Jordan Cultural Heritage   

The History of a Land

Jordan is situated in the heart of the Arab world. The Jordan River forms a natural boundary between Jordan and Palestine to the west. To the north, the frontier with Syria is also naturally demarcated by the Yarmouk River. To the east and south the country is separated from Iraq and Saudi Arabia respectively by vast stretches of desert and basalt country.
In Jordan there are three zones: a) The Jordan Valley, b) The plateau and mountains, c) the desert. Throughout most of its length the Jordan Valley is very fertile, but the extreme heat at the bottom of the valley, especially  the summer, makes heavy work very difficult. The depth of the Jordan River varies from one metre at the fords to three and four metres elsewhere.
The Archaeology of Jordan is unique in its characteristics such  that it constitutes a national  treasure of which Jordanians are very proud. Many archaeologists and anthropologists believe that if civilization  was  said to have begun when man gave up his nomadic life as a food gatherer and settled down to raise crops, then civilization was born in the warm and friendly climate of the Jordan River Valley, mainly at Jericho. Important recent discoveries have related that this revolutionary transition in man’s economic and cultural history occurred simultaneously at other places in Jordan, notably Baydha, Wadi Rum, Jarash, Wadi al-Yabis and Kilwa. In fact, two sites Jericho and Baydha , each more than 10,000 years old, are thought to have been the world’s first settled communities. If Jordan was not, in fact, the cradle of civilization, it was most certainly its nursery. Archaeological surveys carried out in the country show that Man’s activities appeared in Jordan as early as the beginning of the Old Stone Age, some 450,000 years ago. Flint hand axes and tools of the Palaeolithic Age are spread all over Jordanian land from north to south, but notably in the regions of Aqaba, Wadi Rum, Ma’an, Al-Jafr, Al-Harranah and Al-Azraq, east of Amman where prehistoric animal bones were also found. The best evidence for Neolithic phase  pottery comes from Jericho in the Jordan River Valley.
With such a rich heritage, backed by recorded events and physical relics of every period dating from the Palaeolithic to the Ottoman periods, it is no wonder at all that Jordan should figure prominently in the study of archaeology. Since its establishment in 1923, the Department of Antiquities has been doing just that and is responsible for every aspect of archaeological work in Jordan. Its archaeologists have been participating with scholars from all over the world in excavating , identifying, preserving and consolidating the many precious relics and monuments of the past.

• The Paleolithic Period 1.500.000- 21.000 BC
The first stone age is divided into three periods: Lower Paleolithic (12,00000-90000), Middle Paleolithic (90,000-35,000 BC) and Upper Paleolithic (35,000 to17,000BC).

• The Epipalaeolithic Period 21.000- 10.200 BC
The Jordanian Epipalaeolithic Period called in several publications “Misolithic”, or Proto-Neolithic, corresponds to the Kebarian and to the Natufian period in Palestine.

• The Neolithic Period 10.200- 5000 BC
This was Characterized by the development of agriculture, the domestication of animals, settlements or semi-permanent dwellings, and eventually the invention of pottery. Also, the stone tools were often made by grinding and polishing, rather than by chipping flakes.

• Chalcolithic Period 5000BC-3600BC
The Levant of the fourth millennium BC as scattered with numerous small farming communities. Agricultural activities were based on growing barley, white, lentils and fruit trees.

• The Bronze Age 3600/3500-2000BC
The Early Bronze Age (ca. 3600-2000BC) represents a time of fundamental social change in the southern Levant when the first fortified towns and Urban centers evolved. Since the 1930s scholars have linked advances in metallurgy with the emergence of urbanism and the rise of some of the earliest civilizations.

• Middle Bronze Age 2000-1550 BC
During the Middle Bronze Age (c. 1950-1550 BCE), people began to move around the Middle East to a far greater extent than before. Trading continued to develop between Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Palestine and Jordan, resulting in the refinement and spread of civilization and technology.

