Supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs    
Khirbet al-Batrawy
Season 2012
Preliminary Report on the 8th Season of Archaeological Investigations and Restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy by Rome "La Sapienza" University

1. Introduction: the Eighth Season (2012) at Khirbet al-Batrawy

Archaeological investigations and restorations undertaken by Rome "La Sapienza" University Expedition to Jordan continued in 2012 at the site of Khirbet al-Batrawy (fig. 1; Lat. 32°05',218" N, Long. 36°04',237" E), an Early Bronze Age II-III (3000-2300 BC) major fortified centre arisen upon the ford of Wadi az-Zarqa (fig. 2). Archaeological investigations and restoration works were carried out under the aegis of the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan between May 13th and June 14th and were focused on Area B, at the mid of the northern side of the site, inside and outside the EB II-III Main City-Wall.

Inside the Main City-Wall, in Area B South, underneath dwellings and installations of the EB IVB (2200-2000 BC) village (§ 3), a further sector of EB IIIB (2500-2300 BC) Palace B was brought to light (§ 4), including two new halls and a new terrace to the south, and recovering a number of items from them.

Outside the Main City-Wall, in Area B North, the exploration of the fortification system of EB II-III was further carried on proceeding towards the west and the north, and bringing to light a massive rectangular tower abutting from the Main City-Wall (§ 2).

2. Area B North: the EB II-III quadruple line of fortifications and Tower T.830

The investigation of the massive fortification system of Batrawy during the 3rd millennium BC was carried on in Area B North outlining a terraced series of city-walls erected on the northern slope of the hill, up to four parallel defence lines, progressively strengthening the protection of the site in the main gate area (figs. 3-4). The excavation area was enlarged in five new squares towards the west (BmII4 + BmII3+ eastern half of BlII4 + eastern half of BlII3) and the north (BnII2 + BmII2).

The Main City-Wall was exposed for a further stretch of 5 m in squares BmII4 (western half) and BnII4 (eastern half). Its outer face had partly collapsed (P.819), but towards the limit of the dig, was again preserved on the edge of the hill at elevation 658.72 m a.s.l. In squares BlII4 + BlII3 + BmII3, in correspondence of the distinct turning to the north of Outer Wall W.155 (already noticed in 2009), a monumental rectangular structure was uncovered built against the Main City-Wall. The latter was a massive Tower (T.830), built up with huge limestone boulders, especially in its lower stone courses (fig. 5). It perpendicularly abutted 5.5 m from the Main City-Wall in NE direction. Its eastern (W.835) and northern (W.837) walls were 1.65 m wide, and reached a preserved elevation of more than 1.5 m. Tower T.830 was erected on the upper terrace of the fortification system. Its foundations were supported by Outer Wall W.155, standing on the middle terrace and characterized by its battering outer face, preserved with an height of 2.7 m (fig. 6). Both the Tower and the Outer Wall were buried under a destruction layer (F.814, F.834) with abundant ashes and remains of carbonized beams. Just underneath tower wall W.835, some beams, 0.2 m wide, were found in this filling (figs. 7-9).

The Outer Wall was reinforced in its eastern section by Scarp Wall W.165, a further structure leaning on the latter and ending against it. As the Outer Wall neatly turned northwards in order to protect the huge upper Tower, Scarp Wall W.165 ended against it with round Bastion W.185 (fig. 4). A fourth line of fortification was investigated in 2012: a transversal wall (W.177) from the Scarp Wall stretched towards the north and, then, a perpendicular structure (W.827) run parallel to the Outer Wall, thus renovating the triple line of walls also to the west, where the Outer Wall distinctly protruded from its original alignment. Such a structure (W.827), was reinforced at the junction with W.177 by a buttress (W.826), and showed another offset (W.841) on its northern face, some meters to the west. It had a thickness of 1.65 m, and, in BlII2, it again shows an inner offset (W.842) towards the Outer Wall (fig. 6). This defence structure was thus called the Exterior Wall, since it was the most external defensive structure of the city, lying in the lower terrace of the whole defensive system. The Exterior Wall delimited a rhomboidal court (L.824), between it and the Outer Wall, which was found filled up with a thick layer of ashes yielding EB III pottery (F.818, F.832).

3. Area B South: the EB IVB (2200-2000 BC) village

The exploration of the EB IVB (2200-2000 BC) village continued also during the 2012 season towards the west and the south in squares BlII7 + BlII8 + BlII9 (northern half), and BoII9 (northern half) + BpII9 (northern half).

