Supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs    
Khirbet al-Batrawy
Season 2011
Preliminary Report on the 7th Season of Archaeological Investigations and Restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy by Rome "La Sapienza" University

1. Introduction: the Seventh Season (2011) at Khirbet al-Batrawy

The seventh season of archaeological investigations and restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy (Lat. 32°05',218" N, Long. 36°04',237" E), the Early Bronze Age II-III (3000-2300 BC) major city in Upper Wadi az-Zarqa discovered in 2004 (Nigro 2006; 2007; 2009; 2010a; 2010b; Nigro ed. 2006; 2008; Nigro - Sala 2009), was carried out under the aegis of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan between May 12th and June 12th 2011, and it was focused on Area B South, where, underneath EB IVB (2200-2000 BC) dwellings and installations inside the main collapsed EB II-III City-Wall, a further portion of EB IIIB (2500-2300 BC) Palace B was uncovered (fig. 1), recovering a number of items from its rooms. The excavation area was expanded towards the west in square BmII7 and towards to the south in squares BmII8, northern half of BmII9, BnII8, and northern half of BnII9. Moreover, the seventh season (2011) was devoted to the restoration of the western wall of the Eastern Pavilion (B1) and of part of the Western Pavilion (B3) of the Palace, as well as on the repair of some looters damages on the City-Wall in Area B North, and on the Broad-Room Temple in Area F.

2. Area B South - EB IVB (2200-2000 BC) dwellings

The exploration of the EB IVB (2200-2000 BC) village continued during the 2011 season towards the south in squares BmII8, northern half of BmII9, BnII8, and northern half of BnII9. Only the most recent occupational phase (2a-d) of the EB IVB rural village was uncovered in this area (Nigro 2007:352-353; Nigro ed. 2008:129-133), thus suggesting that the original camp-site (Nigro ed. 2008:134-136, 164-167) arose just inside the northern edge of the ruins of the previous EB IIIB city, and it extended southwards only in its final stage of life, when it became a more consistent hamlet. At least two rectangular elongated units (L.1140 in BmII8 + BnII8, L.1174 to the south in BmII9) were uncovered, with a working compound (L.1030) hosting a round platform (B.1136) in the middle. Domestic installations for food preparation were distinguished both in L.1140 (platform B.1138, cist S.1113) and in L.1174 (square platform B.1176, cist S.1169). Among findings a flint knife belonging to a distinguished EB IV type was found.

3. Area B South - Palace of the copper axes (Palace B)

The exploration of EB IIIB (2500-2300 BC) Palace B ("Palace of the copper axes") was resumed in the seventh season, completing the uncovering of pillared hall L.1040 in square BmII7, which revealed some very interesting architectural features (figs. 2-3).

A major door (L.1150) opened at the mid of the western wall (W.1133), emphasized by an inner step made of two big yellowish mudbricks, adopting the cubit of 0.52 x 0.26 x 0.13 m (fig. 4). Four pillar bases were arrayed along the edge of the bedrock (fig. 5), which was the flooring of the southern higher half of the hall (four round cup-marks and a drain were cut into the bedrock). The westernmost base (B.1168) was a rectangular limestone slab connected to a built up installation flanking the door; the second one (B.1166) was a round flat stone; the third one (B.1108), with a roughly rectangular shape, was encircled by small stones; while the fourth one (B.1106), set into a circle of limestone chops, had a roughly circular shape.

In the south-western corner of the hall, another huge pithos was retrieved (1040/18; fig. 6), next to a square slab (B.1186), with a flint blade and some animal bones nearby. In between the SW corner and door L.1150, the burnt traces of a wooden bench or shelf were visible, around 0.4 m wide and 2 m long. A second door (L.1160), 0.9 m wide, was opened roughly at the mid of the southern wall (W.1101) of the pillared hall. It also had a step inside the hall consisting of a yellowish mudbrick of the same series of door L.1150 (fig. 13). Just west of this step, a medium size jar was found with the plastic figurine of a punctured snake applied upon the shoulders (1054/4; fig. 7). A third door (L.1158) was in the south-eastern corner of the hall, introducing to the south into a rectangular room (L.1120) stretching NE-SW (fig. 12). Another decorated vessel (1054/1) was found in front of this door, which was approached through a step in the emerging bedrock: a medium size jar, incised with metopae on the shoulders, separated by a herringbone motive, in which respectively a snake and a scorpion were represented (fig. 8). Both animals are known from coeval glyptic in Palestine, and snakes are also attested to in the EB I sanctuary of Jebel Mutawwaq in Wadi az-Zarqa.

Finally, in the section between door L.1160 and the SW corner of the pillared hall, beneath the foundations of wall W.1101, in a layer with EB II pottery material, a fragmentary palette (9.8 x 10 cm) made of gray schist with an engraved line and some oblique strokes (KB.11.B.100), probably of Egyptian provenance, was found.

Rectangular storeroom L.1120 (in squares BnII8+BnII9+BmII9) was 2.3-2.6 m wide and around 6.3 m long, with several peculiar installations (figs. 11-12). Two stone circles flanked the eastern face of the NNW-SSE wall (W.1149) separating L.1120 from the large hall west of it (L.1110). In between these two installations, two jars were aligned (one hole-mouth), and the upside down neck of a pithos emerged in the collapse layer (a second upside down complete neck was found southwards). The eastern wall of Pavilion B3 (W.1159 + W.1123) appeared to have been refurbished in its northern section (W.1159). The southern half of room L.1120 was filled up with a layer of intermingled burnt plasters, bricks and carbonized wooden beams (of which several samples were collected for analyses), incorporating a series of pottery vessels, some of which, like a large squat vat (1124/9), and a medium jar (1124/18), had presumably fallen down from a shelf or a balcony. Along the western face of W.1159, remains of such a wooden structure (a shelf or a balcony), around 0.35 m wide, were detected. Other jars, hole-mouth jars and red-burnished jugs were found in this area, where the bedrock floor was at a higher elevation. Another distinguished find is a basalt stone potter's wheel (KB.11.B.110), which, with the specimen retrieved in 2010, testifies to the collection of such tools into the palace (figs. 10, 14).

