located at the former Amman Civil Airport in Markeh, Jordan, a northern suburb of Amman. The site lies immediately east of the apron runway, where it joins the first of the main runways, and about 300 m south of the terminal. This single-period site was discovered In 1955 while bulldozers were expanding the runway area. A salvage excavation by M. Salih cleared a square structure to its stone-paved floor; G. Lankester Harding reported on it In 1956 (Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 3:80). Later, Harding identified the structure as an isolated Late Bronze Age temple (Palestine Exploration Quarterly 90 [1958]: 10–12). J. Basil Hennessy (1966) subsequently excavated beneath the floor and in probes outside the structure. He interpreted the site as a temple where human sacrifice had taken place and confirmed the structure's isolation (Hennessy, 1985). In 1976, when the site was again threatened by expansion, Larry G. Herr expanded Hennessy's probes in the north. Herr uncovered a square stone structure he interpreted as a platform for cremation, used with the main building, which he suggested had functioned as a mortuary temple (“The Amman Airport Structure and the Geopolitics of Ancient Transjordan,” Biblical Archaeologist 46 [1983]: 223–229).

Amman Airport Temple

AMMAN AIRPORT TEMPLE. Figure 1. Plan of the Amman airport temple, based on 1966 excavation plans. At the northeast is a very small entrance. In the center room is the circular “incense altar” or “column base.” (Courtesy ASOR Archives)

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The plan of the building was virtually a perfect square, approximately 15 m on a side (see figure 1). A narrow door led through the two-meter-thick north wall to a series of six interconnected, rectangular rooms, of roughly the same size, surrounding a central square room. In the middle of the central room was a circular pillar base or platform/incense altar. All the rooms were paved with flat stones. A shallow earth surface extended about 2 m north of the structures doorway, but no other external surface could be distinguished. Six meters to the north was a square stone structure measuring about 4 m per side.

The finds from inside and outside the structure comprised an extremely large proportion of imported finds, including Mycenaean pottery, Egyptian stone vessels and scarabs, and Cypriot pottery. Other objects included hundreds of beads made of semiprecious stones, small strips of gold, bronze and silver jewelry, and bronze weapons. Such items are normally rare at contemporary sites in Jordan. Moreover, In 1976 Herr (1983) collected a total of 1,127 burned adult human bone fragments. Hennessy (1966) had also collected burned human bones in foundation deposits beneath the floors of the structure.

The imported remains span the late Middle Bronze Age through the Late Bronze Age (c. 1700–1200 BCE). Many of them must have been curated in antiquity and preserved through generations as special objects because the local pottery seems to date exclusively to the 13th century BCE, the end of the Late Bronze Age.

Because the burned bones were from adults, the practice of cremation has been suggested, not human sacrifice because that usually involved children. Furthermore, the curated imported objects are typical of Late Bronze tomb deposits, suggesting that the whole site was dedicated to mortuary activities, which would have included, among other possible activities, cremation and the storage of tomb offerings. Although Semites did not generally practice cremation, Hittites apparently did, which suggests their presence in the region at the time.

Bibliography

  • Hankey, Vronwy. “A Late Bronze Age Temple at Amman: I. The Aegean Pottery.” Levant 6 (1974): 131–159. Technical publication of fifty to sixty imported Mycenaean pots from the 1955 and 1966 excavations studied in the context of other Mycenaean finds from ancient Palestine.
  • Hankey, Vronwy. “A Late Bronze Age Temple at Amman: II. Vases and Objects Made of Stone.” Levant 6 (1974): 160–178. Does for the stone vessels what she does for the Mycenaean pottery (see above).
  • Hennessy, J. Basil. “Excavation of a Late Bronze Age Temple at Amman.” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 98 (1966): 155–162. In the absence of a final report, the best publication on the 1966 excavations, although it appeared almost immediately after the excavations were completed, leaving many finds unstudied.
  • Hennessy, J. Basil. “Thirteenth Century B.C. Temple of Human Sacrifice at Amman.” Studia Phoenicia 3 (1985): 85–104.
  • Herr, Larry G., ed. The Amman Airport Excavations, 1976. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 48. Winona Lake, Ind., 1983. Final publication of the small 1976 excavations, the most complete synthesis to date.

Larry G. Herr