Tell El-ʾUmeiri -- By: Gary A. Byers

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 08:4 (Autumn 1995)
Article: Tell El-ʾUmeiri
Author: Gary A. Byers


Tell El-ʾUmeiri

Gary A. Byers

Tell el-ʾUmeiri sits at the point where the Madaba Plains join the Ammonite hills along a major ancient north-south route through the Jordanian plateau. Halfway between Amman and Tell Hesban, it is the southernmost fortifiable hill with water among the Ammonite mountains. The site consists of three distinct mounds 250 m apart, separated today by a wadi and the modern highway from Amman to the international airport. Only the western tell has been extensively investigated.

Excavations undertaken at Tell el-ʾUmeiri are part of the Madaba Plains Project, under the auspices of Andrews University, Berrien Springs MI. Jointly directed by Lawrence Geraty and Larry Herr, excavations were initiated in 1984. Additional seasons were undertaken in 1987, 1989, 1992 and 1994.

Bronze Age Finds

This 16 acre site was completely covered with its first town in about 2500 BC (the Early Bronze Age). While no fortification walls for this period have yet been discovered, excavations have uncovered an organized town plan built along three terraces, with roads and dwellings. Taken together, the finds indicate an orderly, neat and efficient use of space and resources for perhaps the largest population the site ever saw. At least part of this stratum was destroyed and burned.

The town was resettled on a smaller scale during the 19th century BC (the Middle Bronze Age). An earthen-built defensive rampart and 7 m wide dry moat from this period were uncovered along the edge of the tell. Unfortunately, none of the structures within the town have yet been found.

City of the Judges Period

Constructed above the Middle Bronze rampart, excavators found evidence of a later defensive system of the 12th century BC (Iron I period). On the western edge of the tell, in Field B, the impressive system included a lower retaining wall, a steep multi-layered rampart up the side of the mound and a “proto-casemate” wall at the top of the slope. This wall, along the top edge of the mound, was built of two parallel walls encircling the site, with intermittent cross walls connecting them. This created an outer

wall around the top of the site which resembled a circle of attached rooms (“casemates”).

One casemate room, completely cleared in the excavation, was constructed of stone walls with a second story of mudbrick. The crushed remains of approximately 15 large collared-rim storejars rested on the floor of the room. Most of these jars, measuring about 1 m in height, were restorable and demonstrated a wide range of variation among features. Impo...

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