Bienkowski, Piotr (ed.): Studies on Iron Age Moab and Neighbouring Areas in Honour of Michèle Daviau, (Ancient Near Eastern Studies Supplement 29), XIV-273 p., ISBN 978-90-429-2180-1, 87 euro
(Peeters, Leuven 2009)
Compte rendu par Ilona Skupinska-Lovset, University of Lodz, Poland

Nombre de mots : 2242 mots
Publié en ligne le 2010-11-29
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
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          The present volume is offered in honour of Professor Paulette Maria Michèle Daviau by her colleagues and students marking her retirement from full time teaching at the Wilfrid Laurier University in 2009. It comprises 14 articles on various subjects and of varying length, – common is their concern with the archeology of Transjordan, Professor Daviau’s main field of research.


          The language of the volume is English, it is carefully produced, each entry is created as a separate unit supplied with its own bibliography, which follows a common pattern. (However, the fact that the same publications are mentioned several times may be a drawback.) There are few illustrations in black and white; drawings, maps and tables follow the text.


          The volume starts with a biography of Professor Daviau and with an introduction to the writers and their research. Professor Daviau, born in the USA in a Franco-American family, got her MA degree in theology at Marquette University in 1973. She got an MA in Biblical Archaeology, the Old Testament and Semitic languages in 1976 at the Colgate-Rochester Theological Seminary. In 1975, she started to work in archaeology at tell el-Hesi. Then she worked with The Madaba Plains Project (1987) excavating Tall al-´Umayri and Tall Jawa. It is the only site she excavated with some intervals until 1995. She also surveyed Khirbat al-Mudayna and directed the Wadi ath-Thamad project from 1996 until today. She got her PhD in Canada and continued working at Wilfrid Laurier University, from year 2000 as a full professor at the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies. Consequently the volume deals with problems of interpretation of works geographically linked with her main scientific field of interest.


          The initial paper is by Øystein S. LaBianca who produces some reflections from the point of view of anthropological archaeology regarding the long lasting tradition of the social order in the Middle East. The form is quite encyclopaedic, ad shows a polycentric social order in the region from prehistory on. It is also relevant regarding the present political situation.


          In the second entry Piotr Bieńkowski, the editor of the volume, develops the question of interpretation of the terms “tribalism” and “segmentary society” in relation to the assumed situation in Iron Age Transjordan. He evaluates the models used in the research – “the traditional model” interpreting the Levantine kingdoms of the Iron Age as “bounded nationstates” leaning on a nineteenth-century European model. In such models the discovery of the material culture objects in other territories than the producer´s was interpreted as a leftover of a conquest. In view of all shortcomings of such interpretations the “tribal kingdom model” is discussed and found more applicable to the situation in Transjordan, despite the imperfection of the model (vide segmentary society hypothesis) discussed with the examples of Iron Age Moab, Edom and Ammon.


          Timothy Harrison examines the results of the Tal Madaba Archaeological project regarding to the sociopolitical development of Iron Age Moab. Written Egyptian sources, biblical references and the Mesha inscription constitute the ancient written documentation for the examination. Archaeological excavations on the west slope of the upper mound at Tel Madaba, the main Iron Age settlement, supplied the material sources for reconstruction of the settlement pattern. In conclusion the author points out the heterarchic character of Iron Age society in the region.



          Udo Worschech in the following article presents some results of the excavation at Ard al-Kerak in central Jordan, spreading from the Late Bronze II to the Iron Age II period. The paper is rich in information and considerations. The author´s main concern is the stele of Mesha. The author caracterizes recently excavated sites called “burj” or “burj-like citadel” as fortified entities, which are composed of a number of roms and a court-yard or alternatively a larger unit of living quarters and a courtyard, Such remnants were recorded archaeologically at Lahun, Aro`er (Araèr), Ma`marieh, Mudayna al-Mu`arrajeh, Mudayna al-`Aliya. The author implies that the inhabitants are thought to have lived in tribal relationship, – and he discusses, starting with the Larry Herr theory, the possibility of the formation in the Iron Age of supra-tribal structures and subsequently the formation of nations (Ammonites, Moabites, Israelites). The author also provides in the form of a table form the “Occupational history of sites on the Ard al-Karak“ in the time span from the Late Bronze period to the Iron Age II. To sum up he expresses the opinion that the sudden appearance of a number of fortified settlements in the border area between “the desert and the sown land” was probably an effect of a political system he calls “an ordered anarchy”.


