Reassessing the chronology of Biblical Edom:
new excavations and 14C dates from Khirbat en-Nahas (Jordan)

Thomas E. Levy, Russell B. Adams, Mohammad Najjar,
Andreas Hauptmann, James D. Anderson, Baruch Brandl,
Mark A. Robinson & Thomas Higham
2004 AD

(Reassessing the chronology of Biblical Edom, Thomas E. Levy, 2004 AD)

An international team of researchers show how high-precision radiocarbon dating is liberating us from chronological assumptions based on Biblical research. Surface and topographic mapping at the large copper-working site of Khirbat en-Nahas was followed by stratigraphic excavations at an ancient fortress and two metal processing facilities located on the site surface. The results were spectacular. Occupation begins here in the eleventh century BC and the monumental fortress is built in the tenth. If this site can be equated with the rise of the Biblical kingdom of Edom it can now be seen to: have its roots in local Iron Age societies; is considerably earlier than previous scholars assumed; and proves that complex societies existed in Edom long before the influence of Assyrian imperialism was felt in the region from the eighth - sixth centuries BC.

Keywords: Iron Age, Levant, Edom, copper-working, chronology, state formation


The archaeology of the Iron Age (c. 1200 - 586 BC) in the southern Levant (Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and adjacent areas) has been fraught with controversy ever since its nineteenth century beginnings primarily because it is linked with issues concerning the historicity of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. Dating events and processes of change during the "Biblical" or Iron Age periods has been particularly problematic. The recent application of high-precision radiocarbon dates to Iron Age archaeological strata offers a less biased approach for establishing a reliable chronology for the region and for assessing Biblical and ancient Near Eastern textual and archaeological data (Bruins et al 2003; Finkelstein & Piasetsky 2003b). The archaeological evidence for the appearance of Iron Age 'statelets' throughout the southern Levant at the end of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1200 BC) is interwoven with ancient Near Eastern and Biblical texts (Joffe 2002). Some of these new polities include ancient Israel, Judah, Philistia, and Phoenicia located west of the Jordan River; Aram in Syria and the Transjordan polities of Edom, Moab and Ammon east of the Jordan River.

1 Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0532, USA (Email:

2 Department of Anthropology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4L9

3 Department of Antiquities of Jordan, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Amman, Jordan

4 Deutsches Bergbau -Museum, D - 44787 Bochum, Germany

5 Anthropology Program, North Island College, Vancouver Island, BC, Canada

6 Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem, Israel

7 Environmental Archaeology Unit, Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Oxford OX1 3PW, UK

8 Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology and History of Art, University of Oxford, Oxford 1 3QJ, UK

Received: 15 January 2004; Accepted: 11 May 2004


Reassessing the chronology of Biblical Edom

The controversy over the dating of certain Levantine Iron Age archaeological deposits was recently emphasised in an article in Science by A. Mazar and colleagues (Bruins, van der Plicht & Mazar 2003; Finkelstein & Piasetzky 2003a; Holden 2003), in which they argued for a linkage between the Iron Age archaeological evidence at Tel Rehov, historical Egyptian events and Biblical texts during the tenth century BC - a period traditionally tied to the reign of King Solomon. As this "tenth century BC debate" revolves around the historicity of biblical figures such as David and Solomon, the discussions are heated and extend beyond scientific dialogue into the media (Bunimovitz & Faust 2001; Finkelstein 1999; Finkelstein 2003a, 2003b; Mazar 1999, 2001).

The work presented here moves away from correlation with historical figures, and focuses on more general processes of social evolutionary change in one of the less well-known Iron Age polities in the region. The paper reports high precision radiocarbon dates from stratified excavations at the major Iron Age metal production centre of Khirbat en-Nahas. These have proved to be of key importance for re-assessing and clarifying the evolution of the Edomite kingdom known from biblical sources (Bartlett 1992).

