Ba‘ja 2005: A Two-Storied Building and Collective Burials.
Results of the 6th Season of Excavation

Hans Georg K. Gebel, Free University of Berlin
Bo Dahl Hermansen, Carsten Niebuhr Institute, Copenhagen University

Moritz Kinzel, Technical University of Berlin


Ba‘ja 2005: A Two-Storied Building and Collective Burials. Results of the 6th Season of Excavation
A Two-Storied Building in Area B-North

A Two-Storied Building in Area B-North

Clear evidence of a two-storied building came up during the re-measurement of architectural levels after rains during the past winter exposed a buttress and parts of the eastern baulk of Sq. B22. With other it represents “hard” evidence for two-storied housing in Ba‘ja, which now assembles all parameters (Gebel 2006) for a true second story. Until now we had had many isolated indications from the steep-slope LPPNB settlements for two stories, but not all indications came together in one finding. Our subsequent clearance (Fig. 1) of the eastern baulks in B22 and B32 exposed twin buttresses (Fig. 3: Loci 33 and 55 in B22) as well as a leveled wall (Fig. 2: Loc. 34) with remains of a ceiling on top (Fig. 2: Loc. 41).

In the finding presented here, we deal with a story (ceiling) level at the height of about 1167.30 m a.s.l. (Figs. 2-3: Walls 19, 34, and 16 of B22). It is the approx. height of ceiling remains (Fig. 2: Layer Loc. 41) and of the aforementioned walls, which were bearing the second floor, forming a kind of “girder grillage” for the upper floor. Two supports for the upper floor’s beams could be identified at 1167.20 m (Fig. 3: Loc. 8a, running out of Wall 8) and 1167.24 m (Fig. 3: Loc. 36, below Buttress 33). The fourth measure preparing the domestic structure to have an upper story was the erection (or modification, cf. below) of the stairwell between Walls 8 and 10 (Fig. 3: Room 3). Four steps were identified, crossing a height of some 80 cm. The uppermost Step 23 ends at 1166.71 m in front of Wall 19, at a spot, where a Threshold 56 (at 1167.32 m) exists in this wall. Staircases ending blindly in front of a wall are quite common in the terraced steep-slope architecture of the LPPNB, not only in Ba‘ja. The evidence we have here suggests that the greater depth of the upper Step 23 helped to create a place for another small step or ladder to lead up to the Threshold 56, crossing the remaining height of some 60 cm. Thus, the stairwell, a supposed small step or ladder of perishable material on Step 23, and Threshold 56 allowed access to the floor of the upper new room, located between Walls 39, 10, 8, 7, and 54, or between the twin Buttresses 33 and 55 respectively (cf. Fig. 4). Room 17 (ca. 8-9 m2) with its twin buttresses may well represent the remains of a yet unexcavated larger room of the last story existing in this domestic area, and most likely a “girder grillage” of leveled walls like the one mentioned above will show up in its lower stratigraphy. Like the upper room between buttresses Loci 33 and 55 that had a stairwell to its west (Room 3), Room 17 also had a stairwell (Room 14a) to west.

The reconsideration of the architecture in Area B-North proved the existence of three such twin buttresses in possibly three buildings (cf. Fig. 3, marked by arrows): The other example exists in Rooms 22/23, which have a system of altered twin buttresses (Loci 7 and 9, Loci 4/5 and the opposed one in B23).



Fig. 1: Ba‘ja 2005, Area B-North, Sq. B22: "girder grillage" of Walls 16 and 19, Buttresses 33 and 55, stairwell Room 3, and cut Wall 34 with in situ ceiling Layer 41, from WSW (cf. Figs. 2-3). (photo: M. Kinzel, Ba‘ja N.P.)


Fig. 2: Ba‘ja 2005, Area B-North: part of the eastern sections of B22/32, with the evidence of leveled wall heights (Wall 34) and in situ floor/ceiling remains (Layer 41). (drawing: C. Purschwitz, Ba‘ja N.P.; for legend cf. Fig. 3)


Fig. 3: Ba‘ja, Area B-North: ground plan of the domestic steepslope architecture. (field record: B. Borowski; edited: H.G.K. Gebel, M. Kinzel; Ba‘ja N.P.)