          Bruce Routledge and Carolyn Routledge give in their paper an updated interpretation of the well-known Balu`a stele, a carved basalt slab discovered in 1930, which is a surface find of Khirbet el-Balu`a, today kept in the Amman Archaeological Museum, inventory number not given. The reading of the inscription is still unsatisfactory. The authors are, however occupied with the iconographical interpretation of this stele. Preferring the traditional interpretation, they would like to see in the border figures (a man and a woman) local deities and in the scene in a more general aspect “an investiture scene” in which the central male figure is invested with symbols of power and authority; symbols apparently broadly distributed in the Late Bronze Age. The central figure is interpreted as shown as a foreigner of Asiatic origin according to the Egyptian convention. The authors think that it is intentional and that the schemes formed an icon of authority in the visual language of the late Bronze Age Levant.


          J. Andrew Dearman then gives a new interpretation of a fragmentary monumental inscription attributed to an unknown Moabite king of the eighth century B.C. S. Ahituv, who published the inscription in 2003, combined the toponym Beth Ro´s carved on it, with the place called Dhat Ras recorded on the Kerak plateau. Dearman thinks that this place should be situated on the high plain north of Wadi Mujib. However, for him, this question is not principal, as the inscription forms a ring in the chain of documentation of cultural possibilities of the Moabites in the Iron Age.


          The article by Eveline J. van der Steen presents a review of the theses of Nelson Glueck, the first scholar to systematically research Transjordan. As accepted in his time, he used pottery as a dating criterion, and called them “the Moabite pottery”. He also formulated the hypothesis of the existence of “a string of fortresses” along the eastern border of early Iron Age Ammon, Moab and Edom, between the Wadi Mudjib and the Wadi Hasa, which deterred Israel from entering the “Promised Land”. Khirbet al-Mudayna on the Wadi ath-Thamat, excavated by Michèle Daviau, constituted one of those. Excavations in this place seem to confirm Glueck`s hypothesis, as nothing clearly indicating the presence of Assyrian garrisons was discovered. Probably the fortresses were outposts under the control of the vassal kingdoms of Moab and Edom. The author points out “Google Earth” or another GPS world map as helpful to plot the results of Glueck´s observations and control their accuracy. A slight minus of the paper is the fact that the pottery type subjected to discussion, are not illustrated.


          Annlee Dolan writes about archaeological traces of religious activities in Moab. She enumerates sites such as; Wadi ath-Thamad site 13, - a high place, where three archaeological strata have been identified. On this site, besides architectural remains more than 560 artefacts were collected, among them many terracotta figurines. Secondly, Khirbet al-Mudayna with a supposed sanctuary located inside the settlement; Àtaruz – acult place with a temple precinct, where three phases of occupation could be identified – all with rich inventory; Dhiban with remnants of a “Moabite Palace Complex” with an adjoining temple said to be one of Attar-Kemosh; Balu`a, area A, where a so-called “domestic cultic installation” was identified. Through textual analysis the author points out the terms: bt, btn, and mqds - all indicating a cult place and concludes that both texts and archaeological documents reveal a great diversity among Moabite cult installations, which in turn indicates that the cult was not formalized. As for full publication of artefacts excavated on Wadi ath-Thamad site 13, we have to wait as the volume is in preparation jointly with Professor Daviau.


          Margreet L. Steiner works on the process of production and distribution of the Moabite pottery as a case study with the example of the material from the excavation at Iron Age Khirbat al-Mudayna, a tell located in the north, close to the border of ancient Ammon. The article is a bi-product of her work with a thesis on technology and typology of this pottery. Technological analyses of ceramics were carried out by the Ceramic Laboratory of the Leiden Faculty of Archaeology. The repertoire of the pottery is defined as eclectic and its way of distribution as variable, probably due to the location of the site in the border area.


          Denyse Homès-Fredericq presents, in her well illustrated article, the Iron Age II Moabite fortress of Al-Lahun (Khirbet al-Lahun) situated near the King`s Highway. The remnants of Lahun were discovered by Nelson Glueck in 1933. Sector D, being a Moabite fortified village, was excavated by a Belgian team during seventeen seasons from 1980. Excavations showed that the casemate- fortification of the village followed the topography of the hill. In the southern, smaller part of the fortified village was built an Iron Age II fortress, roughly rectangular in shape, cornered by four roughly rectangular towers with side walls varying from 2.5 m to 3.9 m high. Houses were of standardized size (8 x 12 m), the thickness of the walls was also standardized (0.7 to 0.8 m.), pillar-houses were recorded. The author assumes that the fortress may have served as a storage place for grain (large storage jars were found) for the Aro´er garrison of king Mesha.


