Supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs    
Khirbet al-Batrawy
Season 2013-2014
Preliminary Report on the 9th-10th Seasons of Archaeological Investigations and Restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy by Rome "La Sapienza" University

1. Introduction: the Ninth-Tenth Seasons (2013-2014) at Khirbet al-Batrawy

Archaeological investigations and restorations undertaken by Rome "La Sapienza" University Expedition to Jordan continued in 2013 at the site of Khirbet al-Batrawy (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. Archaeological investigations and restoration works were carried out under the aegis of the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan between August 28th and September 12th 2013, and between October 26th and November 16th 2014, and were focused on a careful restoration of the northern fortifications and of the "Palace of the Copper Axes" and its content (2013) and a detailed survey of the site surroundings (2014).

1.2 Goals of the ninth-tenth seasons (2013-2014)

The ninth season was devoted to a careful documentation of the triple line fortifications and of the "Palace of the Copper Axes", as well as to the restoration of the great amount of items discovered in the "Palace of the Copper Axes". Works on the field were focused on the northern side of the site (fig. 1), respectively in Area B North, where the massive city fortifications continued to be uncovered and restored, and in Area B South, where the Palace was further explored in its south-western portion (fig. 2). A general photogrammetric documentation was also captured in order to produce 3D models of the main architectonical features. Items restoration basically affected pottery vessels retrieved in previous 2010-2012 campaigns in the Palace halls. They underwent a systematic mending and integration, as well as a careful study aiming at describing their technological and functional features.

The main goal of the seasons was also to carry on a detailed survey of the immediate surroundings of the site (fig. 3), on the slopes of the rock cliff and in the facing hills, in order to study the site accesses, the numerous caves in the hills around Batrawy, collecting data on the relationship between the city and the underlying river.

2. Restoration of the northern quadruple line of fortification During the 2013 season restoration works were concentrated on the northern quadruple line of walls defending the ancient Early Bronze II-III city (fig. 4). Such monuments are the most impressive features of the ancient city, and they were preserved up to 3.5 m of height. They make Batrawy one of the best known Early Bronze Age urban centre of the Southern Levant and provide a major example of such "walled-city" culture characterizing this region during the 3rd millennium BC (Rast and Schaub). Up to the 2013 season more than 50 m of the northern city-walls were uncovered, on four different lines. All of the structures underwent a systematic restoration. Restoration works were carried on from the east to the west along the four major defensive lines, respectively from inside the city to the north: the Main Inner Wall W.163 (refurbishing of the top, protection with antique-like mortar, fixing of the a sacrifice cap-stones layer; protection of the upper part with mortar and concealed drains); the Outer Wall W.155 (fixing of big boulders both on top of the structures and on the outer face of it; mending of some spots were the wall had been cut through by later intrusions); Scarp-Wall W.155, Outer Work W.185; Transversal Wall W.177; Exterior Wall W.827 (fixing with antique-like mortar, protection of edges and of the upper part of the stone structures). A special effort was devoted to the works erected on the steeper slope to the west, especially offset W.841 and inset W.842.

3. Restoration of the "Palace of the Copper Axes"

Inside the Main City-Wall, in Area B South, field operations were concentrated on the completion of the restorations of the Western Pavilion of EB IIIB Palace B (fig. 5), focusing on the new hall brought to light west of central Hall L.1110 in season 2012, L.1250. Here, perimeter walls W.1245 and W.1249 were very flimsily preserved, for maximum of two or three courses, and a height of no more than 0.4-0.5 m. They were restored by means of fixing with antique-like mortar and integration, with a refurbished conventional height of 0.4-0.5 m, in order to make readable the layout of the palatial building. A special attention was given to the consolidation of the jambs and thresholds of the Palace doors.

4. Restorations of finds from the "Palace of the Copper Axes" (Palace B)

Since its discovery in 2009, the Royal Palace (the "Palace of the Copper Axes") has provided a wealth of impressive finds in extraordinary state of preservation, sealed inside the halls of the Palace within a layer of destruction up to 1.2 m thick. Among them a series of completely restorable ceramic containers (storage jars and pithoi), tableware and luxury vessels were retrieved. Efforts were primarily focused on the restoration (and related documentation) of big storage containers, pithoi and jars for long-term storage, aimed at their musealization, as well as at the calculation of their stuff capacity. Five pithoi were restored (in addition to the nine recomposed in previous seasons: fig. 6), as well as a series of medium size table vessels. A thorough study of capacity was also carried out on all the restored vases, i.e. a study on the quantity of goods which these vessels were intended to process, store or carry; a parameter of vital importance to better understand the function of the vessels themselves. The project includes also the systematic sampling of pottery sherds for innovative chemical and physical analyses, which the particularly favorable context of the Royal Palace allows, among which micro-raman spectroscopy, optical microscopy in thin section (OM), scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), X-ray Diffraction (XRD) and X-ray Fluorescence (XRF).

5. Photogrammetry and Optical 3D scanning

A photogrammetric model of the EB II-III city-walls on the northern slope was also implemented. Photogrammetry allowed to better identify and study architectural features of the defensive system of the ancient city, consisting of multiple juxtaposed fortification lines, to reconstruct the overall architecture of these features, and to elaborate a 3D model for future tourist presentation of the site.

6. Survey of the site surroundings

A survey of twelve sectors (around 1140 dunams) in the surroundings of the site was carried out in order to document evidence of ancient use and frequentation of this area against the threats of modern building and quarrying activities, increasing all around the khirbat. Spots with EBA presence testified by items (pottery sherds and flint tools) and installations have been detected (fig. 7). Caves on the cliffs around the khirbat were also surveyed: they were small (as a rule no more than 1 m deep and 0.60 m high), and thus not suitable for funerary purposes. Nonetheless some of them showed traces of ancient frequentation coeval with the occupation of the main site of Khirbat al-Batrāwī. Of special interest was a cave (Cave 301) on the western cliffs of the khirbat (fig. 8), with flint cores, debitages and finished tools/blades, probably used as flint processing area. The lower part of a potter's disk was also found in this sector.

7. Dissemination

During 2013 the discoveries of Khirbet al-Batrawy were illustrated at the XI International Congress on the History and Archaeology of Jordan in Berlin, and at the XVI Borsa Internazionale del Turismo Archeologico in Paestum (Salerno, Italy), during a forum organized by the Ufficio VI della Direzione Generale per la Promozione del Sistema Paese (DGSP) of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

During 2014 the discoveries of Khirbet al-Batrawy were presented in scientific articles and reports published in Vicino Oriente XVIII, and in American Journal of Archaeology 118 (2014), pp. 644-645.

8. Conclusion

The 2013-2014 seasons of excavations, survey and restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy marked a further step ahead in the exploration of the city fortifications and of the "Palace of the Copper Axes", shading new light on the early urban culture of Jordan during the 3rd millennium BC.

Moreover, the restoration of numerous finds from the Palace allowed to give back to Jordan some extraordinary finds (the copper axes and the necklace), nowadays on exhibit in National Archaeological Museum in the Amman Citadel.

Thanks to the financial support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affair, to the fruitful cooperation with the Department of Antiquities and to the precious support of the Italian Embassy in Amman, the Sapienza University Expedition was able to accomplish its scientific goals valorizing the archaeological goldfield of Khirbet al-Batrawy, with the appreciation of local Authorities and international scientific institutions.