In BlII8 + BlII9 a rectangular domestic unit (L.1210) was uncovered in a fairly well preservation state, with a main wall on the southern side (W.1207) preserved up to three courses of medium size stones, the northern wall (W.1209) exploiting a step of the ground, made of big rectangular stones set as headers, and the western limit coinciding with an apsidal structure (W.1211) encircling a large space (L.1216); the latter was connected to a second curvilinear precinct (W.1213) to the north-west, in square BlII7, delimiting yard L.1224 (fig. 10). Both enclosures are made of single-line stone walls (W.1211, W.1213), and can be interpreted as pens for domestic animals. The rectangular house was entered from a door (L.1190) opened in forecourt L.1220 at the middle of its northern side (a typical EB IVB flint knife was retrieved in this court: KB.12.B.25). Next to the entrance there was a platform (B.1226) where three complete jars were recovered (KB.12.B.1206/41, /47 simple war jars, and KB.12.B.1206/43, a hole-mouth jar; fig. 11), and in the north-west corner of the room there was a semi-circular device, where a grinding stone was retrieved (B.1219). On the opposite side of the room, there was another storage device (B.1221) with two hole-mouth jars (KB.12.B.1206/39, /46). In the middle of the unit a beautifully decorated jar (KB.12.B.1206/31) was retrieved (fig. 12). Other installations were uncovered in the eastern part of the house: two circular juxtaposed bins (S.1223, S.1225) occupied the eastern end of it, which was paved with flagstones. Bin S.1223 had a pebble floor inside it. A series of objects and tools were found in L.1210, including two mortar bowls, two basalt grinding stones, a basalt pestle, a limestone pestle, two flint blades, and a bone awl (fig. 12). Domestic Unit L.1210 and connected apsidal enclosures were attributed to Phase 2c, i.e. the latest reconstruction of the rural village of EB IVB.

In BoII9 + BpII9 (northern half) two different constructive phases were excavated: in the latest one, the southern prosecution of structures already excavated in seasons 2006-2009 were brought to light, respectively wall W.1005 plus W.1235, W.361 plus W.1229, and W.353. The north-western corner of the unit (L.1234) delimited by wall W.353 was uncovered, with perpendicular wall W.1233, running NE-SW. A thick levelling layer (F.1252) buried the earliest occupational stage, represented by a rectangular unit (L.1270), with an orientation coherent with that of L.1234. A major wall made of big stones laid as headers (W.1257) was connected to a somewhat disturbed corner (W.1259) of this structure. Another juxtaposed rectangular unit (L.1260) was uncovered to the east in BpII9, with southern wall W.1261, bench B.1258, and the eastern wall W.1263, to which a platform made of small stones (B.1262) was related.

4. 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") continued also in the eighth season, involving both the Eastern and the Western Pavilions (fig. 13).

In the Western Pavilion (fig. 14), the excavation of Hall L.1110 was completed by excavating the south-western quadrant of the hall, as well as several spots were the destruction layers was still covering the floor. The hall measured 6.5 x 3.7 m, with a central pillar (W.1163) and a marked bedrock step in the middle. The entrance (L.1272) was in the north-west corner from yard L.1100, and opened towards a court or a portico in the northern side of the Pavilion. Against the eastern face of the western wall (W.1249) a bench (B.1253) made of two rectangular limestone blocks (one with a small cup-mark) was uncovered. The central pillar base W.1163 was supported by a stone built foot, and aligned with a flat stone (W.1183) flanking wall W.1149.

The southern side of the room was made by cutting the bedrock for a height of around 1 m. Upon this step the real southern wall (W.1201) stood up. South of base W.1183 a round hole was dug in the bedrock and faced with flat upright stones to host a hole-mouth jar (fig. 15); another jar was in the south-west corner of the room, as well as other vessels were distributed in the central area. Several bone tools were found in this sector of Hall L.1110, including a spindle whorl and several awls and shuttles (fig. 16).

West of Hall L.1110 there was another large room (L.1250), depending on a different distribution: no entrances were identified between it and the rest of the Pavilion. The flooring of the latter room was the regularized bedrock, which was cut through by a series of round holes (pulping holes and cup-marks). It was connected through a ramp (L.1240) with the upper terrace of the palace, where another group of rooms stood (L.1230). Here a large vat was uncovered, consisting of the lower half of a pithos with a natural rim and attached ledge handles.

In the Eastern Pavilion, the southern limit of court L.1046 was reached in square BoII9, thus showing the different functional destination of this part of the Palace. The court was a 8 x 5.5 m open space, accessible from entrance lane L.1050. In the destruction layer (F.1154) within the court, together with some ceramic vessels, a third fragmentary basalt potter's wheel was found.

5. Restoration activities of season 2012

During the eight season (2012) heavy restoration works were carried out both in Areas B North (the multiple line fortifications) and B South (the Palace).

In Area B North, the whole Outer Wall W.155 was restored, fixing its upper cap by means of antique-like mortar. Another stretch of the Main Inner City-Wall was restored, especially on the outer face, where the curtain wall had partly collapsed (fig. 17).

In Area B South, restoration of stone walls of Palace B was further carried on, concentrating on Storeroom L.1120, Hall L.1110 (where also door L.1272, introducing to it from west, as well as seat B.1189 were restored), and, eventually, room L.1250 excavated in 2012, where walls W.1245 and W.1249 were just preserved for two or maximum three courses, with a height of around 0.4-0.5 m.

Also during this season a major commitment of the Expedition was the restoration of finds retrieved in Palace B. Along with pottery vessels (including those with applied decorations; fig. 18), a careful study was conducted on the four-strings necklace (KB.11.B.101) found in L.1110, which was painstakingly recomposed (fig. 19). Also the fifth copper axe (KB.11.B.120) from the same hall was analysed and restored.

6. Conclusions

During 2012, the third preliminary report on the excavations and restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy was published (Nigro ed. 2012), and a series of studies and analyses on finds from Palace B continued to be conducted. Moreover, the eight season at the site further increased our knowledge on this Early Bronze Age city, thanks again to extraordinary finds from Palace B, and to the impressive architecture of the quadruple line of fortifications, pieces of evidence which vividly illustrate the 3rd millennium BC urban culture of Jordan.