one of the main east-west wadis in Jordan; it begins in the eastern Jordan desert and flows in a northwesterly direction to the Southern Ghors at eṣ-Ṣafi at the southeast end of the Dead Sea. Elevations range from about 800 m near its eastern end at Qal῾at el-Hasa (2392.5 × 0278) to about −370 m at its western end, just west (194.9 × 49.9) of eṣ-Ṣafi. Elevations to the north and south of the wadi range in excess of 1,200 m, however.
Wadi el-Hasa is situated on the west side of a physiographic province geologists describe as the mountain ridge and northern highlands east of the Great Rift Valley. Immediately west of the wadi is a sharp change in geologic style. The north–south boundary fault of the Dead Sea Rift is located just east of eṣ-Ṣafi. This is marked by a sharp change in elevation with values being in excess of 1,000 m east of the fault and fewer than −200 m to its west.
A number of explorers visited the area south of Wadi el-Hasa in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among them, Nelson Glueck extensively explored the area (1934–1939), excavating the Nabatean temple at Khirbet et-Tannur (2173 × 0420), immediately south of Wadi el-Hasa, In 1937 and 1938 (Glueck, 1966). Manfred Weippert (1979) surveyed several sites immediately south of Wadi el-Hasa In 1974.
Between 1979 and 1983, Burton MacDonald directed the Wadi el-Hasa Archaeological Survey (WHS), examining 1,074 sites both within and south of the wadi. The survey published a final report In 1988 (MacDonald, 1988). The occupational history north of the wadi is reported on in Miller (1991). Wadi el-Hasa was the WHS's northern boundary. On the east, the survey territory extended to Qal῾at el-Hasa, immediately west of the Desert Highway; on the west, it went just beyond the edge of the plateau where the terrain drops off appreciably toward the southeast plain of the Dead Sea. The WHS's southern boundary went from 15 km (9 mi.) in the west to less than 1 km in the east, south of Wadi el-Hasa. The survey territory is cut by a number of impressive and deep wadis flowing south to north.
The WHS found lithic evidence of human occupation in the area beginning as early as the Lower Paleolithic period. This evidence spans all time-strategic units from the Lower Paleolithic through the Pre-Pottery Neolithic periods (PPN). There is little evidence of a Pottery Neolithic presence except in the western segment of the survey territory. The number of Chalcolithic sites seems to indicate an increase in population south of Wadi el-Hasa then. This trend continues into the Early Bronze I period but not into the Early Bronze II–IV. The Middle Bronze and Late Bronze Ages are poorly represented in the WHS territory. There is evidence, however, for the renewal of sedentary occupation in the area at the end of LB II. There are further indications of population increase during the Iron I period, with twelfth–eleventh-century BCE settlements in the western section. This population increase seems to accelerate during Iron II and possibly is sustained until it begins to wane at the beginning of the Hellenistic period. Nabatean sites are found, especially in the wadis, throughout the WHS territory. Roman period sites are also found throughout the territory and a segment of the Via Nova Traiana is well preserved in the central segment. The Byzantine period seems to be, on the basis of the number of sites, one of significant population. The Early Islamic evidence is sparse, but there are several major sites among those from the Ayyubid/Mamluk period. A number of the Ottoman period sites are probably villages associated with the pilgrimage route to Mecca.
