Supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs    
Khirbet al-Batrawy
Season 2009
Preliminary Report on the 5th Season of Archaeological Investigations and Restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy by Rome "La Sapienza" University

1. Introduction: the Fifth Season (2009) at Khirbet al-Batrawy

The fifth season of investigations at Khirbet al-Batrawy (Lat. 32°05',218" N, Long. 36°04',237" E), the Early Bronze Age fortified town in the Upper Wadi az-Zarqa discovered in 2004 (Nigro ed. 2006; Nigro 2006a; 2006b; 2006c; 2007a; 2007b; 2008; Nigro ed. 2008), was carried out under the auspices of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan between May 16th and June 15th 2009 (fig. 1), and was focused on excavation and restoration of the EB II-III Main City-Wall, and on the excavation of the EB III double (EB IIIA) and triple (EB IIIB) line of fortifications in Area B North; on the excavation of EB IV dwellings and EB IIIB houses and buildings (B1, B2, B3) in Area B South; and on the completion of restoration of the EB II-III Broad-Room Temple brought to light in the previous seasons on the easternmost terrace of the site (Area F).

2. Area B North - the EBII-III main city-wall and the EB III triple line fortification

The exploration of the articulated defensive system of the city of Batrawy in the 3rd millennium BC was carried on in the fifth seasons by opening a series of new squares towards the west and the north with the aim of further investigating the superimposed and adjoined structures which composed such an impressive fortification system (fig. 2).

The overall sequence of defensive works in Area B North based upon stratigraphy can be summarized as follows (Nigro ed. 2008: 77-103): the earliest structure is the main city-wall preserved with a height of 3.2 m in the westernmost stretch so far exposed; this monumental work marked the foundation of the city and suffered a dramatic destruction due to a violent earthquake at the end of Early Bronze II. The main city-wall was reconstructed with several repairs and an Outer Wall (W.155) was added 1.8 m off in Early Bronze IIIA; this structure was reinforced with a curvilinear Outwork (W.185) and underwent a major destruction towards the end of the period. Successively, in Early Bronze IIIB, a Scarp-Wall (W.165) wad added to the Outer Wall, strengthening its outer side.

After the final destruction of the city, around 2300 BC, the ruins of the triple line fortification in Area B North were abandoned for a century or something more, when an EB IV rural community settled sparsely on the khirbat. This community was responsible of the erection of a stone embankment, representing the regularization of the northern slope of the hill, made with big stones from previous partially collapsed structures used as supporting foot. Archaeological excavation in Area B North in 2009 brought about new light on the above mentioned defensive structures.

The EB II-III Main City-Wall was further excavated towards the west (in squares BmII5+BmII4), exposing its battering foot and repaired superstructure up to a breach (P.819), probably caused by the collapse of the outer curtain wall (W.163) at the final destruction of the city (fig. 3). In front of the wall, the collapse layer was excavated exposing a thick layer of burnt soil with ash and charcoal.

The EB IIIA Outer Wall (W.155), uncovered in square BmII4, turns sharply northwards, neatly diverging from the Main City-Wall. This suggests that a major tower, or presumably the main gate of this period was located just to the west. The curvilinear Outwork (W.185), brought to light in squares BpII5+BpII4+BoII4+BoII3 and linked to the Outer Wall, was further explored by digging the collapse and destruction layers burying it (fig. 4). This 1.5 m high structure emerged with big boulders employed in the lower courses and medium size stones on the upper courses.

The EB IIIB Scarp-Wall (W.165), adjoined to the Outer Wall and superimposed to the curvilinear Outwork, was explored in squares BnII4+BoII4, where the latter was preserved up to the height of 1.9 m. This structure runs parallel to the Outer Wall, but to the west, in square BnII4, it ends against the latter with a semicircular bastion (W.825; fig. 5). This features again points to the possible presence of a gate through the projecting Outer Wall further to the west. Some meters east of the bastion, a major transversal wall (W.177) was uncovered springing out from the outer face of the Scarp-Wall towards the north for a length of around 9 m and with a width of 1.2 m. Such a structure was a further external defensive work, taking the place of the curvilinear Outwork, and protecting the protruding stretch of the Outer Wall which probably was linked to a tower or a gate.

The EB IIIB defensive system was destroyed by a fierce destruction, which outside the Scarp-Wall and in between it and protruding wall W.177 was preserved with a 0.8 m thick layer of ashes, burnt and broken mud-bricks and charred materials (fig. 6). An almost identical stratum was excavated also in squares BpII5+BpII4+BoII4 east of wall W.177 and against the eastern face of the re-employed lower courses of the curvilinear Outwork.

The 2009 season showed that after the earthquake which brought to a sudden end the EB II city, the fortification of the northern side of Batrawy were progressively strengthened and multiplied, with the addition of a second Outer Wall and of a curvilinear Outwork in the Early Bronze IIIA, and of a Scarp-Wall with a semicircular Bastion (W.825), plus a protruding rectangular structure (W.177) during the Early Bronze IIIB, thus demonstrating the constant flourishing of the city until a final dramatic event to be dated around 2300 BC.

After a century or more of abandonment, the khirbat was re-occupied by an EB IVB rural village, with sparse clusters of dwellings. A group of farm-houses and installations arose inside the northern edge of the site, and the slope with the ruins of the EB II-III triple line of fortification was regularized with an embankment supported at its foot by a row of big blocks (W.815), which was excavated in this season.

3. Area B South - EB IVB dwellings, EB IIIB Building B1, House B2 and Warehouse B3

Excavation in Area B South just south of the Main City-Wall brought to light a series of dwellings and installations of the EB IVB rural village stood upon the ruins of the EB II-III city, and, after their removal, allowed to explore some houses and buildings of the EB IIIB city itself. Excavation works were carried out in three different sectors expanding the Area towards the east, the south-west and the west.

