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date: 09 December 2019


  • Peter Dorrell


Site of an early Neolithic settlement on the east side of the Wadi al-Arabah, not far from Petra in the southern part of the Dead Sea rift valley, Jordan. The site is on a shelf of the escarpment, some 400 m below the Arabian desert plateau. Although the site had been occupied in the Natufian period (c. 10,000 bc), it is chiefly important for the light it throws on the development of sedentary village life and agriculture from the last quarter of the 7th millennium bc to the middle of the 6th. Its unbroken sequence from round to rectangular buildings is also of great interest in the development of domestic architecture during this period. Beidha was excavated by Diana Kirkbride during the 1960s and in 1982 to 1983. Finds are in the Jordanian Archaeological Museum in Amman.

Throughout the Neolithic period, building was in stone, and nearly all rooms were semi-subterranean, cut down by at least 0.5 m or more. In the earliest phases rooms were roughly circular, 3 to 4 m in diameter, and clustered in groups with common walls built by infilling between series of wooden uprights. The rooms had central post-holes, and there is evidence of rafters and of the interiors having been plastered overall. At this time a retaining wall was built round the village. In the following phase the circular rooms were often free-standing and built without the uprights. Subsequently rooms became semi-rectangular, with walls gently curved in plan, and finally completely rectangular. During these later phases walls were carefully laid out and well built, and floors and walls were smoothly plastered, with the plaster curved up between the two; many had red-painted dados. A new type of building appeared at this time, consisting of corridors 6 to 7 m long with shorter passages or chambers opening on either side. The thick walls may have supported upper storeys. As well as domestic structures there are workshops, in which a range of artefacts were manufactured, and what appear to be ceremonial buildings....

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