Supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs    
Khirbet al-Batrawy

Lorenzo Nigro, Department of Ancient World Studies, Sapienza
Monther Jamhawi, Department of Antiquities of Jordan

Pilot Project: excavations, restorations and valorization, and training of local staff (2010-2012)

Introduction: The Discovery of the City of Batrawy
The city of Khirbet al-Batrawy represents a rare example of an early urban center arising in a peripheral area of the ancient Near East at the dawn of urban civilization in the third millennium BC. The discovery of Batrawy in 2004 by a Rome Sapienza Expedition, and the findings at the Royal Palace in 2009, opened up new perspectives on the inhabitance and settlement of these fringe regions, especially in the period before the domestication of the camel.

Exploration of the "Palace of Copper Axes" and of the City-Walls
The planning activities for exploration moved from the discovery in 2009 of the Royal Palace (the "Palace of copper axes"), a public building of the third millennium BC which has provided a wealth of data and findings in an extraordinary state of preservation. Field operations have focused on the completion of the excavation at the Western Pavilion of the Palace, where beside the finding of whole vessels and valuable objects, faunal and paleobotanical remains have also been sampled for chemical-physical analyses, which involves: C-14 dating, pollen analyses, isotope analysis for metal artifacts, thermoluminescence.
A second aim of the Expedition has been the exploration of the well-preserved great city-walls in Area B North, just north of the Royal Palace. The excavations have been carried out towards the west, exploring the triple line of fortifications with its projecting towers and bastions.

Training of Local Personnel
In cooperation with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, the project for training local personnel for possible tourism in the site is carried out, with the realization of paths and panels; while the formation of local restorers focuses on the restoration of ceramic materials and stone structures.

Local Museum
Activities for the creation of a future museum hosting a collection of all the objects which have been found has been established in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities, and has begun with a systematic restoration of the artifacts, in particular the findings from the "Palace of copper axes".

The project is being carried out with annual campaigns of six weeks during the months of May-June and September-October.

Until 2004, no one could have imagined that an ancient city (from the beginning of the third millennium BC) had risen on the hill of Batrawy, a rocky cliff now in the northern periphery of the modern city of Zarqa in north-central Jordan. In December 2004 the archaeological Expedition to Palestine and Jordan from Sapienza, during a survey along the Upper Wadi az-Zarqa Valley, discovered a human settlement on this hilltop.
Since spring 2005, with the collaboration of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, systematic excavations began at the site and immediately revealed a fortified city with massive defensive structures.
Researches have so far been able to define the main stages of development of the ancient city, founded at the beginning of the third millennium BC, as the pivotal center of the Upper Wadi az-Zarqa Valley, and in a strategic position to control the ford across the river, located in a hinge between the desert, a hilly plateau and irrigated valleys, capable of controlling commercial routes and a vast and rich territory, which integrated sedentary agricultural production, herding, trade. In previous campaigns (2005-2009) at Khirbet al-Batrawy, the EB II-III (3000-2300 BC) city-walls, the city-gate, the temple on the eastern terrace, and a series of houses and public buildings were all brought to light inside the city, which was destroyed by a fierce fire around 2300 BC, and reoccupied by a rural village in the last two centuries of the third millennium BC.
During the 2010-2012 campaigns a large building, which proved to be the EB IIIB Royal Palace (the "Palace of copper axes"), was discovered just inside the city-gate. It consisted of several pavilions and yielded a large amount of findings in an extra-ordinary state of preservation, due to the fierce fire which destroyed the city. So far, works have involved the excavation of the pillared hall, the rectangular storeroom, and the central hall of the Western Pavilion (maybe the audience hall of the Palace). More recently works have also moved to the western courtyard, which is still being excavated. Among the findings, it is worth mentioning the presence of ceremonial vessels (including two jars decorated with applied figures of snakes and scorpions), five cop-per axes, bone objects, potter's wheels, an Egyptian siltstone palette, and a four-string necklace of about 650 beads in amethyst, carnelian, rock crystal, frit, bone, shell and copper. Findings point to a flourishing center, able to import metal (copper) objects, and precious stones, at that time symbols of economic wealth and political power of the ruling class. The discovery of some Egyptian items (a "Lotus Vase" and the siltstone palette) also reinforced the image of an urban center capable of establishing long-di-stance contacts, up to the Egypt of the earliest Pharaonic dynasties.
The excavations at the monumental northern fortifications have, instead, brought to light a complex defense system with a triple line of fortification, which reachs the overall thickness of about 20 m, with projecting towers and bastions built in large lime-stone blocks. This defense system protected the main city-gate.
The Expeditions have carried out systematic restorations on all the monuments brought to light, creating an Archaeological Park.