• late Bronze Age 1550-1200 BC
Ancient Egyptians expanded  towards the Levant, and turned large parts of Palestine to their mandate of what they called Canaan, as it was named at that time. It is not known until what extent the east of Jordan under  the Egyptian control,

• The Iron Age 1200-332BC
The Iron Age in Jordan was a time of gradual social, economic, and intellectual/artistic growth in at least five primary geographical territories known from ancient texts. These territories were the Jordan Valley, the northern plateau (from the Yarmuk to the Zarqa--usually associated with the Arameans); the central plateau around Amman (from the Zarqa to the Mujib--usually associated with the Ammonites); the south-central plateau (from the Mujib to the Hasa—usually associated with the Moabites); and the southern plateau and Araba (from the Hasa to Aqaba—usually associated with the Edomites.

• Hellenistic Period 332-63BC
Although the influence of Greek culture had been felt in Jordan previously, Alexander the Great ,conquest of the Middle East and Central Asia firmly consolidated the influence of Hellenistic culture. The Greeks founded new cities in Jordan, such as Umm Qays, Amman and Jarash.

• Nabataean Period 312 BC- 106 AD

The Nabataean Arab tribes spread north from the Arabian Peninsula into southern Jordan during the sixth century BC, however their first concrete mention in history was centuries later, in 312 BC, when they repelled the attack of Antigonos Monophthalmos, one of Alexander’s generals. This occurred at "Sela – the Rock", which is probably the mountainous stronghold of as-Sala‘ south of Tafila.

• Roman Period 63 BC- 324 AD
Pompey’s conquest of Jordan, Syria and Palestine in 63 BC inaugurated a period of Roman control which would last four centuries. In northern Jordan, the Greek cities of Philadelphia (Amman), Gerasa (Jarash), Gadara (Umm Qays), Pella and Arbila (Irbid) joined with other cities in Palestine and southern Syria to form the Decapolis League, a fabled confederation linked by bonds of economic and cultural interest.

• Byzantine Period 324- 636 AD
The Byzantine period dates from the year 324AD, when the Emperor Constantine I founded Constantinople (Istanbul) as the capital of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire. Constantine converted to the growing religion of Christianityin 333AD. In Jordan, however, the Christian community had developed much earlier: Pella had been a center of refuge for Christians fleeing persecution in Rome during the first century AD.

• The Umayyad Period 661- 750 AD
The Muslims began by founding a limited number of military garrisons. The area east of Jordan was given its present name el-Urdun, , under the early Moslim, though none of the very early military garrisons appeared to have been built here. A large part of the population already spoke Arabic, a fact which facilitated integration into the new empire, as well as numerous conversions to Islam. Under the Umayyad caliphs (from 661AD) the country was systematically developed by means of the desert castles. There are several of these which are remarkably well preserved in Jordan: Al-Mushattah, Al-Kharranah, Al-Qastal, Al-Tuba, Qusayr Amra and others. These were not so much residences for the caliphs who built them as they were administrative and agricultural centers meant to control and utilize the desert. Amman already functioned as, where a magnificent palace was built on the citadel hill.

Jordan was, at that time, in the heart of the Islam empire on the road between the capital Damascus and the holy cities of the Hijaz. The brilliant Umayyad civilization expressed itself not only in castles and mosques but also according to the latest findings ,urban life flourished in such places as Jarash, Pella, and Umm Al-Jimal, apparently no less intense than in downtown Amman.

• The AbbasidsPeriod 750- 969 AD
A powerful earthquake rocked Jordan in 747AD, destroying many buildings and perhaps contributing to the defeat of the Umayyads by the Abbasids three years later.

• Crusader Period 1099- 1291 AD

• The Ayyubid and Mamluk Period 1174- 1516 AD
Salah Eddin founded the Ayyubid dynasty, which ruled much of Syria, Egypt and Jordan for the next eighty years. In the year 1258 AD, an invasion of Mongolsswept across much of the Near East. The marauding invaders were eventually turned back in 1260 AD by the Mamluk Sultan Baybars, who fought a successful battle at Ayn Jalut. The Mamluks, who were from Central Asia and the Caucasus, seized power and ruled Egypt and later Jordan and Syria from their capital at Cairo.

• The Ottoman Period 1516- 1918 AD
The four centuries of Ottoman rule (1516-1918 AD) were a period of general stagnation in Jordan. The Ottomans were primarily interested in Jordan in terms of its importance to the pilgrimage route to Mecca al-Mukarrama. They built a series of square fortresses—at Qasr al-Dab’a, Qasr Qatraneh, and Qal’at Hasa—to protect pilgrims from the desert tribes and to provide them with sources of food and water.