The Jordanian Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Nayef Al-Fayez on Tuesday unveiled the discovery by a joint Jordanian-French archeological team of a 9,000-year-old religious site in the southeastern Badia region.
The site is unique, according to the minister; it is the oldest known site of its kind in the world, dating back to 7,000 BC.
It belonged to a previously unknown Neolithic hunter-gatherer culture that the team called Ghassan’s (named after Talat Abu Ghassan, a desert location in its proximity), who hunted by using stone traps. The team found the oldest known depictions of stone traps at the site, consisting of stone walls that would be erected to herd the prey into enclosures.
The site is one of the oldest known permanent hunting camps. It contains two life-size human figures that the archeologists named Abu Ghassan and Ghassan.
Excavations at the site yielded several artifacts, including marine fossils, animal toys, “exceptional” flint tools, and “stoves” believed to be used in the practice of religious rituals, archaeologists said.
The project is a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Tourism, the Department of Antiquities, Al-Hussein Bin Talal University, the French embassy, and the French Institute of Archeology.
“Jordan is the cradle of civilizations. It continues to amaze us with what comes out of its womb and its pure soil (in the form of) new archaeological discoveries,” Fayez said, adding that sites like this “reflect our identity, historical knowledge, and cultural values”.
Jordan’s archeological sites have “great social, cultural, and economic value” at national and international levels, said the minister.
“Archaeological sites are an integral part of history, civilization, and identity,” he said, highlighting Ain Ghazal, a Neolithic site in Amman, which is considered one of the most important archeological sites in the world.
The tourism sector is a cornerstone of the Kingdom’s economy, and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities strives to develop, rehabilitate, sustain, and promote tourism and archaeological sites,” the minister said.
Director-General of the Department of Antiquities Fadi Balawi said that Jordan is an open-air museum that contains more than 15,000 archaeological sites, each “representing a small part of a broader picture of our history”.
Since “archaeological sites are non-renewable resources”, it is the duty of the department to “preserve, study, present, and share antiquities in Jordan with the world”, Balawi said.
French Ambassador to Jordan Veronique Vouland-Aneini highlighted the fruitful cooperation between Jordan and France in shedding light on Jordan’s archaeological sites, reminding that many French research teams have been working on several sites in the Kingdom, sites that go back to prehistoric times to the Mamluk era.
Al-Hussein Bin Talal University President Atef Al-Kharabsheh said that the unprecedented discoveries archaeologists unveil came about as a result of years of field research. He stressed that the university will continue to support all field projects that contribute to uncovering Jordan’s cultural and historical heritage to the world.
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