Overview

Tall Jalul is located 5 km east of the town of Madaba in the fertile highland plains that extend south and east from Amman and Hisban in the country of Jordan. It is believed to be largest archaeological mound in the central part of the country.

A proposal by veterans of the Hisban dig to commence excavations at Tall Jalul had originally been presented to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan already in 1982. For a variety of reasons, however, work at the site had to be postponed for nearly a decade. Work finally got underway in 1992, with Madaba Plains archaeologists Randall Younker and David Merling serving as co-directors. Currently, the Jalul Excavation is under the leadership of Randall Younker (director), Constance Gane (co-director), Paul Z. Gregor (co-director), Paul J. Ray, Jr. (co-director), and Reem Al-Shqour (director of Jalul Islamic Village project).

Sherds have been found at Jalul which date as early as the Early Bronze I period (3200-3000 B.C.E.). In addition, an EB wall was discovered in Field W with pottery dating from EB I-EB IV (3200-2000 B.C.E.).

Although little architecture has been uncovered from the Iron I Age (1200-1000 B.C.E.), the 1999 season produced two to three meters of fine, ashy deposits on the north side of the tell which date consistently to this period. In addition, a stretch of wall in Field C (located in the center of the tell northeast of the acropolis) has appeared beneath an Iron II wall and could date to Iron I. Near the wall was collapsed mudbrick that contained typical Late Bronze and Iron I pottery, providing evidence for occupation during those periods. Beads from a necklace made of a variety of glass, frit, and semi-precious stones were also found in this collapse. Ashy lenses full of late Iron I and early Iron II pottery was found under all the Iron II structures in both Fields A and B, as well. An Egyptian seal dating between the 21st and 26th dynasties was found in Field E.

The early Iron II period (10th-9th centuries B.C.E.) was represented by the northern walls of perhaps several buildings in Field A on the north side of the tell. The architecture of the western-most building suggests a domestic dwelling. It was founded directly on top of the ashy layers full of Iron I and early Iron II pottery, noted above. A possible door was preserved in the northwest corner of this room. All that can presently be seen of the eastern-most early Iron II building is its northernmost wall.

Excavations in Field B (on the east side of the tell) continue to trace the early Iron Age II approach ramps to the city gate. The ramp, or approach road, was paved with typical flat flagstones, similar to those seen at Tel Dan and Tel Beersheba, west of the Jordan River. Although it appears that most of the corresponding gate was robbed out, three piers of an outer gatehouse were preserved. Additional flagstones from this period were recently found between the outer gatehouse and what appears to be the threshold of the inner gatehouse of the 10th-9th centuries B.C.E. Stratigraphic evidence suggests that this gateway's entrance was resurfaced with flagstones four or five times during Iron Age II and Persian periods.

The middle Iron II period (8th century B.C.E.) was represented in Field A by the northern walls of the early Iron II buildings. In Field B a contemporary approach ramp, paved with flagstones, was traced along approximately the same line as the earlier road of early Iron II. This later road also apparently led to a city gate, although it appears that this later gate was robbed out shortly after the 8th century B.C.E. city was abandoned or destroyed. A few large stones of the inner gatehouse, two piers of the innermost gate house, and a door socket have survived.

The late Iron II period (7th-6th centuries) has revealed in Field A on the north side of the tell a large tripartite building. Although badly damaged from later Persian-period activity, parts of all four walls of this large building could be traced. Indeed, the western wall has survived completely intact. Typical of tripartite buildings, the two side rooms of this building ran the entire length of the building and were paved with flagstones. The floor of the long central room, however, was made of packed earth. The roof was supported by two parallel rows of stone pillars, most of which had fallen over in a northerly direction. A number of fine clay figurines were found in this building which included both human and animal forms. The animal forms included the typical horse-and-rider figurines. One particularly interesting human figurine appeared to wear a headdress that reflected Egyptian styles.

Also from this period were found a couple of engraved seals. The most interesting was written in an Ammonite script typical of the 7th century B.C.E. The inscription reads “belonging to Naqab, son of Zedekel” Both of the names have been found on other Ammonite seals. The presence of this seal might suggest that the border of the Ammonites during the latter part of the Iron Age extended as far south as Madaba.

The late Iron II/Persian period (late 6th-5th centuries B.C.E.) was represented in Field A by several pits, wall sections and a stretch of pavement. No coherent architectural plan of this period has yet been discerned, however. In Field C, the northern, eastern, and southern walls of a late Iron II/Persian-period building were excavated down to floor level. The southern wall of this building was built up against the mudbrick tumble and walls of earlier periods. An incense stand from the Persian period was found inside the Late Iron II/Persian building of Field C. Also discovered inside the building, near the center of the main room, was an opening in the floor over one meter across. The hole led to a subterranean cave or storage cellar. Excavation made it clear, however, that its final use involved the destruction of the building, stones from its walls tossed helter-skelter into the cave along with the skeletal remains of at least 20 people. Likely, invaders threw vanquished occupants into what became their communal tomb, even if mixed haphazardly with destruction debris.

Field D, also near the center of the tell, has begun to produce the picture of a large domestic building from this period. So far, six rooms have surfaced as well as a courtyard. The field has yielded large numbers of pottery, bowl sherds, and figurine fragments, as well as Jalul Ostracon I. Underneath the Late Iron II/Persian period structure, a wall dating to the LB/Iron I transition period has been discovered.

In 2008, excavation began at Jalul Islamic Village (JIV) which is located just southwest of the tell. Remains from Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods have been uncovered, including a mosaic floor. A large structure dating to the Mamluk period (1250-1516 C.E.) has been found at JIV.

Field G was opened in 2009, and excavations have revealed architecture dating from the 9th century to the 7th century (B.C.E.). A pillared building, a building complex, and a portion of the city wall were uncovered. A 7th-century water channel was also discovered in this field. Field W was opened in 2010 to continue excavation of the water channel discovered in Field G. The channel has been excavated, revealing a portion of a water reservoir. These structures date to around 9th-7th centuries B.C.E. Beneath these structures a wall dating to the EB period has been discovered in square W2.

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