South of pillared hall L.1040 and west of room L.1120 (in squares BmII8 + BmII9), there was another huge hall (L.1110), with a central roughly circular stone base (W.1163) and another slab or base (W.1183) against the western face of the eastern wall (W.1149), possibly supporting the beams of the ceilings retrieved carbonized just south of this alignment (fig. 15).

Like pillared hall L.1040, also hall L.1110 had two different floor elevations in the northern and southern half, corresponding to a regularized step in the bedrock. The whole room was buried underneath a layer of burnt material (F.1128), wooden beams, fallen down stones, mudbricks and plaster, and, of course, a great number of pottery vessels and items, smashed on the floor or, in some cases, floating into the destruction layer (fig. 16).

Against the western face of wall W.1149, a square device (B.1189), made by a vertical slab and a mudbrick, a small stone bench, and, to the south, by the vertically cut bedrock, possibly was a seat or a niche. Underneath this device and leaning on its base, there was a jar with 584 beads made of amethyst, carnelian, bone, sea-shell and rock crystal inside (fig. 17), belonged to at least four necklaces and a bracelet. The jar belonged to a row of eight medium size jars displaced in a double east-west row roughly at the middle of the room, including hole-mouth and flaring rim jars, in correspondence of the distinct step of the bedrock crossing east-west the room. One of the jars contained also a bone ring and a group of sea-shells necklace or pendant inside, while two other had small cups at their foot.

Against the eastern side of the central pillar base a sliced flint core and a sickle made of arrayed Canaanean blades were retrieved (fig. 19), together with several animal bones, a wooden tray, and a bowl with inturned rim. A second sickle of the same type was found north of device B.1189. In the middle of the room, just upon the rock step, there was a red-burnished jug (1128/49), characterized by a highly polished body with net-burnishing on the shoulders (fig. 18). Further clusters of smashed jars and other vessels were uncovered west, north, and north-west of the central pillar. All of these finds were immerged in a soft layer of ashes, charcoals, charred wooden beams and broken bricks, while in the western section a big yellowish mudbrick, like those employed as footsteps in the doors of pillared hall L.1040, was visible.

The southern side of the room hosted a stone-built bench (B.1188) in a niche in the wall, with a pithos inside it, probably used as a water container. Moreover, in the passage of door L.1160, two jars were found with a small cylindrical cup/measure associated to; while, just inside the door itself, to the west, in a cavity of bedrock, a copper axe (the fifth) was retrieved (KB.11.B.120), of the same simple type of the other specimens retrieved in 2010 (fig. 20). Finally, a somewhat rare Egyptianizing vessel, belonging to the so-called "Lotus Vase" type (1128/76), represents one of the most noteworthy finds of hall L.1110 (fig. 21), and it finds a comparison in the vessels of the Egyptianizing cachette from the Temple of level J-4 at Megiddo/Tell el-Mutesellim (Megiddo III, 66, 170-174, figs. 8.6, 8.8).

4. Area B South - restoration of EB IIIB Palace B

During the seventh season (2011) restoration works were carried on in Area B South and B North, continuing the protection of Palace B from the east to the west, and that of the EB II-III Main City Wall.

Stone walls of Palace B, usually preserved more than 1 m high, were restored with antique-like lime mortar, creating a cap on top, and mending the upper part of the walls with this material. The structure of Eastern Pavilion B1 were completely protected, as well as those of the Western Pavilion, which included also the restoration of the jambs of doors L.1150, L.1158 and L.1160, and of the central pillar bases.

As regards the Main City-Wall, a further stretch of this structure was restored, especially on the outer face, where a section had collapsed in antiquity.

A major commitment of the Expedition was the restoration of more than one hundred complete pottery vessels found also this year into the Palace, as well as the continuation of mending and restoration of ceramic vessels and items retrieved during the 2010 season, which followed that of the four copper axes and a dagger retrieved in the last season, restored, set on display in Rome in February - April 2011 in Musei Capitolini, and now on permanent exhibit in the National Archaeological Museum of Amman (fig. 23).

5. Conclusions

The seventh season (2011) of excavations and restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy, as well as the prompt publication of preliminary reports on the extraordinary findings of the sixth season (2010), made it clear that this Early Bronze Age city, and basically its Palace and Temple, vividly illustrate Jordanian culture and society in the 3rd millennium BC. A further effort is expected to restore, file, and study all findings from Palace B, and to clarify their historical significance, and their connection with other civilizations of the ancient Near East. Further excavations are, of course, needed to complete the exploration of such an interesting context, which was kept safe due to a violent destruction occurred towards 2300 BC, and to the massive city-wall which retained it. Results of studies and analyses will provide a fresh set of data on the Palace and its economic realm, which all these finds, as well as faunal and paleobotanic remains, pottery, etc. thoroughly illustrate. They will provide a variety of inputs for interpretive and explanatory models, aiming at a deepest and more careful historical reconstruction of early urbanism in Jordan.

Rome "La Sapienza" University Expedition was able to face the challenge of such a discovery thanks to the kind continuous cooperation of the Department of Antiquities and to the financial support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affair. To both Institutions, my deepest thank is addressed.