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Atlas of Jordan

Myriam Ababsa

Chapter two - From the First Men’s Steps to the Hellenistic Age (-1.5 mya – 323 BC)

Ayn Ghazal. A 10,000 year-old Jordanian village

Zeidan Kafafi

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1The beginnings of the 10th millennium BCE witnessed the peak of hunter-gatherers villages. A substantial transformation occurred in the lives of these human societies and their ways of life in this period. This transformation was materialized by the abandoning a life of hunting, gathering and foraging, and the adoption of farming, taming animals, specialized production and settling in permanent villages.

2Ayn Ghazal witnessed the establishment of an organized agricultural society 10,000 years ago. It is located in the eastern part of Amman. This region represents a meeting point between the inhabitants of the mountainous regions in the west, and the Jordanian Badiya in the east. Hence this site played an important role in the communication and the interaction between the people of those two regions throughout several epochs. The Neolithic village of Ayn Ghazal was one of the most important sites in the Balqa’ mountains region (plate II.7).

3The name of the site, Ayn Ghazal (gazelle’s spring), is derived from the name of a wellspring from which the people in ancient and modern Amman took their drinking water for some time. The site extends over both banks of al-Zarqa’ river. It seems that this region was rich in gazelles; excavators found 13 gazelle horn cores in a room unearthed at Ayn Ghazal. Ayn Ghazal began as a farming village, with an area not exceeding 2 hectares. It developed and extended over time until it reached an area of 15 hectares between 7500 - 7000 BCE. Researchers suggest that it was populated by 2500 - 3000 people ca 7000 BCE, making it the largest village of its time in the region. It continued to be inhabited continuously for c. 3000 years. The archaeological material found at Ayn Ghazal indicates that its inhabitants had access to a wide range of local and exotic resources within geographically-extensive trade and social networks, and exhibited rich and complex ideological, symbolic and cultural practices.

Plate II.8  — Plaster statuary MPPNB Ayn Ghazal.

Plate II.8  — Plaster statuary MPPNB Ayn Ghazal.

4The excavated remains of Ayn Ghazal indicate architectural development and diversification throughout its several stages of settlement. Excavators recognized two main types of constructions: houses and religious buildings. In the eastern and northern portions of the site, excavators found buildings that, judging from their architectural styles, seem to be dedicated to religious rites. Researchers also found objects related to these practices, such as plastered skulls, masks, and human and animal representations. In 1983 and 1985, two sets of plaster statues, all representing human figures, were excavated. Since plaster is fragile, the first set of statues was sent to the British Archaeological Institute, and the second set to the Smithsonian Institute in New York, for restoration purposes. Conserved statues were returned to Jordan and can be seen in museums in Amman (plate II.8).

Clay « haltered calf » figurine, MPPNB Ayn Ghazal.

Clay « haltered calf » figurine, MPPNB Ayn Ghazal.

Stone « Mother » figurine, LPPNB/PPNC Ayn Ghazal.

Stone « Mother » figurine, LPPNB/PPNC Ayn Ghazal.

5Before the adoption of pottery, people in Ayn Ghazal utilized containers made of limestone, lime plaster, and other types of stone. Querns or hand mills, used to grind cereals, were made of basalt or limestone. C. 6500 BCE fired pottery became commonly used. Pottery types common to the occupants of Ayn Ghazal included pots, plates and cups used to cook, store or serve food.

6Although farming was the main economic activity at Ayn Ghazal, hunting continued to be important. People continued to manufacture arrowheads out of flint, in order to hunt animals. They also used flint to make other tools such as axes, adzes, knives, sickle blades, drills, and scrapers for skin or wood.


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