site located about 13 km (8 mi.) northeast of Irbid, Jordan, about 2 km southeast of el-Mughayyir (both the village and the ancient mound). The site was first identified by Siegfried Mittmann in 1970. Joint excavations were carried out by Moawiyah Ibrahim for the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology of Yarmouk University, Jordan, and Mittmann for the Biblisch Archäologisches Institute of the University of Tübingen. Fieldwork was conducted in cooperation with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.
In five seasons of excavation (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1991) and one survey season (1989) sites located in the triangle of Wadi esh-Shallalah and Wadi Rahub were investigated and Tell el-Mughayyir and Khirbet ez-Zeraqun were excavated. In the 1987 season, with surveyors from the University of Karlsruhe under the direction of Boser, a photogrammetric survey of the Roman bridge spanning Wadi esh-Shallalah, just southeast of Zeraqun, was completed. The bridge, built in two-story arches, is evidence of the Roman road link between Umm Qeis (Gadara) and Dar῾a (Adraat). [See Umm Qeis.]
The site covers the remains of an Early Bronze occupation and has an area of about 400 × 300 m. It is one of the largest EB towns in Jordan or even southern Bilad ash-Sham (“greater Syria”). Khirbet ez-Zeraqun has a very similar occupational history to EB Bab edh-Dhra῾ in southern Jordan's Rift Valley. [See Bab edh Dhra῾.] Excavations were concentrated in two major areas, in the upper and the lower town, adjacent to the town wall on its west and south sides.
The earliest occupational phase seems to date to the Late Chalcolithic/EB I period (beginning of the third millennium), represented by some domestic remains founded on bedrock that underlie the level of the walled town and the EB II–III public buildings and major domestic quarters. The second major phase dates to the EB II, when the site's major buildings were constructed: a 7-meter-wide defensive wall surrounding the town with projecting towers and bastions, a city gateway, a temple complex, and an administration building, all in the upper town. Other buildings belonging to this period were large to small rooms in the lower town, some of which were for domestic use. The third major phase of occupation (EB III) was represented by significant changes and additions to the main architectural complexes (the gateway, town wall, and houses in the lower town). From the EB IV toward the end of the third millennium the fourth and latest occupation is represented by fragmentary disturbed structures close to the surface and a few silos lined with stones dug into earlier deposits.
There are scattered sherds from the Roman-Byzantine period on the surface and in disturbed areas, but they are not associated with structures. Other remains of a later use of the site are a large number of nineteenth-century burials dug into the EB layers. There are also several modern ditches and disturbances. The site was used until recently for agriculture. It is barren of trees and modern houses.
During the last two seasons of excavations, the town's main gate was excavated close to the highest point on the west side of the site. The gate showed four major changes during different EB periods. The earliest stage represents the widest opening (about 15 m). During the following phases it became progressively narrower, until it was reduced to a small, zigzag passageway. Its exterior features two curving, towerlike additions, while the inner part of the wall is connected to two square towers. The inner towers, with other, adjacent rooms, surround a road that leads directly to the temple area and the industrial quarter. The floor of the gate and the passageway consists of beaten earth and areas paved with small stones. The gate is easily accessible from the gradual slope to the west of the site.
The main cultic area dominates the town and surrounding areas. It is accessible from the site's northwest side via the road coming from the gate's passageway, and from the east via a long street (about 1.5 m wide) on the south side of the administration building (see below). On the west side there seems to be a small gap between the town wall and the temple. The complex consists mainly of a circular altar with a staircase on the east side and large square and rectangular rooms, all surrounding a large open courtyard. With the exception of the large rectangular cult room, all the buildings are oriented east–west, toward the circular altar. A row of storage rooms, designated as the industrial quarter, on the northeast side of the complex have been uncovered.
An administrative architectural complex was exposed on the north side of the east–west street. It is separated from the temple area by a narrow, irregular corridor. This unit consists of rectangular rooms surrounding a large outstanding room, all built of stone with bricks probably used in their upper parts. The arrangement of the rooms in this unit and their connections to the temple and to the rooms in the industrial area indicate that the unit served administrative purposes. Confirmation of this interpretation awaits further excavations and analysis of the material found in the complex.
Excavations in five seasons exposed sections of the city wall and a residential area on the south side of the site. The architectural remains in this area represent two and possibly three major occupational phases (EB I/II–III). The earlier phase, founded on bedrock, revealed planned architecture oriented east-west around a main street, with subsidiary streets creating separate residential units. The phase could be subdivided into two parts because of changes in the architecture and additional floors. The second major architectural phase is less organized in plan and reveals a new street arrangement. A semicircular tower was found outside the city wall. To the east of the tower, and along the exterior face of the city wall, several horizontal stone slabs were uncovered. They are believed to have been used as steps leading to a higher part of the fortification system. Excavations also revealed a tower on the interior that probably supported the town wall. At the lowest part of the tower, a water channel was discovered. This channel was built to draw off the water running down from the upper town toward the fortification and may have limited the damage caused by runoff.
The town's highly developed hydrological system must have governed life there for almost a thousand years. In addition to the springs of Wadi esh-Shallalah, the inhabitants of Zeraqun dug three stepped shafts down to the water table. One of these shafts measures some 100 m and leads to the base of the wadi. It is probable that the water of this shaft system was used during enemy attack and when spring water in the surrounding area dried out. At the steep slope toward the wadi closable water outlets were found connected to the shafts that were probably used to water the fields in the wadi. [See Hydraulics; Irrigation; Water Tunnels.]
Among the important objects excavated at Zeragun was a large number (about 120) of seal impressions on pottery, which makes the town the richest site for glyptic in third-millennium. Transjordan and Palestine. [See Seals.] The impressions show geometric, floral, animal, and figural designs. The seal impressions, the large variety of pottery types, and clay figurines reveal close parallels and contacts with Palestine, Egypt, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and North Syria. Together with other discoveries, they also show Khirbet ez-Zeraqun to have been a flourishing EB city.
- Ibrahim, Moawiyah, and Siegfried Mittmann “Ḫ. az-Ziraqūn.” Archiv für Orientforschung 33 (1986): 167–171.
- Ibrahim, Moawiyah, and Siegfried Mittmann. “Tell el-Mughayyir and Khirbet Zeiraqoun.” News-Letter of the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (Yarmouk University), no. 4 (1987): 3–6; no. 6 (1987): 7–9.
- Ibrahim, Moawiyah, and Siegfried Mittmann. “Zeiraqun (Khirbet el).” In Archaeology of Jordan, vol. 2, Field Reports, edited by Denyse Homès-Fredericq and J. Basil Hennessy, pp. 641–646. Louvain, 1989.
- Ibrahim, Moawiyah, and Siegfried Mittmann. “Excavations at Khirbet ez-Zeraqoun, 1991.” News-Letter of the Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology (Yarmouk University), no. 12 (1991): 3–5.
- Mittmann, Siegfried. Beiträge zur Siedlungs- und Territorialgeschichte des nördlichen Ostjordanlandes. Wiesbaden, 1970.
Moawiyah Ibrahim and Siegfried Mittmann