to contribute to the mega-site discussion by investigating also a smaller regional LPPNB center away from the corridors of that LPPNB large settlement expansion, Gebel proposed Ba'ja for this cooperation, provided that three field seasons will take place in order to the achieve the expected basic insights (cf. the goals discussed in Gebel and Bienert 1997: 10-1 1).

As expected, working at the site was a tough enterprise. The site, for example, demands climbing through the gorge (siq) with all the equipment, water and food to approach it, to have no possibilities for personal hygiene, and to have very reduced comfort with respect to shade, permanent stress on one's ankles because of the steepness of the slope, few flat areas to rest, thousands of flies, and the permanent danger of snakes.

coming. The archaeological staff (Fig. 2) consisted of more than 22 persons from Germany, Jordan, United States, England, and Sweden; during the most intensive work periods up to 24 local workman from the al-Amarin, al-Bedul, and al-Sey'idin tribes worked at the excavation. Tasks between the two co-directors were devided: one (Bienert) mainly did the general administration and partly the registration, the other (Gebel) mainly directed the excavations.

Ca. 250 m2 (10 5x5m squares; 5 digging teams) were opened in the terraced housing area where the steep slopes of Unit C (one of our topographical site divisions) climbed up to the flat Unit D, forming at this spot a spur-like summit. Two of the squares were found free of any architecture, which is the result of a lively discussed erosional event (see below). Two Test Units were opened, one at the lowermost fringes of Unit C in order to understand the Quaternary stratigraphy on which LPPNB layers rest (TU1 step trench), and one in "Snake Valley" (TU2). The latter was in a small wadi immediately north of the site: yielding LPPNB ashy trash layers preserved in a "sediment trap", it proved that the Neolithic settlers used this wadi and the siq as disposal areas (like e.g. Sounding I- area of 1984 and new evidence).

The archaeological surface reconnaissance, carried out by Bernd Müller-Neuhof, mapped all the Neolithic (and other) wall remains visible on surface, the dense distribution of ground stone materials, and other surface features. In the last days, he also surveyed the immediate vicinity of the site in order to look for possible outliers of the occupation (There seem to be none). This all was recorded in the topographical map (Fig. 3), which was accomplished for the c. 1.2-1.5ha of the site plus its bordering siq, wadi, and rock formations.

The goal of the excavation itself was to uncover the architectural remains down to the earliest floor of the upper occupation. Sieving was applied when ever in situ layers occurred in room fills.

   Related Downloads
H.G.K. Gebel and H.-D. Bienert, The 1997 Season at Ba'ja, Southern Jordan.Neo-Lithics 3/97: 14-18.
H.D. Bienert and H.G.K. Gebel, Summary on Ba'ja 1997, and Insights From Later Seasons, in: Central Settlements in Neolithic Jordan, ed. by H.D. Bienert, H.G.K. Gebel, and R. Neef. SENEPSE 5: 119-144. Berlin: ex oriente (2004).
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