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The Iron 1 Western Defense System at Tell El-Umeiri, Jordan

By Douglas R. Clark

Click here to see accompanying image #1
Click here to see accompanying image #2

Tell el-Umeiri lies in the foothills along the northern edge of the fertile Madaba Plains of central Transjordan half way between Hesban and Amman.[1] Located in the territory of ancient Ammon, its history is checkered by conflicts with surrounding peoples, some of whose devastating incursions have left, to the archaeologist's unending and perverse delight, extensive layers of destruction debris.

Umeiri's local water source is the only one between Madaba and Amman and is located adjacent to the tell, just across the road. This water source, ancient agriculture (especially viticulture) on surrounding hillsides and wadi bottoms, and sixteen acres of tell have supported occupation at the site at least since the Early Bronze period. The aerial photo looking northwest belies somewhat the 60 meters of vertical rise which characterizes the tell. In the past, this rise simplified the task of protecting Umeiri's inhabitants. The focus of this article is the western defense system and associated buildings, the top of which one can almost make out at the western-most edge of the mound and which is exposed by a trench that excavators have cut into the western slope.

[Editor's note: BA has given the follow-ing presentation of Tell el-Umeiri's Iron 1 defense system the character of a "slide show." I very much appreciate Dr. Clark's willingness to permit this novel layout. Moreover, I hope the reader will find that the presentation successfully communicates both the thrill embodied in unearthing this impressive fortification system and its substantive contribution to our knowledge of Palestine's tumultuous and pivotal early Iron Age.]

Younker, R.W., Geraty, L.T., Herr, L.G., and LaBianca, O.S.

1990 The Joint Madaba Plains Project: A Preliminary Report of the 1989 Season, Including the Regional Survey and Excavations at El-Dreijat, Tell Jawa, and Tell el-Umeiri (June 19 to August 8, 1989). Andrews University Seminary Studies 28:5-52.