Khirbat en-Nahas - the context

From the Early Bronze Age (c. 3600-2000 BC), the Faynan district was a centre of copper metal production that ended around 1950 BC at about the time that copper from the island of Cyprus began to dominate the eastern Mediterranean and Near East (Adams 1999, 2002; Hauptmann 2000; Levy et al. 2002). During the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (c. 2000 - 1200 BC) Cyprus was the main supplier of copper in this region. At the end of the Late Bronze Age there was a general societal collapse around the eastern Mediterranean basin causing the breakdown of many complex societies such as the Mycenaeans, Hittites and others. This collapse probably promoted a 'power vacuum' that led to the emergence of the small Levantine Iron Age 'statelets' noted above. The social dislocation at the end of the Late Bronze Age may also have disrupted Cypriot metal production (Muhly, Maddin & Karageorghis 1982) and long-distance trade in copper and may have stimulated renewed interest in the copper ore deposits on the Levantine mainland in areas such as Faynan (Knauf & Lenzen 1987).

Recent excavations at the Iron Age copper production centre of Khirbat en-Nahas, located in the ancient mining district of Faynan (Biblical Edom), offer a new data set for reviewing the early Iron Age (c. 1200 -1000 BC) as well as later developments in the tenth-ninth centuries BC, both in Transjordan and in the southern Levant as a whole. Until recently, it was assumed that the establishment of settled populations in the region and the establishment of the Kingdom of Edom occurred only in the eighth through sixth centuries BC and that the rise of the Edomite state was linked to the establishment of the Assyrian empire (Bienkowski 2001; Herr & Najjar 2001; Stern 2001). This view developed as a result of the limited archaeological excavations in the region, which have favoured sites on the plateau relatively far from the copper ore sources in the lowlands of Edom. Architectural similarities with


T.E. Levy, R.B. Adams, M. Najjar, A. Hauptmann, J.D. Anderson, B. Brandl, M.A. Robinson & T. Higham

palatial architecture found at plateau sites such as Busayra (the capital of the seventh - sixth century BC Edomite kingdom) and Assyrian palaces have also contributed to this assumption (Bienkowski & Bennett 2003), as have the absence of radiocarbon dating for the highland Iron Age sites. In fact, the dating of pottery sequences from the Edomite plateau are tied to the seventh and sixth centuries BC largely by a single bulla, or clay impression, found at Umm el-Biyara (Bienkowski 1990). This clay impression bears the name 'Qos gabar king of Edom', an historical figure mentioned in Assyrian records dating to the time of Esarhaddon (c. 673 BC) and Ashurbanipal (c. 667 BC) (Bennet 1966). As a result, the entire corpus of Iron Age pottery from the Edomite plateau represents a 'floating chronology' that is not fixed to a stratified archaeological sequence or tied to either a series of radiocarbon dates or a sequence of datable epigraphic artefacts.

In this paper, we present the recent excavation results from a major stratified Iron Age Edomite lowland site that demonstrate significant settlement and copper production activities well before the seventh and sixth centuries BC based on high precision radiocarbon dates. These dates demonstrate a much earlier Iron Age occupation in Edom dating to the twelfth to ninth centuries BC, when construction of massive fortifications and industrial scale metal production activities took place. Due to the relatively small number of new dates published here (ten) our report does not attempt to link the new radiocarbon data with specific historical events or personages. However, given the current debate concerning radiocarbon dating and the Iron Age of the southern Levant (Holden 2003), it is clear that the new data presented here demonstrate that a complex Iron Age polity existed in the Edomite lowlands much earlier than previously assumed. By pushing the Iron Age chronology of Edom back into much earlier phases of the Iron Age, the role of ancient powers such as Assyria in the social evolution of the small Iron Age statelets of the southern Levant is diminished, making it necessary to consider local social evolutionary developments as the catalyst of political change.

