Supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs    
Khirbet al-Batrawy
Season 2015
Preliminary Report on the 11th Season of Archaeological Investigations and Restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy by Rome "La Sapienza" University

1. Introduction: the Eleventh Season (2015) at Khirbet al-Batrawy

Archaeological investigations and restorations undertaken by Rome «La Sapienza» University Expedition to Jordan continued in 2015 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 and EBIV (2300-2000 BC) village arisen upon a rocky hill dominating the ford through 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 10th and 22th October 2015. Archaeological works were focused on the northern fortification system in Area B North, on the southern slope in Area G and in the north-western spur of the site in Area C.

Archaeological investigations in Area B North (§ 2.1), on the northern slopes of the mound, continued on two parallel lines from the east to the west: on the uppermost terrace, by uncovering the huge Bastion T.830, jutting out from the Main Inner Wall (the major defensive structure, erected upon the edge of the rocky cliffs bordering the site) and, on the lower terraces, by excavating both the Outer Wall and the Exterior Wall, towards the west.

Finally, in Area C East (§ 2.2), a water reservoir was identified.

In Area G (§ 2.3), on the southern side of the site, a secondary Gate was identified and reconstructed.

1.1. Goals of the eleventh season (2015) at Khirbet al-Batrawy

The main goal of the eleventh season was to explore the multiple lines fortification system of the site on the northern side, by extending the dig towards the west, as well as to reconstruct the overall layout of the ancient city by individuating its entrances and the possible existence of a water system. The season was, moreover, devoted to the continuation of restoration works both on the several city-walls, and in the area of the "Palace of the Copper Axes" (Area B South).

2. Results of excavations and architectural restorations (2015)

The eleventh seasons was concentrated on the fortifications on the northern side of the site, where a series of massive roughly parallel walls formed an articulated defence system.

2.1. Area B North: the EB II-III quadruple line of fortifications and Tower T.830 (Early Bronze II-III, 3000-2350 BC)

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 (fig. 2). The excavation area was enlarged towards the west and the north in squares BjII2+3+4+BkII2+3+4.

The Main Inner Wall was exposed in squares Bj-KII3-4, where exhibits a width of around 3.15 m (6 cubits) at its bottom, which restricts up to 2.7 m on the preserved top of the structure (fig. 3). The massive stone structure, erected on a foundation course of big limestone boulders set directly into the hill bedrock, is made of regular large and medium size stones on the outer and inner curtains. It reaches a preserved height of around 3.7 m, that is apparently the same elevation of the top of the lintel of EB II Gate L.160, upon which a massive mudbrick structure was raised reaching at least an overall height of 8 m. Such a defensive work, was firmly set into the mound rocky edge and run all around it on the eastern and southern sides, where laying on top of steep cliffs, it stood alone as a major barrier, a continuation of the natural defences of the site. Conversely, on the northern side of the mound, where the only relatively easy access was, a series of other walls was added to foster the main entrance to the city.

As 2015 excavations demonstrated, starting from square BjII4 westwards, the Main Inner Wall was flanked by Bastion T.830, a huge elongated structure, made of big limestone boulders in the lower courses up to roughly 2 cubits (1.05 m), and by big stones in the upper ones up to a height of 2.5 m. Bastion T.830 was leaning on the outer face of the MIW. It protruded from the northern face of the latter wall with its eastern wall (W.835) for a length of 10 cubits (5.5 m) (fig. 4). The latter wall was 3 cubits (1.65 m) wide, like the northern front wall, Wall W.837, which joined the former in the north-eastern corner of the Bastion, reaching the length of 20.8 m, so that the ratio of the overall building was 1:4. Due to earthquakes and consequent collapses, two breaches were opened in the upper part of the northern curtain wall (W.837) of the Bastion. Such a structure was perfectly straight and, with a length of 20.08 m (40 cubits), had a limited resistance to twisting forces. Bastion T.830 and its supporting work, the Outer Wall, were added to the MIW at the beginning of the EB IIIA (c. 2700 BC) in order to replace a collapsed stretch of the Main Inner Wall and to strengthen the westernmost spur of the site which overlooked the underlying valley and the path approaching the city.

