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The Northern Jordan Valley

30 May 2010

The Jordan Times May 30th (see www.jordantimes.c0m/index.php?news=26973 ) … Archaeological finds in the northern Jordan Valley are causing experts to re-evaluate the pattern of civilisation. At Tabqet Fahel 90km N of Amman, the suggested site of ancient Pella, may have been occupied from the early Holocene to the Mamaluke era, and may have been integral to the cradle of civilisation. In the EB period (here dated 3600-2800BC for some reason – some 500 years earlier than previously dated) people moved from small villages into large towns and large urban centres developed. Until now it was expected such urban centres developed only after influence by cities and kingdoms in the east and the west but this was not so. Cities with walls existed at the same time as Sumerian cities were beginning to burgeon. The northern Jordan Valley appears to be as early and developed as Egypt and Mesopotamia – as well as Syria-Palestine. Pella was a busy and prosperous place before the Old Kingdom, it goes on, and copper was brought from Anatolia or Cyprus, it is thought. The fortunes of Pella ceased in 2800BC – urban civilisation came to an end. The site remained in use for a long time afterwards but was never anything more than a small town or village. The excavator speculates by saying a massive earthquake may have been responsible for the demise of the city of Pella and its hinterland – and places it between dynasty 2 and 3 (Egypt) when destruction levels are evident elsewhere in the Near East and beyond. This would coincide with the end of Early Dynastic I in Sumeria and end of EBI in Syria-Palestine. 

Note – it’s infuriating but the dating appears to have changed for some reason. The EB period was dated between 3000-2300BC, divided into 3 sections all ending in some kind of ‘event’ involving the destruction of some sites, the last one involving the destruction of a lot of sites. In the context of Syria-Palestine this is EBI, EBII and EBIII (defined as 3 phases of the Early Dynastic in Sumeria). In this article the EB is extended to embrace what was previously known as the Late Chalcolithic (copper age) that corresponds roughly with on the one hand, the Pre-dynastic period in Egypt and the Uruk phase in Sumeria. However, this is not entirely clear and it may simply represent some new arrangement of C14 dates, possibly using Bayesian methodology, that has raised the start of the EB from 3000 to 3600BC. There has been a tendency to raise dates around 3000BC by several hundred years in Europe (including Britain and Ireland)  which must have something to do with C14 methodology and calibration. The parameters should be quite clear as they are divided by spaced destruction levels and downturns virtually everywhere – which on tree ring evidence should be at roughly 3200-3000BC (a cooling of the climate). The Late Chalcolithic should date previous to then and the EB period thereafter – and it is highly confusing when some archaeologists work to a different timescale based on what is probably calibration estimates. Comments welcomed. 

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