Khirbat en-Nahas - the site

Khirbat en-Nahas (area = c. 10 ha) is the largest Iron Age copper-smelting site in the southern Levant. The site is situated in an area where numerous outcrops of copper ore were mined in the Saharo -Arabian desert zone, at the eastern margin of the Araba/Arava valley that separates modern Jordan and Israel. The amount of slag left by the Iron Age metallurgists at the centre of Khirbat en-Nahas as evidence for a mass production of copper (c. 50 000 to 60 000 tons) should be considered in close context with Iron Age metallurgical activities at the nearby sites of Khirbat Faynan and Khirbet el-Jariyeh, where roughly another 40 000 tons of slags were produced (Hauptmann 2000). In comparison, contemporaneous copper production at Timna was much smaller (Rothenberg 1999), while New Kingdom activities at Bir Nasib, on the Sinai Peninsula, possibly left another 100 000 tons of slag (Rothenberg 1987). Khirbat en-Nahas was first discovered at the turn of the nineteenth century by the Czech orientalist, Alois Musil (Musil 1907), visited by the German researcher F. Frank (Frank 1934), but made famous by the American archaeologist, Nelson Glueck in the 1930s (Glueck 1935). In the early 1990s the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum (DBM) undertook archaeo-metallurgical investigations in the Faynan district (Hauptmann 2000), and a number of slag mounds were sectioned at Khirbat en-Nahas to study slags and other metallurgical debris for reconstructing smelting processes and to fingerprint the Iron Age copper from this site for further provenance


Reassessing the chronology of Biblical Edom

Figure 1 Aerial view of Khirbat en-Nahas with the Iron Age fortress in the foreground, and numerous other buildings and smelting installations (slag mounds) visible on the site surface. Photo courtesy of ROHR Productions (Nicosia).

studies. In addition, as part of the DBM archaeo-metallurgical investigations in Faynan (Hauptmann 2000), a number of slag mounds were sectioned for palaeobotanical and fuel resource studies (Engel 1993, 1996) and Volkmar Fritz excavated one building at the site (Fritz 1996). Khirbat en-Nahas is unusually rich in archaeological remains visible on the site surface including fortifications, towers, buildings, metallurgical installations and mounds of slag representing repeated metallurgical activities (Figure 1).

Recent investigations at Khirbat en-Nahas

Since the late 1990s, the Jabal Hamrat Fidan Project team has established a strong logistic base in the research area, developed a GIS-based recording system (Levy et al. 2001a; Levy et al. 2001b) and has carried out major surveys in the surrounding Wadi Guwayb and Wadi Jariyeh drainage systems and excavations at Khirbat en-Nahas, (which is the part of the project considered here). Based on surface observations and pottery, Glueck long ago (1940) suggested that the fortress at Khirbat en-Nahas dated to the beginning of the Iron II period (tenth century BC). Later scholars doubted this early date, and most have ignored the presence of this fortress in assessing the history of ancient Edom. However, following in Glueck's footsteps, McDonald's SGNAS Survey identified it as an entirely Iron Age site (MacDonald 1992), clearly logging the surface pottery from the site to the Iron Age I and II (ibid. Plate 18: 1-10), and also noted the presence of Negebite Ware at the site. Surface mapping of the Khirbat en-Nahas site in 2002 revealed over 100 building complexes (Figure 2). The further aims of the 2002 season were to excavate and sample specific areas with a view to determining site function and the dates of occupation, guided by structures visible on the


T.E. Levy, R.B. Adams, M. Najjar, A. Hauptmann, J.D. Anderson, B. Brandl, M.A. Robinson & T. Higham

site surface. These were: the large fortress (Area A, Figure 2), a building linked to metal production (Area S), and one of the slag mounds representative of ancient smelting activities at the site (Area M).

Samples for radiocarbon dating were obtained from stratified contexts in each of these areas. As Khirbat en-Nahas is primarily a copper production site, there is a wealth of charcoal. Samples were identified using low and high power incident light microscopy at magnifications of up to x400 on pieces fractured as appropriate. The majority of the charcoal found in the gate, building and slag mound was of Tamarix sp. (tamarisk). A similar predominance of tamarisk charcoal was found in the slag mound investigated by the DBM (Hauptmann 2000).

Tamarix jordanis is still the Figure 2 Topographic map of Khirbat en-Nahas with fortress and buildings visible most common tree/shrub that on the site surface.

grows in the local wadi environment adjacent to Khirbat en-Nahas. It is a resilient plant that can tolerate extreme temperature fluctuation and brackish water. It rapidly regenerates after being cut back. Local stands of tamarisk could plausibly have provided a sustainable annual harvest of young branches for making charcoal to supply the Iron Age smelting industry.

