Supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs    
Khirbet al-Batrawy
Season 2018
Preliminary Report on the 14th (2018) Season of Excavations and Restoration at the site of Khirbet al-Batrawy, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan


Lorenzo Nigro - Sapienza University of Rome

1. Introduction
The fourteenth (2018) season of archaeological excavations and restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy in central-northern Jordan was carried out by Sapienza University of Rome (Archaeological Expedition to Palestine & Jordan, between October 6th and 26th 2018, under the aegis of the Department of Antiquities of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and with the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (Office VI - Archeology, Embassy of Italy in Amman) and Sapienza University of Rome. The team involved in the archaeological excavations and restorations was composed by researchers, students and technicians of Sapienza University of Rome (see list below), in addition to the DoA inspector, Mr. Romel Gharib. In the fourteenth (2018) season excavations were focused in two different areas of the site: Area B North, with the Early Bronze II-III fortifications, and Area B South, where remains of the Early Bronze IV village were exposed in the uppermost layers and the "Palace of the Copper Axes", the main administrative and political building of the 3rd millennium BC city-state of Batrawy, was investigated (fig. 1).

2. Goals of the fourteenth (2018) season of excavations and restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy

The activities of the Sapienza Expedition at Khirbet al-Batrawy were focused on three main goals:
→ the continuation of the exploration of the northern defensive system, concentrated on the investigation of the outer wall (W.837) of Bastion T.830 and light the additional defensive structures on the northern slope of khirbet, such as Outer Wall W.155 and Exterior Wall W.827;
→ the investigation resumed in the area of the "Palace of the Copper Axes", expanding the excavation area towards west;
→ the continuation of the exploration of the Early Bronze IV village, in particular as regards the stratigraphic sequence brought to light in Area B South.

The results of the excavations are illustrated below in the various areas in which the archaeological activities has been articulated (§ 3. B North, §§ 4.-5. B South). Restorations were also carried out in the Eastern Pavilion of the "Palace of the Copper Axes" and along the fortifications (§ 6.).

3. The northern fortifications - Bastion T.830, Outer Wall W.155 and Exterior Wall W.827

The fourteenth (2018) season of excavations at Khirbet al-Batrawy along the northern slope of the site led to a decisive understanding of the architectural sequence of the northern impressive fortification system. The excavation of Bastion T.830 at the westernmost top of the hill of Batrawy has continued also in the last season, following the northern main wall (W.837) of this structure, added to the Main Inner Wall in its westernmost stretch in correspondence of closed Gate L.860, severely damaged as the whole western part of the Main Inner Wall following the devastating earthquake that struck the city of Batrawy at the end of the Early Bronze Age II (around 2700 BC). The northern wall of Bastion T.830, Wall W.837, 2.1 m wide and preserved up to a height of 2.4 m, was brought to light for other 5 m. It is characterized by a distinguished building technique with big roughly cut limestone boulders about 1 cubit (0.52 m) high and 2 cubits (1.05 m) long on the lowest two courses, many of which still preserve the original yellowish clay mortar and plaster. The upper courses of the wall show gradually reduced stone sizes and a careful construction technique with small wedges and chops inserted in between the stones to better fix them. A charred wooden beam was found still in situ in between two blocks, perhaps witness of an ancient restoration. Underneath the EB IVB Embankment (W.811), a collapse layer of stones (F.852=F.1502), representing the abandonment of the site after the final destruction of the Batrawy III city, was excavated. It covered a thick ashy layer of destruction (F.834=F.1504) and, still further down, the plastered floor (L.1506) of the corridor (L.838) running along the Bastion and in between it and the Outer Wall (fig 2). Further north, the outer northern battering face of Outer Wall W.155, made of large boulders, was exposed for other 5 m. Excavations revealed that the Outer Wall slightly (and unexpectedly) turns northwards in the last 3 m, as to join with the underlying Exterior Wall, which instead progressively turns southwards. The corridor (L.862) in between Outer Wall W.155 and Exterior Wall W.827 has been also excavated. It also has a yellowish clay floor, even though it does not seem to have been suitable for walking up to its western end, due to its progressively reduced width. The outer face of the Exterior Wall proved to have been partly overlaid and cut by the foot of the EB IVB Embankment. However, the inner southern face of the same wall clearly indicated that this structure, with a varying width from 2 m to 3.50 m, turned up southwards to end against the abutting face of the Outer Wall, roughly in correspondence with the end of the excavation line (fig. 3).

