Telling & Untelling

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“Telling” is the process by which a tell (tall in modern Jordanian spelling when part of a place name) is formed into a complex layer cake of occupations and settlements over the millennia. “Untelling” is what archaeologists do when they take a tell apart by means of excavation.

Tall al-`Umayri contains many chapters in its story, representing a span of 5,000 years of human life and survival in the area of central Jordan. What follows is the story of `Umayri’s tell formation and discoveries made while taking it apart.

Early Bronze Age - ca. 3000 BC Early Bronze Age - ca. 2500 BC Middle Bronze Age - ca. 1600 BC
At some point near 3000 BC inhabitants from around `Umayri constructed a megalithic dolmen, a large stone memorial. This is the earliest major settlement of `Umayri, developed around 2500 BC, which covered most of the site and had no fortification walls. Inhabitants of `Umayri, during the Middle Bronze Age, built massive defenses on the site, including a dry moat and huge rampart.
Late Bronze Age - ca. 1300 BC Iron Age - ca. 1200-1000 BC Iron Age II - ca. 700-500 BC
From a time of rare architectural remains in Jordan we have a very nicely preserved two-room stone building with walls still standing ten feet high. From the time of the judges and the settlement of Israel and Ammon, inhabitants rebuilt their town following an earthquake. The best preserved “four-room” house anywhere, along with associated buildings, scores of large jars and evidence of a devastating destruction come from this period. Life at `Umayri during the Iron Age II period flourished with the establishment of a substantial administrative complex in the western sector of the city. A ceramic seal impression with the name of Ba`alyasha` (Baalis in Jeremish 40:14) gives us the first non-biblical reference to the Ammonite king who sponsored the assassination of Gedaliah, the governor over Judah placed there by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
Late Bronze Age - ca. 1300 BC Iron Age - ca. 1200-1000 BC Iron Age II - ca. 700-500 BC
Stone walls, storage bins and small finds, including several intact oil lamps and juglets along with other domestic items, suggest it was a small agricultural site. Only one structure was found which dated to this time - a ritual bath complex which was likely part of a villa. While the surrounding countryside supported an immense population explosion, `Umayri has thus far revealed only ephemeral remains from the Byzantine period.
Late Bronze Age - ca. 1300 BC Iron Age - ca. 1200-1000 BC
During the Islamic periods, `Umayri was used primarily for agricultural purposes. Recent decades and years around `Umayri have witnessed phenomenal growth as Amman rapidly expands its way southward.

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