Unfortunately, there was a paucity of 'short life' samples such as grain or fruit remains found in the 2002 excavations, as might be expected on an industrial, as opposed to a settlement site. To remedy this problem the two outermost and therefore the youngest rings of each charcoal sample were carefully removed and used for AMS dating. It seems likely that wood for charcoal-making would not have been dried for longer than a year and that there would have been a very high turn over of charcoal on a metal production site. Thus, the problem of 'old wood' seems unlikely with the Khirbat en-Nahas radiocarbon samples reported on here due to our sampling strategy and the wood harvesting policy that can be assumed for the Iron Age Levant.

The dates obtained range from the twelfth to the ninth century BC and are listed in Table 1. We have utilised the most accurate procedures made available by 14C dating: two-year organic


Reassessing the chronology of Biblical Edom

samples from primary archaeological contexts, high-precision dating and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) methods. The calibration precision in historical years was improved by applying a Bayesian approach to the calibration (Buck et al. 1996). We used the calibration programme BCal (Buck et al. 1996) and the INTCAL 98 calibration curve (Stuiver et al. 1998) to model the superimposed radiocarbon determinations from the Khirbat en-Nahas excavations. BCal enables relative archaeological a priori information (relative stratigraphy and archaeological provenance) to be used in association with radiocarbon determinations, within a Bayesian framework. Despite our approach, certain key contexts produced wide ranges in calibrated age. Further dating work is planned to improve precision and enable a consideration of specific historical issues (Levy, Adams & Najjar (eds.) in prep).

Results of excavation and sampling

The Fortress (Area A)

In order to clarify the dating of the fortress and obtain an 'architectural signature' of the fortress (c. 73 x 73 m) pointing to its date and cultural affinity, roughly half of the western gate complex was excavated by our team in 2002 (Figure 3). The gate faces west and the Araba/ Arava valley - the main transportation corridor in the region. A sequence of four main strata was defined and is summarised here in order of deposition. Stratum



n gi




e th


Figure 3 Excavations at the gate ofthe Iron Age Fortress at Khirbat en-Nahas. A4b

Stratum A4a, above it, corresponds to a layer of metallurgical waste below the gate structure foundations. Sample OxA-12365 (Table 1) came from Locus 95 that represents a thin deposit of soil and ash over the bedrock at the NE chamber of the gate structure and indicates that shortly prior to the construction of the gate, metallurgical activities took place at the site. The calibrated date for Stratum A4a shows the highest probability associated with the range 1130 - 970 BC, or twelfth to tenth centuries BC. Our Bayesian analysis constrains the period prior to the deposition of this stratum as earlier than at least 935 BC (i.e. tenth century BC), with a modal value (the value with the highest probability) of 1120 BC (i.e. twelfth century). It is important to note that this strata pre-dates the construction of the gate and reflects metallurgical and occupation activities before the construction of this monumental gateway.

Stratum A3 represents the original stage of the fortified wall perimeter, including the gate structure. Due to the intensive industrial utilisation (Strata A2A-B) that post-dated the


Reassessing the chronology of Biblical Edom

defensive stage, very little remained from that stage apart from the actual architectural frame and some associated surfaces. While only the northern inner part of the gate structure has been excavated (Figure 3), the outline of the whole structure can be discerned on the surface, as well as through comparison with other known Iron Age desert fortifications. Sample OxA-12366 came from L. 94 (Table 1), a surface connected with the original gate structure. The sample came from a partially packed reddish-brown surface between metallurgical industrial waste and an ashy deposit. Ceramics, including a partially restorable storage vessel, and some slag were also found here. The calibrated date for this stratum is not precise as yet (1005 - 870 BC).