In squares BrII8+BrII7, to the east, a further portion of House L.122 was excavated (Nigro ed. 2006: 170-174). Underneath it, there were simple installations of a camp site (circular bins S.912 and S.913 with bench B.911), belonging to the earliest phase of the period (Phase 2e; Nigro ed. 2008: 134-136, 164-167).

In square BoII8, a quite monumental corner (W.1005) of a house was brought to light in the SW sector of the square, associated with a pebble-paved yard (L.1004) with a circular bin (S.1008), a slab-paved squared device (L.1009) and a horse-shoe storeroom (S.1011). Underneath them a pebble floor (L.1030) lying against the reemployed top of collapsed EB IIIB walls, reused in the new farm-house structures, was associated to two infant burials: one (D.1020; fig. 7) was laid inside a circle of stones vertically set in the ground; the other one (D.1026) was identified inside a semi-circle of medium-sized stones.

In squares BnII6+BnII7, to the west, further domestic units delimited by single-line stone walls and installations for food producing and storage were excavated.

Underneath the rural village, houses and buildings of the EB IIIB city were uncovered in the three sectors already mentioned. The street running inside the Main City-Wall (L.133+L.424+L.1060) was excavated both to the east and to the west. In squares BrII7+BrII8, wall W.409 running parallel to the Main City-Wall was excavated up to bringing to light a rectangular domestic unit (House B2) with a circular pillar base in the middle, a slab located against the inner southern face of the northern wall, and the entrance (L.938) opened in the western side (fig. 8), to which a semicircular plastered device (W.135) was also adjoined (inside this device a fragmentary copper spike was retrieved with two stoppers; fig. 9). Such a house thus communicated with the small yard (L.936) already excavated in previous seasons, where oven T.413 was located, protruding from the eastern side of Building B1. The passage (L.464) connecting the yard and street was closed or restricted towards the end of Early Bronze IIIB.

Building B1 was further explored by digging squares BoII8+BoII7, so that its western side-wall was exposed for a length of more than 6.5 m (fig. 10). The excavation of partition wall W.391 delimiting the to the south northernmost room (L.430) of the building was completed, bringing to light the door (L.1066) entering the room itself, while to the south another large room (L.1046) was excavated, with several interesting findings in the collapse layer.

West of Building B1, a lane (L.1050) was uncovered separating the latter from a second structure (fig. 11), of which only the northern and western side-walls (W.1033 and W.1043) were brought to light. Inside this Building (B3), aligned along its northern wall W.1033, a row of pithoi were found in situ still completely preserved in the 1 m thick collapse layer (fig. 12). Such huge storage vases hint at an extra-familiar dimensions also for activities carried out in this building, which is, however, almost completely unexplored except for its northern and eastern sides, which exhibit the same width (0.70-0.80 m) of wall W.109 in Building B1.

4. Area F - restoration of the Broad-Room Temple

In the fifth season (2009) the restoration of Broad-Room Temple in Area F (Nigro ed. 2008: 276-293) was completed (fig. 13), further clarifying its architecture and plan, both in the EB II phase (phase 4, Temple F1), and in its EB III one (phase 3, Temple F2). The original building (Temple F1; Nigro ed. 2008: 276-281) was a broad-room elongated structure, with a major entrance facing an open courtyard, where a circular platform (S.510) with central cup-mark stood, flanked by a basis possibly for a freestanding betyl (Nigro ed. 2008: 283-284). Inside the cella, which was roofed with wooden beams supported by four pillars aligned along the median axis of the room, there was a niche (L.562) facing the entrance, with a bench and a slab with two shallow depressions (cup-marks for libations?).

After the earthquake which destroyed the EB II city and caused the collapse of the central stretch of the temple façade, the sacred building was largely reconstructed with a new protruding front wall and a monumental entrance (a pillar or an altar stood at the centre of the façade: S.536), and with a re-arrangement of the cella. Here, the cult focus was moved to the short western side, where a raised platform hosted a semicircular niche, partly set into the wall and flanked by two small orthostates . On the southern side there was a basin with a large slab, while in front of the niche two betyls were aligned not far from the step of the platform (Nigro ed. 2008: 285-289). The temple, thus, achieved a bent-axis plan in spite of its original broad-room layout.

Restoration works also drove the attention on the wall protruding from the front wall on its western end (wall W.577), which possibly had a counterpart to the east, cut off by later EB IVB dwellings. These architectural elements result as projecting antae (similar to those reconstructed for the EB II-III temple of 'Ai/et-Tell; Sala 2008: 134), characterizing the EB III temple in respect of the original one.

5. Conclusions

The fifth season of excavations and restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy brought about new light on the Early Bronze II-III city of Batrawy, and, especially, on its triple line fortification on the northern side of the hill, which reached the overall width of around 20 m (fig. 2), protecting the main entrance to the city for many centuries, until its final destruction around 2300 BC. Inside the Main City-Wall, in Area B South, the discovery of a further portion of Building B1, the excavation of House B2, and the identification of Warehouse B3, with a series of pithoi fully preserved in situ, showed the urban layout and the richness of the city at its floruit during the third quarter of the 3rd millennium BC.

Restoration of Broad-Room Temple erected on the easternmost terrace of the hill allowed to distinguish the meaningful architectural transformation of the sacred building from its foundation through its reconstruction in the Early Bronze III and to admire its full structure, which makes it a major monument of Jordanian pre-classical archaeology, to be compared with the renown building of similar function at Bab edh-Dhra'.

While detailed study and interpretation is carried on with the full publication of the second and third season (Nigro ed. 2008), excavations and restorations continue to provide new interesting insights on this previously unknown major urban centre of Jordan at the time of its earliest urbanization.