The exploration of the Outer Wall was continued westwards in Squares BkII2 by tracing the inner southern face of the structure, made of big and medium size stones (fig. 5). Stone courses progressively recessing, so to give to the outer northern face of the wall a slightly battering grade. Biggest limestone boulders were employed in the lower course, providing the structure of a resistant and massive look. The Outer Wall had a curvilinear trend and an irregular but considerable width of 1.7 m; it runs all around the Bastion, leaving a narrow corridor in between the two structures, which restricts progressively (from 1.6 m to 1.3 m).

The Exterior Wall was the fourth major structure erected at defence of the north-western side of the city of Batrawy. It is a quite monumental work preserved up to five superimposed courses of stones on its northern outer face, even though it suffered erosion and denudation more than the other flanking structures (fig. 6). It joined to the east to Transveral Wall W.177 (fig. 7). The intersection between the two structures was buttressed by a corner offset (W.826). At least two other offsets (W.841 and W.861) protruded from Wall W.827 towards the north, while an inset was built inside it (W.842), facing the battering northern face of the Outer Wall. The width of the Exterior Walls varies from 1.6 m in its eastern stretch (in correspondence of offset W.841) to 1.3 m to the west (where it is flanked by Inset W.842 and the two adjoined structures reach 2.4 m of width). Inset W.842 does not follow the same curvilinear orientation of the Outer Wall, turning northwards and thus leaving a progressively wider space in between the two terraced structures (from 0.5 m to 1.2 m); a casemate or a light well (L.862), obtained by reducing the width of the inset. The latter room communicated with court L.824 through a narrow passage 0.5 m wide. In the space between Outer Wall W.155 and Inset W.842 a thick destruction layer is excavated (F.832, F.853), belonging to the final destruction of the city, from which an EB IIIB ceramic repertoire is collected. Exterior Wall W.827 was built, like Scarp Wall W.165, in EB IIIB (c. 2500 BC) to improve the defence of the highest spur of the city by means of a further defensive line.

2.2 The Water Reservoir B.860

During the 11th season (2015) the exploration of a huge cave located in the north-western sector of the Acropolis started. Such a cave is a huge natural cavity in the limestone bedrock with at least two entrance wells, one to the east (the lowest one), and one to the south (the upper one). The cave, which possibly resulted by the union of some flanking natural cavities, has a roughly oval shape, with a maximum axis of 9 m and a short one of 6.8 m (fig. 8). It was apparently used as a cistern, collecting water from overlying buildings by means of drains. Up to now is not possible to reach the bottom of the cave. It seems possible that such a device was intended to supply water only to a small area of the city, such as the north-western defensive system and the nearby palace. The rock roofing of the reservoir was cut through by a modern pit, which shows its thickness of around 1 m.