Stratum A2b in the fortress gate represents the main layer associated with copper production in this area and also coincides with the period when the gate went out of use. During this period the doorways to the guardrooms were sealed and the chambers used to house small smelters for processing ore. Sample OxA-12367 (Table 1) came from Locus 92 that represents a thick and dense layer containing a very large volume of copper industrial waste. Large quantities of slag, several tuyere pipes and many fragments of others, copper slag, a fragment of a copper pin, and other material related to metal production were found here. Ceramics, including a restorable storage vessel, were also found. The calibrated date for this stratum as modelled in BCal is 920 - 815 BC, with a modal value of 885 BC.

Stratum A2a represents a residual phase of metal production around the gateway and within the two gate chambers that were excavated. A number of metallurgical installations were found over the main layer (Stratum A2b) of industrial waste that took place after the gate went out of use. Sample OxA-12368 (Table 1) came from Locus 61, a semi-circular installation, probably for industrial use, by the corner between the southern wall of the gateway complex (W7) and the western casemate wall. The calibrated date for this stratum is 990-790 BC, with a modal value of 835 BC. Our Bayesian analysis suggests that the end date for this stratum postdates 885 BC, with 810 BC associated with the highest probability.

Stratum A1b consists of a thick layer of stone collapse accumulating around the edges of the gate. Above this, Stratum A1a represents the latest occupation when stone collapse from the fortification was used to build a series of corrals on the west side of the fort. Due to the shallow nature of Strata A1a-1b and the possibility of mixing, no radiocarbon determinations were taken here.

The new excavations in the gateway of the Iron Age fortress thus place its construction at the beginning of the tenth century BC. The perimeter of the gate structure measures 16.5x10 m and follows the plan of the four-chamber gate that is well known from numerous contemporary Iron Age sites in Israel/Palestine (Mazar 1990), including the known desert forts in the Araba/Arava region, such as Hatzeva (Cohen & Yisrael 1995) and Tell el-Kheleifeh (Glueck 1965) . The gate is somewhat smaller than four-chamber gates found in Israel (Herzog 1992) but this can be expected since Khirbat en-Nahas is an industrial site, while the Israelite gates belong to towns.

Metal-working building (Area S)

The excavation of the selected structure (Figure 4) revealed a four-room building c. 6.5 x 11.0 m associated with four main strata. Stratum S4 corresponds to the earliest occupation phase identified stratigraphically at Khirbat en-Nahas. A radiocarbon date (OxA-12169; Table 1) was


T.E. Levy, R.B. Adams, M. Najjar, A. Hauptmann, J.D. Anderson, B. Brandl, M.A. Robinson & T. Higham

obtained from Locus 356, a square installation possibly linked to cooking activities, providing a calibrated date for this stratum of 1260 -1240 BC and 1215 -1020 BC (with multimodal values) or twelfth - eleventh centuries BC. The Bayesian calibration model indicates a highest probability that occupation here must have been prior to 1190 BC.

Above it lays the thick industrial waste layer in Stratum S3. The entire building sits unconformably on this layer, which represents a major industrial phase in this part of the site prior to the construction of the four-room building. A radiocarbon sample (OxA-12342; Table 1) collected from this layer is calibrated to 1055 - 915 BC indicating that stratum S3 is contemporary with the pre-fortress gate metal working horizon (Stratum A4a) and the main use phase of the fortress gate (Stratum A3).

Stratum S2b represents the main construction phase of the four-room building. One of these rooms functioned as an open-air courtyard. A radiocarbon sample (OxA-12168) was obtained from Locus 336, a courtyard located on the east site of the building. While the main activities carried out here were the re-melting of copper and slag crushing, many artefacts came to light including hammerstones, dimpled hammerstones, pestles, polishing stones, grinding stones, tuyere pipe fragments, partially processed copper, copper ore, and slag with copper. The calibrated date for this stratum is 970 - 830 BC, with modal value of 895 BC.

Stratum S2a represents a period of architectural expansion of the main Stratum S2b occupation phase. A series of walls were added to the four-room building during this phase that resulted in the addition of courtyards and work areas to this structure. These walls also helped contain the large quantities of slag and crushed slag accumulated outside the building. A radiocarbon sample (OxA-12274) was obtained from this stratum from fill material (Locus 331) resting directly

Figure 4 Four-room building associated with metal production at Khirbat en-Nahas.