Buttresses are a common feature in the LPPNB architecture of southern Jordan, as are walls extending in right angles into the interior of rooms (e.g. Wall 7 in B23). They do not necessarily have the function of being supports for a ceiling’s beams (Kinzel 2004, 2006). They simply could represent wall strengthening for long walls or dividing the space of a room. Such added wall strengthening most likely was – especially if not executed with the original building plan (“retro-fitted buttresses” as named by Bill Finlayson, pers. comm.) – undertaken for walls that later had to carry the load of another story. Wherever they appear in pairs in opposed locations, however, we may expect that they were erected to carry the main or central beam of the beam network of a ceiling/ floor.

Ceiling Layer 41 in Fig. 2 (cf. also Fig. 1) rests on the Wall 34, and is about 20-30 cm thick. The height of its base corresponds to the height of the beam supports Loc. 8a and 36, the height of a support gap (Loc. 40) in Wall 39, and the tops of Walls 16 and 19. It was not only the corresponding heights, but also the kind of incorporated material that let us interpret this Layer 41 as the in situ remains of a floor/ ceiling between the upper large room with the twin Buttresses 55 and 33 and Rooms 2, 4, 5, and 6 underneath. The clayey-silty material is a compact and dense mixture of finer sediment with a high content of lime, recycled plaster, and charcoal.

It is the interpretation of one of the authors (H.G.K.G.; cf. also Gebel, in: Gebel and Hermansen 2001: 19 and Gebel 2006) that this evidence is another example for how in Ba‘ja larger, presumably central rooms of upper stories were established on top of leveled room walls (= cutting back wall heights) of earlier stories (e.g.Wall 34 in Figs. 2-3), which were before an upper story and became transformed by this action into a basement. Into these new basements walls could be inserted creating the small-room ground plans, or walls were modified including their wall openings. The story below this new basement (which was the basement of the previous building or room association) was intentionally filled during these actions of transforming upper floors into basements. In the present case, the new and partly eroded upper room must have rested over Rooms 2 and 4-6, and unexcavated areas in B21 (Fig. 3); the stairwell Room 3, probably giving access to a roof before, may have been modified now by a freshly inserted threshold (Loc. 56 in Wall 19) to give access to the new upper room. This story alteration stands for one of the building principles in Ba‘ja; it not means that all building in Ba’ja followed this principle: We imagine that two-storied houses or room associations were also planned and build in one action. Gebel (2006) provides more information on the specifics of the southern Jordanian LPPNB architectural and sedimentary morphodynamics, as related to second stories, the local building history, and he suggests preliminary definitions for the discussion of second stories in the LPPNB. A summary generalizes the measures taking place when a new story or room association in the LPPNB steep-slope housing is established, considering evidence from all southern Jordanian LPPNB sites. Here, it must be briefly mentioned that the shallow-slope architecture of Basta is considered to be single-storied (Nissen 2006), without excluding an occasional (optional) use of second stories.

The increasing use of the vertical space in the LPPNB of southern Jordan (if not to be traced back into the MPPNB; cf. Hermansen et al., 2006; Gebel 2006: footnote 2) is one of the expressions of the many material and immaterial agglomeration processes of the Near Eastern Early Neolithic. In the southern Jordanian LPPNB the use of real two-storied structures was widely introduced after 7500 BC cal. in the steep-slope domestic architecture, co-existing together with other forms of shared wall architecture founded on different levels (e.g., split-level structures or rising-floor structures). Intra-site social and spatial pressure – especially in Ba‘ja – may have forced the use of the vertical space, since domestic space became topographically more and more restricted through progressive community/family growth.

Fig. 4: Ba‘ja 2005: isometric reconstruction of the central
two-storied parts of a house in B22, from SW. (reconstruction: M. Kinzel)
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