          Robert Chadwick discusses Bronze and Iron Age city gates in Transjordan as to their utility and constructional possibilities for the builders. He thinks that during the Early and Middle Bronze Age, gates were primarily based on local tradition. For the first time in the Iron Age II, he finds evidence of Palestinian influence for design. In particular in the gate design, he points out a six-chambered city gate, supposedly from an Israelite masterplan. Such a gate was discovered in 1996 at Khirbet al-Mudayna by Michèle Deviau`s team. The author then considers advantages and disadvantages of bent-axis access into the city; then he discusses flat roof versus arched roof for city gates (mostly used in the discussed area) – at last the towers are discussed. The description of city gates in Transjordan starts with the Early Bronze Age structure of Tall Jawa and ends with the Tall al-Khalayfi gate (VIIIth –early VIth. cent. B.C.), a four-chambered gate structure. The author is pointing out the continuation of the local tradition as far as to Iron Age II in the case of the city gate of Tell Jawa (building 910) as broad rooms, typical of the early periods are still used instead of regular long rooms.


          Peter M. Fischer updates the research on the carved bone object, excavated at Abu al-Kharaz in the Jordan valley, which he identifies as a handle. The object was decorated with two sphinxes, it is described as a piece of prestige goods, possibly a heritage object. Fischer connects it with a number of carved bone artefacts from the Burnt Palace of Nimrud. Radiocarbon dating offers a chronological framework, which the author extends to encompass the entire eighth century B.C. He interprets the object as a precious handle of a tool used in the production of textiles because of the context in which it was found.


          Jonatan Ferguson discusses two sites connected with the Wadi ath-Thamad project: az-Za`faran and Khirbat az-Zuna. The discussion about the first site leans on surveys of the years 2005, 2007 and 2008. He traces the history of the research that have been done, and characterizes present research in relation to earlier material. The use of the site az-Za`faran spreads from the Iron Age to Late Antiquity, new is the fact that the surveys disclosed quantities of Thamudic and Arabic graffiti pecked or scratched into the NE and NW faces of the walls of the qasr. The site Khirbat az-Zuna, WT-24, situated about 3 km. east of Khirbat al-Mudayna, is a Late Roman or Byzantine castellum of square quadriburgium plan. It was excavated recently (2006 - 2008). Historical plans (Brünnow, Domaszewski 1904; Glueck 1933-1934), as well as plans and photographs made by the Wadi ath-Thamad Project together with threedimensional GIS models are supplied to present the possibilities of research on both sites.


          Margaret Judd, in the concluding paper, stresses the lack of bioarchaeological research in Transjordan and gives the reasons for such a situation. She describes the way in which bioarchaeology can help to gain insight into migrations, expose social status, health of the population and many similar issues as well as throw light on the gender question in the past.



          As a conclusion, the volume reviewed here is especially worth reading because of its broad variety of approaches and its relevance to the projects recently carried through, dealing with topics insufficiently searched so far.



– Preface, p. VII

– Contributors, p. XIII

– Øystein S. LaBianca, The poly-centric nature of social order in the Middle East: preliminary reflections from anthropological archaeology, p. 1

– Piotr Bienkowski, “Tribalism” and “segmentary society” in Iron Age Transjordan, p. 7

– Timothy P. Harrison, “The Land of Mēdeba” and early Iron Age Mādabā, p. 27

– Udo Worschech, Environment and settlements in the Ard al-Karak: remarks on the socio-ecological and socio-economic conditions in the Iron Age, p. 47

– Bruce Routledge and Carolyn Routledge, The Balu`a stele revisited, p. 71

– J. Andrew Dearman, Moab and Ammon: some observations on their relationship in light of a new Moabite inscription, p. 97

– Eveline J. van der Steen, Nelson Glueck’s “string of fortresses” revisited, p. 117

– Annlee Dolan, Defining sacred space in ancient Moab, p. 129

– Margreet L. Steiner, Khirbat al-Mudayna and Moabite pottery production, p. 145

– Denyse Homès-Fredericq, The Iron Age II fortress of al-Lahun (Moab), p. 165

– Robert Chadwick, Changing forms of gate architecture in Bronze and Iron Age Transjordan, p. 183

– Peter M. Fischer, The sphinx handle from Tall Abu al-Kharaz: further evidence, p. 215

– Jonathan Ferguson, Rediscovering az-Za’faran and az-Zuna: the Wādī ath-Thamad Project Regional Survey, p. 227

– Margaret Judd, Bioarchaeology east of the Jordan, p. 245