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PEF AGM LECTURE 7th JUNE 2018: Batrawy in the 3rd Millennium BC Jordan & the Concept of City in the Southern Levant

Lorenzo Nigro – Sapienza University Rome



4pm, 7th June 2018, BP Lecture Theatre, British Museum

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Poster PEF AGM Lecture 7th June 2018.pdf

The definition of ‘urbanisation’ and ‘city’, and how if at all we can recognise these concepts in the archaeological record in the 3rd Millennium BC southern Levant, has long been a matter of debate, and there has been some scepticism as to whether the concept is present in Jordan at this early date. Even the successful definition by R. Schaub “walled-town culture”, which he coined after the excavation of Bab edh-Dhra’, was sometimes questioned.
Thirteen seasons of systematic excavations (2005-2017), surveys and studies by the Sapienza University of Rome at the 3rd Millennium BC fortified site of Khirbet al-Batrawy in North-Central Jordan have uncovered an articulated defensive system, a temple, and especially a monumental burnt building (ranked “palace”) with furnishings and goods inside, including a hoard of copper axes, a bear skin and a gemstone necklace, which hint at many features of an Early Bronze Age city-state.
The excavations of the Palace provided a large set of stratified materials useful for putting forward an updated description of the peculiarities of urbanism in Jordan during Early Bronze Age II-III (3000-2300 BC).
Control over raw materials distribution and long-distance trade with Egypt, Arabia, Syria, and Mesopotamia, a particularly strong relationship with Egypt, spreading innovations (the introduction of the potter’s wheel for example), ceramic specialization, labour organization, the administration of a labour force and a territory and its natural resources, are all elements in evidence at the site, suggesting a sophisticated urban centre which can be reasonably described as a ‘city state’.

Photo: The excavations at Khirbet al Batrawy, Jordan. Courtesy of Lorenzo Nigro

Lorenzo Nigro is Professor of Near Eastern and Phoenician Punic Archaeology in the Department of Oriental Studies at Sapienza University of Rome, with 25 experience as a field archaeologist in the Near East and Mediterranean.  Since 2004 He is also the director of Sapienza University Archaeological Expedition to Palestine & Jordan  conducting projects at the sites of Tell es-Sultan (ancient Jericho), Tell Abu Zarad (ancient Tappuah), and Bethlehem in Palestine; and Khirbet al-Batrawy, a 3rd millennium BC city in Jordan. Since 2013 he has been the Director of the Museum of the Ancient Near East Egypt and the Mediterranean of Sapienza University, which is now housed in the Rectorate Palace. His studies address pre-classical societies in the Levant and the Mediterranean ranging from architecture to metallurgy, from pottery to art, with a major focus on contextual archaeology, as well as on historical and cultural synchronization and conceptualization of the Levantine and Mediterranean civilization.
Since 2002 he has directed the Sapienza University Expedition to Motya, the Phoenician colony in Western Sicily, where he has excavated the Sacred Area of the Kothon, the Acropolis, the Tophet and the city-walls.

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