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

Lorenzo Nigro, Department of Oriental Studies - Sapienza University of Rome
Yazid Elayan, Director General of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan

Pilot Project: excavations, restorations and valorization, and training of local staff (2005-2019)

Introduction: The Discovery of the City of Batrawy
The city of Khirbet al-Batrawy represents a rare example of an early urban centre arising in a peripheral area of the ancient Near East at the dawn of urban civilization in the 3rd millennium BC. The discovery of Batrawy in 2004 by the Expedition to Jordan of Rome “La Sapienza” University and the discovery of its Royal Palace in 2009 opened up new perspectives on the settlement of these fringe regions, especially in the period before the domestication of the camel.

Exploration of the "Palace of the Copper Axes" and the quadruple fortification lines
The site of Khirbat al-Batrāwī, the previously unknown city of the third millennium BC discovered in 2004, has been systematically explored by the Expedition to Palestine & Jordan of Sapienza University of Rome since 2005. Archaeological investigations and restoration works were carried out under the aegis of the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the Italian Ministry of University and Scientific Research.
Batrawy was founded as the outcome of a synecistic process which characterized the early urban phenomenon in the Southern Levant. The EB II-III (3000-2300 BC) city was in a strategic position, at the same time, for the exploitation of cultivable land and water resources, and for long-distance trade network connecting the site of Batrāwī with the main urban civilizations of the third millennium BC. The discoveries in the “Palace of the Copper Axes” revealed the central role played by the fortified city of Batrāwī at the junction of the east-west route which crosses the Syro-Arabic Desert to Mesopotamia and the Arabian Peninsula and the south-north main route, later on named "King's' Highway", running upon the Jordanian Highlands from the Sinai, the Gulf of ‘Aqaba and Wadi'Araba.
The planning activities for exploration on the northern slope of the site (Area B North) moved from the discovery in 2009 of the Royal Palace (the "Palace of the Copper Axes"), a public building of the 3rd millennium BC which has provided a wealth of data and findings in an extraordinary state of preservation. A second aim of the Expedition has been the exploration of the well-preserved massive fortification system, just north of the Royal Palace. The excavations revealed quadruple lines 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 and Archaeological Park
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 the Copper Axes".
The Expeditions have carried out systematic restorations on all the monuments brought to light, creating an Archaeological Park.

The project is 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 3rd 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 Sapienza Archaeological Expedition to Palestine & Jordan, during a survey along the Upper Wadi az-Zarqa Valley, discovered a settlement on this hilltop. Since spring 2005, under the aegis of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, systematic excavations began at the site and immediately revealed a fortified Early Bronze Age city. During the excavations at Khirbet al-Batrawy, the EB II-III (3000-2300 BC) city-walls and a postern were brought to light on the northern slope of the site (Area B North), and a broad-room temple was discovered on the eastern terrace (Area F). Excavations also revealed that the fortified city was destroyed by a fierce fire around 2300 BC, and reoccupied by a rural village in the last two centuries of the 3rd millennium BC (Early Bronze Age IVB).

Among the main results of the excavations at Khirbat al-Batrāwī there was the complete understanding of the northern fortifications in Area B North. Batrawy multiple city-walls represent a unique summary of the city history, from its foundation at the eve of the fourth millennium BC, to its first destruction due to a tremendous earthquake towards 2800 BC, the following reconstruction of EB IIIA, then another destruction, and the final fire which destroyed the city around 2300 BC. The four fortifications lines were progressively built on terraces. The top and earliest structure was the Main Inner City-Wall (EB II, 3000-2800 BC), which also hosted the main gate and a postern 25 m to the east. When this massive structure collapsed due to a strong earthquake, the whole fortification system had to be re-planned and reconstructed (EB IIIA, 2800-2500 BC). Both gates were blocked by walls, and another entrance was opened to the east. The MIW was reconstructed by raising its stone basement, inserting wooden chains and rebuilding the mudbrick superstructure. At the same time, the northern slope of the hill was reinforced by two battering walls, Outer Wall W.155 and Scarp Wall W.165. The Northern Bastion T.830 was built on top of the Outer Wall, which appositely deviated its line to sustain the huge structure. Further on, in the EB IIIB (2500-2300 BC), the fourth and last fortification line was added to the system at its bottom. The four lines of massive walls built on four sloping terraces bridged a height of about 6 m and an overall width of about 16 m.

Excavations in Area B South, just inside the city-walls, brought to light a large building, which was investigated since 2010 and interpreted on the basis of the architecture and the meaningful finds as a public building, now known as the "Palace of the Copper Axes"
The palace was erected upon a series of terraces on the northern slope of the site, descending from the acropolis. The lowest terrace hosted two almost symmetrical pavilions subdivided by a central passage, which have been carefully explored during four seasons (2010-2013) of excavations and restorations. The exploration of the palace was resumed in seasons 2018-2019 and revealed the prosecution of the structure towards west, with a monumental Entrance Hall and another room to the west, belonging to a further wing of the palace, whose extension is evidently much greater. The overall plan of the building proved to be roughly organized according to a symmetrical rule, with the central main entrance, and two wings, the eastern one almost fully excavated and previously subdivided into an Eastern and a Western Pavilion.
Meaningful findings have been excavated in the thick destruction layers which covered the palace, among which five copper axes - from which the building took its name - ceremonial vessels (including two jars decorated with applied figures of snakes and scorpions), bone objects, potter's wheels, two Egyptian palettes, a four-string necklace (composed of about 650 beads in amethyst, carnelian, rock crystal, frit, bone, shell and copper), an amazonite gemstone and a bead of fluoropatite. Findings point to a flourishing centre, 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 Egyptian items also reinforced the image of an urban center capable of establishing long-di-stance contacts, up to the Egypt of the earliest Pharaonic dynasties.

Fifteen (2005-2019) seasons of systematic excavations and restorations at Khirbat al-Batrāwī bring about a distinguished set of data, which contributed to a deeper and more detailed knowledge of Early Bronze Age Jordanian urbanism. The monumental architecture of its defensive system, the inner layout with spatial and functional distinctions within the city, as well as the economy, social organization, technological innovation and centralization of goods, but also luxury and symbolic goods from long-distance trade, testify to the central role of Batrāwī in the general framework of the Early Bronze Age Southern Levantine urbanization.