Reassessing the chronology of Biblical Edom

above a surface in Room 2, which may have served as a courtyard during this period of expansion. Large numbers of groundstone artefacts were found here including: grinding slabs, shallow mortars, rounded and dimpled hammerstones, polishing stones, and a possible stone roof support. Large amounts of copper metal (some of which contained iron), partially processed copper, slag with copper, copper ore, some furnace and tuyere pipe fragments were recovered. These finds suggest that secondary melting activities and possibly final metal production may have taken place in this courtyard. The calibrated radiocarbon date for this stratum is 900-765 BC (modal value 815 BC) or late ninth century BC.

Stratum S 1 consisted of the surface remains of a large sub-rectangular enclosure that lacked any partition walls. No radiocarbon dates were processed from this stratum due to the possibility of contamination and mixing.

Slag heap in Area M

The raison d'etre for the existence of Khirbat en-Nahas, in one of the driest regions of southern Jordan, was its control of Iron Age copper production in the Faynan district. Excavation of one of the slag mounds located in Area M revealed seven production layers (determined by layering of large tap slags) in the top c. 1.0 m of the mound. We estimate that most of the slag mounds at Khirbat en-Nahas are at least 5.0 m in depth. Using conventional excavation methods, during our seven week excavation we were only able to excavate to a depth of c. 1.0 m in the 2.0 x 5.0 m excavation unit. The radiocarbon dates (OxA-12437 and 12436; Table 1) obtained from two of these layers are calibrated to 910 - 886 BC and 829 - 801 BC respectively. This places the latest smelting activities on this mound in the late tenth and ninth centuries BC. The DBM sampling of three other slag mounds produced a total of eight radiocarbon dates, which are in broad agreement with these results (Hauptmann 2000; see Table 1).

Datable artefacts from the excavations

Several artefacts were found in association with later contexts which, although probably residual, corroborate the early Iron Age (c. 1200 -1000 BC) date of the first occupation. For example, a leaf-shaped metal arrowhead (B. 7559, L. 344) in Stratum S3, and two scarabs from Strata 1 and 2a in Room 4 of the Area S building are especially significant. The partially broken 'walking sphinx' scarab (Figure 5.1) originally included the now headless body of a royal sphinx on top of a nb sign that served as an exergue, and apparently a hieroglyph that is now lost. The closest parallels (Hall 1913; Matouk 1977) nos. 104, 342 [No. 485], 384 [No. 587]) have been dated to the New Kingdom and could therefore fit with the first half of the twelfth century BC. The second scarab (Figure 5.2) belongs to a well-known abbreviated sub-group of Iron I scarabs with a chariot scene. It depicts an archer, a horse with raised tail, a crouching horned animal, and another human figure. Although its parallels are generally dated to the Iron I period, a more accurate time span would be between the mid-twelfth and mid-tenth centuries BC. Both of these scarabs were found in fills in the same area above Locus 356 where the earliest radiocarbon date was obtained for Stratum S4. Recently, S. Munger (2003) argued that the chariot motif scarabs could be linked to the Pharaoh Siamun (c. 960 BC). But given that most scarabs in both Egypt and the southern Levant are not


T.E. Levy, R.B. Adams, M. Najjar, A. Hauptmann, J.D. Anderson, B. Brandl, M.A. Robinson & T. Higham

Figure 5 Scarabs from Area S, Khirbat en-Nahas. 1) Walking Sphinx, 2) Chariot, Archer or Hunting Scene.

found in situ, we are more cautious and suggest that the ones found at Khirbat en-Nahas simply provide a terminus post quem for an early Iron Age occupation.