4. The "Palace of the Copper Axes", Entrance Hall L.1100

Excavations in Area B South have been resumed after six seasons of interruption (last season was the eighth, 2012) in order to continue the exploration of the "Palace of the Copper Axes". Underneath the occupation layers of the Early Bronze IV village (§ 5.), a further sector of this monumental building, which was the administrative and political centre of the city of Batrawy between 3000 and 2300 BC, was brought to light. The exploration concerned in particular Entrance Hall L.1100, in which four column bases were regularly laid out to form an atrium flanked on both sides by two large rectangular rooms: to the east Pillared Hall L.1040, already excavated in the previous seasons (2009-2010), and to the west a second room, named Room L.1340, was identified during the last season and only partially explored (fig 4 ). In Entrance Hall L.1100, underneath a roughly 1 m thick layer of destruction with a top layer (F.1324) mainly incorporating fragments of yellowish-clay plaster (some with impressed the reeds of the ceilings), charcoals, ashes, broken mud-bricks, stones, and several items apparently fallen down from an upper storey or roofing, and a bottom layer (F.1327) with charcoals, ash, and crumbled bricks, a thick yellowish clay floor (L.1330) was brought to light. Floor L.1330 was tied on one side to the pillar bases, and on the other to the western limit of the hall represented by Wall W.1323 and, further north, Wall W.1333. Two transversal structures, W.1335 and W.1337, respectively constituted the northern and southern limits of Room L.1340. In the layer of destruction (F.1334) partially excavated in Room L.1340 several vessels and items were found in an extraordinary state of preservation (figs. 5-8). Among the important findings of the fourteenth (2018) season, in the collapse layer F.1324 a large pithos (KB.18.B.1324/3) was retrieved close to pillar base W.1285 and, just below it, an Egyptian green talc-schist stone ("soapstone") slate palette (KB.18.B.30) was found, made in the finest Egyptian style with a double grooved frame all around it (10 x 9.9 x 0.9-1.2 cm) (figs. 9-11). Further south, still on the floor of Entrance Hall L.1100, two beads of chrysoprase or amazonite were found, one of which was pierced (fig. 12). This semi-precious gem testifies to long trade routes, probably from a region of central Asia.

5. The Early Bronze IV village

Before reaching the collapsed structures of the "Palace of the Copper Axes", excavations brought to light at least two superimposed occupational phases of the Early Bronze IV village. Immediately underneath the abandoned surface of the khirbet, remains of installations and dwelling units of the Early Bronze IVB (2200-2000 BC) village were investigated, mainly consisting of elongated rooms, with walls composed of single rows of stones, often recovered from the underlying collapsed walls of the destroyed Early Bronze II-III city. In the uppermost stages (Activities 2a-d), a large dwelling unit (L.1302) has been unearthed in the strip flanking the MIW, while a second and smaller one (L.1304) adjacent to the south, was characterized by circular and semi-circular installations such as silos, troughs, etc. (fig 13). The materials found are very simple ceramics, with some signs of innovations such as the thick combed decoration and the rims of the closed shapes wheel-made and subsequently applied on handmade bodies, flint blades and limestone and basalt mortars. After the excavation of these structures another layer of installations dating to an earlier phase of the same period was uncovered (Activities 2e-g). It was characterized by rectangular-shaped buildings with larger walls (W.1317, W.1319), even three stone courses wide and up to 0.5 to 0.6 m (fig. 14). The initial stage of Batrawy IV village could effectively mark the reoccupation of the ruins of the fortified EB II-III city by a portion of its inhabitants still lived at the site and must necessarily be attributed to the horizon of the Early Bronze IVA. This initial phase of the Early Bronze IV has been identified only in the area previously occupied by the "Palace of the Copper Axes" and it is now recognized at Batrawy for the first time. In one of the rooms, L.1320, a mortar was perfectly embedded in the floor and fixed with small stones (fig. 15); not far, a perforated basalt disc could perhaps be a necessary complement to the mortar, in which to turn the wooden pole used in the milling (fig. 16).

6. Restorations and valorization of the site

The fourteenth (2018) season of excavations and restorations was characterized by an important site protection intervention which resulted in the installation of an iron fence all around the khirbet (fig. 17). The site has been given an iron fence with a 2 m high barbed wire mesh encircling it on all sides in order to protect it the site by looters and building activities which are developing very fast in the westernmost district of Zarqa Jedida. In the last year, indeed, new building activities have directly affected the hill of Batrawy with the construction of a new road that cut the western side of the site towards the Wadi az-Zarqa (fig. 18).
6.1. Restoration activities on the northern wall (W.1109) of the Eastern Pavilion in the "Palace of the Copper Axes"

An important restoration work was carried out on the main northern wall (W.1109) of the Eastern Pavilion of the Palace. Since the beginning of its excavation this structure had shown static problems as it was inclined towards the north following ancient earthquakes. For many years it had been propped up, but following the heavy winter rains causing its collapse, an intervention of architectural restoration was necessary. Works were concentrated inside it in order to complete the rehabilitation and to set up draining devices through the wall (fig. 19).

