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Eastern Badia

Researchers Dig Through Layers of Time in Eastern Badia

 AMMAN — Caches of gazelle skulls and bones laid at the base of a standing stone as well as excavations revealing ever older layers of construction are some of the discoveries in Eastern Badia.

 A research team took to Eastern Badia between May 25 and June 22 of last year, at the Wisad Pools with two goals in mind. One of these included investigations into an architectural complex consisting of a house and an animal pen; the second was to complete the excavations of a building that had mostly been dug out in 2013 and 2014.

 The complex consists of a small building — probably a small house that was attached to a large oval animal pen, said veteran scholar Gary Rollefson, adding that there were several small rectilinear enclosures with low walls that may have served as activity areas whose functions are still uncertain.

 The complex is one of “several similar complexes concentrated in a small area, although specific details differed from complex to complex”, he added.

 Rollefson said it was also interesting to note that these clusters are far away from the water that would have accumulated seasonally in the pools at Wisad.

 According to the professor of anthropology from Whitman College in the US, one of the main reasons to focus on the complex was first to test the hypothesis that this kind of complex dated to the closing centuries of the Late Neolithic period, 6,900-5,000 BC.

 “Additionally, the arrangement of three or four house-and-pen complexes in each cluster suggested that together they made up an extended family economic unit,” which, if confirmed, could differ from earlier groups of people to the area.

 Excavations on the second site began in 2014 and, through a probe, uncovered 20-25cm of sediment that was thought to be culturally sterile before construction of the site’s walls. The building’s original floor was finally reached in 2018.

 The building is “one of the largest ever excavated in Eastern Badia, measuring 6.5m in interior diameter; the internal features [a concentration of very large grinding slabs, one door leading to a small walled ‘porch’ and a central standing stone] showed that the structure was uniquely complex as well”, Rollefson underlined.

 Moreover, a radiocarbon date from the lowest point reached in 2014 yielded a date of around 6515 BC, and the lower sediment should provide an even earlier date for the construction of the building, Rollefson claimed.

 He added that it now appears that the structure “may have been more communal in character, a place where related families gathered to process food, tan animal hides and produce stone tools and personal ornaments”.

 During the 2018 excavation season, researchers discovered that the building had been remodelled multiple times. They also discovered a central pillar that “probably served some ritual purpose for visitors to the structure, indicated by caches of gazelle skulls and bones placed at the base of the standing stone”, Rollefson said.

 The building at one point in time had doors added to it, as well as windows which for some reason were later taken out, he added.

 According to the anthropologist, the most surprising aspect of the season’s work was the determination that the red, gritty soil on which the walls were constructed was not culturally sterile. They were able to determine that there had been visits by even earlier Late Neolithic hunter-herders, who left behind shallow fire pits that were rich in charcoal.

 In the last few days of excavation, researchers discovered yet another floor, made of greenish basalt and not the standard dark gray-black slabs that cover the ground.

 Adding to the mystery of the site, pavement was found under the building’s earliest walls, “indicating that an earlier structure of even larger size had been built considerably earlier... Results of radiocarbon dating are eagerly anticipated,” the scholar concluded.