Numeirah -- By: William H. Shea

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 01:4 (Autumn 1988)
Article: Numeirah
Author: William H. Shea


William H. Shea*

*William H. Shea, Ph.D., M.D., works with the Biblical Research Inst. in Washington, D.C. He is also adjunct professor at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Mich.

The archaeological survey of the Ghor (valley or plain) southeast of the Dead Sea was first reported by W. Rast and T. Schaub in 1973. Since that time, Bible and Spade has been prominent in pointing out parallels between sites and findings from that region and information known about the Cities of the Plain from Genesis 14–19. (See Bible and Spade, Summer 1974, Winter 1977, Summer 1978, Summer-Autumn 1980, Winter-Spring 1983.) In that survey five relatively similar sites were located that were all occupied at the end of the Early Bronze Age, late in the third millennium BC (approximately the time of Abraham).

North to south these five sites are: Bab edh-Dhra, Numeira, Sail, Feifa, Khanazir. Since that time a number of seasons of excavation have been carried out at Bab edh-Dhra and Numeira.

Our purpose in this article is to study some details which have emerged from the excavation of Numeira, 13 kilometers south of Bab edh-Dhra.

General Archaeological Setting

Bab edh-Dhra is located along the Wadi Kerak near the neck of the Lisan Peninsula in the Dead Sea. The southernmost of the five sites - and the smallest of them - is Khanazir, located at the southern end of the Ghor. Of the other two sites in the series, es-Safi is located nearer to Numeira in the north and Feifa is located nearer to Kha-nazir in the south. In general, these sites decrease in size as one proceeds from north to south.

Are there other sites in the area that date from the end of the Early Bronze Age? At the time when Rast and Schaub carried out their surface survey of the area in 1973, they were unable to find any other sites there that dated to the same period of occupation.

A common feature of all five sites is that of location. They are all near permanent springs, and along wadis which carry seasonal runoff of the rains. They share a common geological setting. They are not located down in the plain of the Ghor where they would have taken up valuable farmlands, but rather on the geological shelf overlooking the plain. This also provides the towns with a good defensive position. At the eastern end of each town, on that end which pointed away from the plain, an observational tower was built to watch over the area from which an enemy might attack. The same segmented type of construction was employed in building the walls of these cities. This technique was probably meant to protect them from the effects of earthquake. Common burial customs were share...

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