6.2. Restoration activities on the northern wall (W.837) of Bastion T.830

A second noteworthy effort involved the northern wall (W.837) of Bastion T.830 (fig. 2). This structure had already been restored in the previous seasons and during the last restoration work the wall was reinforced and the last 15 m to the west secured. Wall W.837 is a 2.10 m thick structure with a raised height of 2.4 m. Also in this case it was necessary to install draining devices at the bottom to allow the outflow of rainwater from inside the Bastion towards the outside.

7. Dissemination and outreach

In addition to several initiatives that led to the publication in several scientific series (see the Bibliography), with the results of the analysis and the study of numerous findings made on the site, with particular reference to the theme of the early urbanization of the Southern Levant in the 3rd millennium BC, the Expedition has been devoted to the dissemination of discoveries also through an important event that was represented by the conference held on June 7th, 2018 at the British Museum by Professor Lorenzo Nigro (fig. 20). Constant information about the project, including the reports of all excavation seasons and the entire published bibliography available in PDF format, is guaranteed by the Expedition website,, while more detailed information during the excavation seasons or other more significant events are available on the Expedition' Facebook page:

8. Investigations in the Wadi az-Zarqa Valley

During the fourteenth (2018) season of excavations at Khirbet al-Batrawy, documentation works were carried out three different sites of the Wadi az-Zarqa Valley.

8.1. Ruseifeh during the Late Bronze Age

Following an agreement with the inspector Romel Gharib of the Dept. of Antiquities of Jordan, it was possible to proceed with the documentation and study of the archaeological materials collected at the site of Ruseifeh, about 10 km from Batrawy along the Zarqa River. the main settlement of the valley during the Middle and Late Bronze Age (2000-1200 BC). Here the excavations carried out by the DoA involved a Late Bronze Age public building from which some artefacts restored and documented by the Sapienza Expedition were collected. There are numerous ceramic vessels (about a thousand, of which 200 were selected), and among which two biconical painted tankard jugs, characterized by a white slip and, in the upper half, a red and black painted decoration (fig. 21). Moreover, one of the most significant discovery from this context is a complete figurine of the goddess Ishtar/Astarte, represented with the naked body and the iconography of the face inspired by the Egyptian goddess Isis. This is a terracotta figurine made in the typical Late Bronze IIA style, dated back to the 1400 BC (fig 22).

8.2. Rujum al-Jamus

A second important documentation has involved the site of Rujum al-Jamus, an Iron Age IIB-C (900-585 BC) fortress located in the valley parallel to the Zarqa Valley, immediately to the west of Jebel er-Rekheis, to control the pass though the Zarqa Valley and the junction of the Wadi az-Zarqa and the Wadi edh-Dhuleyl (fig. 23). The Jamus fortress consists of a rectangular fence 100 m long on the north-south axis and about 80 m on the east-west, with a squared tower in the center and all around a series of rooms separated by courtyards. The main entrance to the fortress was on the southern side facing Rabat Ammon, the capital of the Ammonite Kingdom located at the sources of Zarqa River. The fortress was entirely built with large roughly squared blocks (up to 4 - 2.1 m). In the perimeter walls were used larger blocks, even 1 m thick on two rows side by side, while a single row was used in the partition walls in between the different inner courtyards. The ceramic materials collected during the site survey dated back the most recent use of the fortress in the second half of the 7th - beginning of the 6th century BC, suggesting that the destruction of the fortress could be attributed to the campaign conducted against the Ammonite Kingdom by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. During the Iron Age IIB-C, the Jamus fortress probably constituted, together with that of Jamaan located a little further to the west, the fortified internal border of the Ammonite Kingdom towards the north.

8.3. Qal’at Hamra

Sapienza Expedition also proceeded with the documentation of the Islamic site of Qal'at Hamra, located immediately above the ford through the Wadi az-Zarqa in correspondence with the Wadi Shomar, which represented a shortcut to the Jordan Valley. Qal'at Hamra was a caravanserai in a very strategic position, consisting of a rectangular fence on the eastern side and a larger building in the shape of a square tower of about 15 m on the western side of the complex (fig. 24). Sapienza Expedition realized the graphic and photographic documentation of the structure and collected a sample of ceramic materials dated back to the Umayyad Period. Some remains suggest that a structure stood on the spot that dominated the ford on the river and the tracks that crossed it already during the Byzantine Period.