Initial observations on the pottery corpus suggest that much of the pottery should be taken as very early Iron Age II, and dated to the tenth-to-ninth centuries, although there are slight indications that some of the material may be earlier and dated to the Iron Age I, of the twelfth -to-eleventh centuries. Collared-rim jars, large jugs, carinated bowls and monochrome and bichrome ring-painted bowls dominate the local assemblage. Included in the local assemblage are a large number of hand-made bowls and holemouth jars that have often been referred to in other reports as Negebite Ware, and taken as indications of an early date. In the context of Khirbat en-Nahas they are clearly associated with local production since they have slag temper, and are not a useful tool for dating. There are however a significant number of other pieces which add clarity to the assemblage, including imported wares, which include a significant number of 'Midianite' monochrome and bichrome painted vessels and Cypro-Phoenician Black on Red ware. The 'Midianite' pottery (Figure 6) is of particular interest since there is significant variation in this pottery, which includes a number of high-quality creamed slipped, bichrome painted pieces probably from the Hijaz (north-west Saudi Arabia) and most likely from Qurayah on the basis of the fabric. The dating of the Midianite ware is still problematic since although it starts as early as the fourteenth century the evidence for the end of the production of this pottery is not yet well defined. The technological study of the 'Midianite' pottery is in progress and may add further clarification to provenience.


Reassessing the chronology of Biblical Edom

Figure 6 Selection of 'Midianite' pottery from Areas A (1-4, 6-8) and S (5, 7, 7), Khirbat en-Nahas.

The presence of 'Midianite' and Qurayah ware pottery found in both the gate and four-room building taken together with the Walking Sphinx scarab may be an indication of activities at Khirbat en-Nahas as early as the twelfth century BC.


The excavations at Khirbat en-Nahas, the largest Iron Age copper production centre in the southern Levant, have provided the first stratified radiocarbon dates from the Biblical region of Edom. As can be seen in Figure 7 in conjunction with the late Iron I small finds described above, there are two main phases of metal production: in the twelfth - eleventh centuries BC and during the tenth - ninth centuries BC. These new data necessitate a re-examination of the role of the lowlands in the control of metal production during the rise of the Edomite


T.E. Levy, R.B. Adams, M. Najjar, A. Hauptmann, J.D. Anderson, B. Brandl, M.A. Robinson & T. Higham

kingdom. The new dates and the range of artefacts recently found at the site, such as architecture, ceramics, scarabs, and arrowheads indicate that Iron Age secondary state formation in Edom was much earlier than previously assumed. The key to understanding the rise of the Biblical kingdom of Edom may lie in the copper ore-rich lowlands, rather than the highland plateau where most excavations have been conducted to date. The emergence of the Edomite kingdom was not contingent on the region having been dominated by the neo-Assyrian empire during the eighth and seventh BC. State formation more likely began several centuries earlier, rooted in local processes of social evolution and interaction amongst the smaller Iron Age 'statelets' of the southern Levant (Edom, Moab, Ammon, Israel, Judah, Philistia, etc.).

Figure 7 Radiocarbon likelihoods from Khirbat en-Nahas, Fortress (Area A), Metal production building (Area S) and Slag mound (Area M); figure generated using OxCal 3.6.


This radiocarbon dating project was carried out while T.E. Levy (TEL) held a Skirball fellowship at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Yarnton Manor (February - July 2003). The archaeological field research is part of the Jabal Hamrat Fidan expedition, a joint University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Antiquities of Jordan (DOAJ) project directed by TEL (senior PI), R.B. Adams (co-PI) and M. Najjar (co-director). It is affiliated with the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) and the American Center for Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman, Jordan. We are grateful to the Director of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, Dr Fawwaz al-Khraysheh for his support and Dr Pierre Bikai, Director of ACOR for his helpful advice. We are grateful to the C. Paul Johnson Family Charitable Foundation (Chicago and Napa, California) and the UCSD Judaic Studies Program who awarded grants for this project. We would also like to thank the field and lab supervisors of the 2002 Khirbat en-Nahas excavations - Yoav Arbel, Elizabeth Monroe, Lisa Soderbaum, Adolfo Muniz, Neil Smith and and their assistants Vicky Sears, Sarah Malena and Beccah Landmann for their hard work in the field, and Alina Levy for assistance in the lab in Oxford. Thanks also to the student participants in the 2002 UCSD Middle East Archaeological Field School whose hard work made the project a success, and the Bedouin villagers of Qurayqira for their hospitality.


Reassessing the chronology of Biblical Edom


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