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In closed military zone, Tell Damiyah archaeological site stands at crossroads

By Saeb Rawashdeh - Apr 03,2017 - Last updated at Apr 03,2017

An archaeological team led by Zeidan Kafafi and Lucas Petit, the Dutch curator from the Near Eastern department in the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities, undertook an excavation in Tell Damiyah (Photo courtesy of Zeidan Kafafi)

AMMAN — Located strategically on the Jordanian-Palestinian border in the central Jordan Valley, and at the confluence of the Zarqa and Jordan rivers, Tell Damiyah has long stood at the crossroads between north and south, and east and west, a professor explained at a recent talk.

Zeidan Kafafi was speaking at the lecture “Preliminary Results of the Tell Damiyah Excavation”, held recently at the German Protestant Institute for Archaeology (GPIA) in Amman.

Kafafi, a professor of archaeology at Yarmouk University in Irbid and author of over 200 scholarly publications on Near Eastern Archaeology, opened a series of lectures organised by GPIA titled “Iron Age period in Jordan and its bordering regions”.

The archeologist explained that reaching Tell Damiyah is not a simple process, as it is located in a closed military zone and it is prohibited to reach it without permission from military authorities. 

Despite the challenges, last year an archaeological team, led by Kafafi and Lucas Petit, the Dutch curator from the Near Eastern department in the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities, undertook an excavation. 

Tell Damiyah has been identified by most scholars as Adama, the scholar said, adding that Adama is considered an important royal town near one of the few fords over the Jordan River. 

The Egyptian King Shoshenq I mentioned in Karnak how his armies destroyed Tell Damiyah, Kafafi outlined.

The most extensively unearthed occupation phase on the summit, he continued, has been provisionally dated to the Iron Age II, around 700 BC. 

“Pottery pots, jewelry items, human and animal figurines, stamps and cylindrical stamps, scarabs and metal objects were excavated at the site,” the archaeologist noted.

A two-headed horse and rider figurines, decorated with paint on the white coating, were found in between the sherds, Kafafi noted, underlining that “these figurines were most likely standing inside the cultic stand just before they both fell off the podium”.

Furthermore, three other equine figurines were found nearby, the professor said.

These Late Iron Age figurines have many parallels on both sides of the Jordan Valley, in the western hill countries, as well as in the Ammonite region, the scholar outlined, stressing that two-headed horse figurines are more often found in Cyprus, while there are only a few examples from the Levant , such as at Beth Oula and Khirbet as-Sallah.

In one of the Persian-Hellenistic pits that cut through the floor of the sanctuary, a second two-headed figurine was found at Tell Damiyah, Kafafi pointed out.

The site was populated during the Iron Age II, but due to the small excavated area of the site the research cannot give exact information on the population during the Iron Age, the archaeologist stressed, noting that the all excavated Iron Age II material indicated that the site had a religious and trade function, rather than being a large city.

“It might be argued, until larger area and earlier strata become uncovered, that no information might be said about a declination of the population,” the scholar underlined.

During the Hellenistic period the site was used as a trade centre and a cemetery, Kafafi explained, adding that no archaeological finds from the Roman period were encountered at Tell Damiyah.

However, in the period of the Byzantine Empire Tell Damiyah was used as a cemetery.


“We are planning to go back in 2018 to open all re-back [refilled] squares and excavate at several areas on the summit of the Tell to clear unanswered questions,” Kafafi underlined.

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