Team of the 14th season of excavations and restorations at Khirbet al-Batrawy

Director: Prof. Lorenzo Nigro
Field-director: Dott.ssa Elisabetta Gallo
Student: Dott. Licia de Vito
PhD student: Dott. Gaia Cecconi
Archaeologist: Dott. Michele de Marco
Archaeologist: Dott. Martina Marra
Geomatic: Dott. Luciano Fattore

Bibliography (2017-2010)

NIGRO - NUCCIOTTI - GALLO 2017 = L. Nigro, M. Nucciotti, E. Gallo, Precious Water. Paths of Jordanian Civilizations as seen in the Italian Archaeological Excavations. Proceedings of the International Conference held in Amman, October 18th 2016, (Rome «La Sapienza» Studies on the Archaeology of Palestine & Transjordan, 8), Rome 2017.

NIGRO 2017 = L. Nigro, The end of the Early Bronze Age in the Southern Levant. Urban Crisis and Collapse seen from two 3rd Millennium BC-Cities: Tell es-Sultan/Jericho and Khirbet al-Batrawy, in T. CUNNINGHM, J. DRIESSEN (eds.), Crisis to Collapse. The Archaeology of Social Breakdown (AEGIS 11), Louvain 2017: 149-172.

NIGRO - MEDEGHINI 2017 = L. Medeghini, L. Nigro, Khirbet al-Batrawy ceramics: a systematic mineralogical and petrographic study for investigating the material culture. Periodico di Mineralogia 86 (2017): 19-35.

NIGRO 2016a = L. Nigro, Khirbat al-Batrawy. American Journal of Archaeology 120:4 (2016): 645-646.

NIGRO 2016b = L. Nigro, Khirbat al-Batrawi 2010-2013: The City Defenses and the Palace of Copper Axes.Studies on the History and Archaeology of Jordan XII: Transparent Borders (Department of Antiquities of Jordan), Amman 2016: 135-154.

NIGRO - GHARIB 2016 = L. Nigro, R. Gharib, Jamaan at the Pass of Bi''rein. An Iron Age B-C Ammonite Stronghold in Central Jordan. Vicino Oriente XX (2016): 59-84.

NIGRO et al. 2016 = L. Nigro, The ceramic of the "Palace of the Copper Axes" (Khirbet al-Batrawy, Jordan): A palatial special production. Ceramics International 42 (2016): 5952-5962; co-authored with L. Medeghini, L. Fabrizi, C. De Vito, S. Mignardi, E. Gallo, C. Fiaccavento.

NIGRO 2015 = L. Nigro, The Copper Axes Hoard in the Early Bronze IIIB Palace of Batrawy, Jordan, in K. ROSI?SKA-BALIK, A. OCHA?-CZARNOWICZ, M. CZARNOWICZ, J. D?BOWSKA-LUDWIN (eds.), Copper and Trade in the South-Eastern Mediterranean: Trade routes of the Near East in Antiquity (BAR IS2753), Oxford 2015: 77-83.

NIGRO 2014a = L. Nigro, Khirbat al-Batrawy, in G.J. CORBETT, D.R. KELLER, B.A. PORTER, CH.A. TUTTLE (eds.), Archaeology in Jordan, 2012 and 2013 Seasons, in American Journal of Archaeology 118 (2014): 644-645.

NIGRO 2014b = L. Nigro, The Copper Routes and the Egyptian Connection in 3rd millennium BC Jordan seen from the caravan city of Khirbet al-Batrawy. Vicino Oriente XVIII (2014): 39-64.

NIGRO 2014c = L. Nigro, The King's Cup and the Bear Skin. Royal Ostentation in the Early Bronze III "Palace of the Copper Axes" at Khirbet al-Batrawy, in Z. KAFAFI - M. MARAQTEN (eds.), A Pioneer of Arabia. Studies in the Archaeology and Epigraphy of the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula in Honor of Moawiyah Ibrahim (ROSAPAT 10), Rome 2014: 261-270. NIGRO 2013a = L. Nigro, Urban Origins in the Upper W&257;d&299; az-Zarq&257;', Jordan: The City of Khirbat al-Batr&257;w&299; in the third Millennium BC, in F. AL-HMOUD (ed.), Studies on the History and Archaeology of Jordan XI (Department of Antiquities, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan), Amman 2013: 486-506.

NIGRO 2013b = L. Nigro, Khirbet al-Batrawy. An Early Bronze Age city at the fringes of the desert. Syria 90 (2013): 189-209.