Since the completion of the WHS fieldwork In 1983, a number of archaeologists have worked on sites the WHS surveyed, illuminating human occupation in the area in the Paleolithic period: Gary O. Rollefson and Zeidan A. Kafafi (1985) studied WHS site 149, Khirbet Ḥammam/Abu Ghrab (2136 × 0437), a PPNB village site; Brian F. Byrd and Rollefson (1984) revisited WHS site 895, Ṭabaqa (2322.5 × 0342), an Epipaleolithic site; Zeidoun Muheisen and François Villeneuve began excavating the Nabatean-Roman village, temple, and cemetery at Khirbet ed-Darih, WHS sites 253–254 (2172 × 0352), in Wadi La῾ban In 1984 (Villeneuve, 1988); and Philippe Bossut, Zeidan Kafafi, and Genevieve Dollfus investigated WHS site 524 (2173 × 0362), a Pottery Neolithic site, more extensively In 1987 (Bossut et al., 1988). In particular, In 1984 Geoffrey A. Clark began excavating a number of WHS sites at the eastern end of Wadi el-Hasa and in Wadi el-῾Ali: WHS site 618 (2387.5 × 0278), a series of Upper Paleolithic Ahmarian and Levantine Aurignacian as well as Epipaleolithic Kebaran sites located on the northwest shore of Pleistocene Lake el-Hasa, with a C-14 date of 20,000 years BP from its Kebaran component, and a probable age for the sites at about 25,000–15,000 years BP; WHS site 621 (2380.5 × 0286.5), a slightly later Middle Paleolithic (tabun B–C-type Mousterian) open site located on the northwest shore of Lake el-Hasa, that is probably about 60,000 years old; WHS site 623X (2380.5 × 0288), a small (4 sq m) Upper Paleolithic Ahmarian open-air knapping station on the shore of Lake el-Hasa with many reconstructible cores that is undated but whose probable age is about 25,000 years BP; WHS 634, ῾Ain Difla, (2274.5 × 0349.1), located in Wadi el-῾Ali (one of the main south–north wadis emptying into Wadi el-Hasa), an early Middle Paleolithic (tabun-D-type Mousterian) rock-shelter associated with the middle terrace of Wadi el-῾Ali, with 7-meter-high stratified deposits (the Oxford thermoluminescence date for burnt flint from the uppermost five levels, of the twenty excavated so far, is 105,000 ± 15,000 years BP); WHS 784X, Yutil el-Hasa (2375 × 0311), a terminal Ahmarian collapsed rock-shelter site with excellent faunal preservation, hearths, features, and a pollen sequence C-14 dated to 19,000 years BP; and WHS 1065, ῾Ain el-Buheira (2385.5 × 0276.5), an Epipaleolithic Kebaran and Natufian open-air site associated with Lake el-Hasa and found adjacent to a rock-shelter and a fossil spring (five of its C-14 dates range from 16,900 to 15,600 years BP).
- Bossut, Philippe et al., “Khirbet ed-Dharih (Survey Site 49/WHS 524): Un nouveau gisement néolithique avec céramique du Sud-jordanien.” Paléorient 14.1 (1988): 127–131.
- Byrd, Brian F., and Gary O. Rollefson. “Natufian Occupation in the Wadi el Hasa, Southern Jordan.” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 28 (1984): 143–150.
- Clark, Geoffrey, et al., “Paleolithic Archaeology in the Southern Levant: A Preliminary Report of Excavations at Middle, Upper, and Epipaleolithic Sites in Wadi el-Ḥasa, West-Central Jordan.” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 31 (1987): 19–78.
- Clark, Geoffrey, et al., “Excavations at Middle, Upper, and Epipaleolithic Sites in the Wadi Hasa, West-Central Jordan.” In The Prehistory of Jordan, vol. 1, edited by Andrew N. Garrard and Hans G. Gebel, pp. 209–285. British Archaeological Reports, International Series, no. 396. Oxford, 1988.
- Clark, Geoffrey, et al., “Wadi Hasa Paleolithic Project, 1992: A Preliminary Report.” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 36 (1992): 13–23.
- Glueck, Nelson. Explorations in Eastern Palestine. Vols. 1–3. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 14, 15, 18/19. New Haven, 1934–1939. Important for early exploration in the area.
- Glueck, Nelson. Deities and Dolphins: The Story of the Nabataeans. London, 1966. Important for Glueck's work at Khirbet et-Tannur.
- Glueck, Nelson. The Other Side of the Jordan. Rev. ed. Cambridge, Mass., 1970.
- Lindly, John, and Geoffrey Clark. “A Preliminary Lithic Analysis of the Mousterian Site of 'Ain Difla (WHS Site 634) in the Wadi Ali, West-Central Jordan.” Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 53 (1987): 279–292.
- MacDonald, Burton. The Wadi el Ḥasā Archaeological Survey, 1979–1983, West-Central Jordan. Waterloo, Ontario, 1988. Main publication on the archaeological history of the south bank of Wadi el-Hasa.
- Miller, J. Maxwell, ed. Archaeological Survey of the Kerak Plateau. American Schools of Oriental Research, Archaeological Reports, 1. Atlanta, 1991.
- Rollefson, Gary O., and Zeidan A. Kafafi. “Khirbet Hammām: A PPNB Village in the Wādī el Ḥasā, Southern Jordan.” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 258 (1985): 63–69.
- Villeneuve, François. “Fouilles à Khirbet edh-Dharīḥ (Jordanie), 1984–1987: Un village, son sanctuarie et sa nécropole aux époques nabatéenne et romaine (Ier-IVe siècles ap. J.C.).” Comptes-Rendus des Séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (1988): 458–479.
- Weippert, Manfred. “The Israelite ‘Conquest’ and the Evidence from Transjordan.” In Symposia Celebrating the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Founding of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 1900–1975, edited by Frank Moore Cross, pp. 15–34. Cambridge, Mass., 1979.