2.3 Area G - The South-East Gate or River Gate (Batrawy II-III, 2700-2300 BC)

A new area was opened on the southern side of the site, around one third of the length from its eastern corner, south-west of Area F, called Area G (some 45 m west of the eastern corner of the hill). Here, the remain of the second gate of the city, called South-East Gate or River Gate, were identified and preliminarily surveyed (fig. 9). The gate was built by regularizing a natural ravine cutting the rocky cliff of the mound as to create a ramp climbing up the slope from south-west to north-east. It was opened in the Main City Wall on the edge of the cliff (without other outer defenses, due to the steep slope and vertical cliffs of the mound), and, for this reason, the inner space inside the gate was enclosed by a second line of fortification dominated by an Inner Tower, located north-west of the gate upon a higher terrace (up to 3.5 m higher than the gate threshold).
The Main City Wall (W.1306), proceeding from the west to the east along the edge of the cliff, slightly turned counterclockwise around 12 m far away from the gate, in correspondence of a spur protruding over the track approaching the gate. A huge corner stone (W.1301; 1.05 x 0.5 m) marked this point (fig. 10), where the joint of the two diverging stretches (W.1304-W.1302) of the city-wall reached a thickness of 3.85 m. Eastwards the structure became relatively thinner up to 2.4 m, in the stretch where the door opened. The passage (L.1300), thus, was 1.6 m wide and 2.4 m long. The gate western doorjamb consisted of a L-shaped wall (W.1307), letting entering people to turn to the right (fig. 14). On the opposite eastern side, conversely, the doorjamb was reinforced by two huge orthostates displaced on two different elevations. The lowest one (W.1305) was found glided down, while the upper one (w.1303) was preserved still in situ, aligned with the inner face of the Main City Wall (W.1304) (fig. 11-12).

The proper entrance L.1300 was at the top of a turning ramp (L.1308) climbing the hill from the south-west to the north-east, passing underneath a protruding spur of rocks (W.1309), which might have served as defensive outpost. A wall built in order to regularized the cliff edge to support this outpost was found collapsed. Just inside the Gate the street bifurcated, and one branch turned to the west (L.1311), flanking the Inner Tower, while the other (L.1312) turned towards the east, reaching the sacred area of the Broad Room Temple. The South-East Gate was presumably too steep to be approached by animals (donkeys and onagers), however, it was the nearest entrance for people arriving from the southern and eastern tracks, as well as, the only one entrance suitable for whom climbed the hill upwards from the river ford to the city (instead of circumventing the whole mound). For this reason, it was called the "River Gate".

3. Restoration activities of season 2015

During the eleventh season (2015) 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, and another stretch of the Main Inner City-Wall was restored.

In Area B South, restoration of stone walls of Palace B and Building B2 was further carried on, Also during this season a major commitment of the Expedition was the restoration of finds retrieved In this season, drain pipes were set into main walls of the Palace in order to prevent rainwater accumulation and flooding. A series of spots were again restored, including a pending wall in the Palace, due to severe raining occurred in last winter, which provoked several spot damages all over the site.

4. Dissemination

The results of field activities and tourist valorisation of Rome "La Sapienza" Expedition to Khirbet al-Batrawy were divulgated in year 2015 with the publication of the volume ROSAPAT 10, devoted to Prof. Moawwiyah Ibrahim Festschrift, as well as with a series of articles in scientific journal (such as ADAJ, AJA, Scienze dell'Antichità, Syria, Vicino Oriente), and posters and papers presented to International Congresses. Rome "La Sapienza" Team also contribute to the opening of the new University Museum of the Near East ( dedicated to the ancient civilizations of the Levant and Mediterranean, with the participation of the General Director Dr. Munther al-Jamhawi, and the exhibition of a distinguished mosaic kindly gifted by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

5. Conclusions

During 2015 the continuation of the exploration of the quadruple defensive line in the western section of the northern side of the ancient city of Batrawy provided further information about such a monumental system, its architectural organization, the poliorcetic function of architectural works, and their diachronic development. The stratigraphy and constructional sequence of the various fortification walls, in facts, offered an outline of the city history, from its establishment at the beginning of the 3rd millennium BC, until its final destruction at the end of EB IIIB, and, afterwards, when the huge ruins towards the end of the millennium hosted an EB IVB rural village.

The progressive reinforcement of the city fortifications from the one hand may represent an increase of threatens for the city, on the other, it possibly reflects an economic and politic growth. Actually, both factors influence each other. As much the city gathers wealth as it becomes attractive for enemies and is subjected to attacks. The city-walls of Batrawy were visible from the valley and from the tracks entering in Upper Wadi az-Zarqa. They visually marked the territorial control established by the city over the district and the tracks crossing it, and the huge towers erected on the southern and northern spur of the western side of the hill overlooked the ford through the river.

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.