NIGRO 2013c = L. Nigro, The City of the Copper Axes: Archaeological Research, Restoration and Training in the Early Bronze Age site of Khirbet al-Batrawy, Jordan, in B. CASSANI (ed.), Sapienza in the Mediterranean Region. Agreement on Cultural and Scientific Cooperation: Programs and Projects, Rome 2013: 113-115.

NIGRO - SALA 2013= L. Nigro, M. Sala, Preliminary Report of the Eighth Season (2012) of Excavations by the University of Rome "La Sapienza" at Khirbat al-Batrawi (Upper Wadi az-Zarqa)". in Hawliyyat Da'irat al-Atar al-'Ammat 57 (2013): 217-228.

NIGRO et al. 2013 = L. Nigro, The key role of micro-Raman spectroscopy in the study of ancient pottery: the case of pre-classical Jordanian ceramics from the archaeological site of Khirbet al-Batrawy. European Journal of Mineralogy 25 (2013): 881-893; co-authored with L. Medeghini, S. Mignardi, C. De Vito, D. Bersani, P.P. Lottici, M. Turetta, J. Costantini, E. Bacchini, M. Sala,

NIGRO 2012a = L. Nigro, Khirbet al-Batrawy. American Journal of Archaeology 116/4 (2012): 705-706.

NIGRO 2012b = L. Nigro, An EB IIIB (2500-2300 BC) gemstones necklace from the Palace of the Copper Axes at Khirbet al-Batrawy, Jordan. Vicino Oriente XVI (2012): 227-243.

NIGRO 2012c = L. Nigro, Khirbet al-Batrawy: Rise, Flourish and Collapse of an Early Bronze Age City in Jordan, in R. MATTHEWS - J. CURTIS (eds.), Proceedings of the 7th International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. 12 April - 16 April 2010, the British Museum and UCL, London, Wiesbaden 2012, Volume 1: 609-628.

NIGRO ed. 2012 = L. Nigro (ed.), Khirbet al-Batrawy III. The EB II-III triple fortification line and the EB IIIB quarter inside the city-wall. Preliminary report of the fourth (2008) and fifth (2009) seasons of excavations (Rome «La Sapienza» Studies on the Archaeology of Palestine & Transjordan, 8), Rome 2012.

NIGRO - SALA 2012= L. Nigro, M. Sala, Preliminary Report on the Seventh (2011) Season of Excavation by "La Sapienza" University of Rome at Khirbat al-Batr&257;w&299; (Upper W&257;d&299;az-Zarq&257;'). ADAJ 56 (2012): 45-54.

NIGRO 2011 = L. Nigro, Dominating the River: Khirbet al-Batrawy, an EB II-III City in North-Central Jordan. Syria 88 (2011): 59-74.

NIGRO - SALA 2011 = L. Nigro, M. Sala, Preliminary Report on the Sixth (2010) Season of Excavation by "La Sapienza" University of Rome at Khirbat al-Batr&257;w&299; (Upper W&257;d&299; az-Zarq&257;'). ADAJ 55 (2011): 85-100.

NIGRO 2010a = L. Nigro, In the Palace of the Copper Axes/Nel Palazzo delle Asce di Rame. Khirbat al-Batr&257;w&299;: the discovery of a forgotten city of the III millennium BC in Jordan/Khirbat al-Batr&257;w&299;: la scoperta di una città dimenticata del III millennio a.C. in Giordania (Rome «La Sapienza» Studies on the Archaeology of Palestine & Transjordan, Colour Monographs I), Rome 2010.

NIGRO 2010b = L. Nigro, Quattro asce di rame dal Palazzo B di Khirbet al-Batrawy (Bronzo Antico IIIB, 2500-2300 a.C.). Scienze dell'Antichità 16 (2010): 561-572.

NIGRO 2010c = L. Nigro, Khirbet al-Batrawy: a Third Millennium city in Jordan. American Journal of Archaeology 114 (2010): 514-516.

NIGRO 2010d = L. Nigro, Between the Desert and the Jordan: Early Urbanization in the Upper Wadi az-Zarqa, the EB II-III fortified town of Khirbet al-Batrawy, in P. MATTHAIE, F. PINNOCK, L. NIGRO, N. MARCHETTI (eds.), 6 ICAANE. Proceedings of the 6th International Congress of the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East. 5 May - 10 May 2008, "Sapienza", Università di Roma, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2010, Volume 2: 431-458.

NIGRO- SALA 2010 = L. Nigro, M. Sala, "Preliminary Report on the Fifth Season (2009) of Excavations at Khirbat al-Batr&257;w&299; (Upper W&257;d&299; az-Zarq&257;'), by the University of Rome "La Sapienza". ADAJ 54 (2010): 237-253.