Wadi Natfieh: The 2006 Season

The 2006 season was conducted jointly by the University of Arkansas and Yarmouk University between 21 May and 15 June, 2006. The excavations were conducted along the slopes of the Wadi Natfieh located at the southwest border of Irbid City just 5 km from the Yarmouk University Campus. The site can be viewed on Google Earth at 32o30' 43.62" N and 35o50' 15.81" E.

Figure 1: the Side of the Wadi with the Edge of Irbid City in the Background

Staff of Bioarchaeology Field School:
Co-directors: Prof. Jerome Rose, University of Arkansas, and Prof. Mahmoud el-Najjar, Yarmouk University
Inspector Department of Antiquities: Woroud Samarah
Surveyor and Site Supervisor: Muwafaq Bataineh
Registrar: Dr. Dolores Burke
Photographer: Husein Debajeh
Supervisor: Faris Bdeir

Figure 2: The Joint Excavation Team

The goals of the Bioarchaeology of North Jordan project are: (1) reconstruct the health and diet of rural Roman/Byzantine villagers; (2) refine our knowledge of the architectural variation in tomb construction; and (3) contribute to our understanding of the rural economy as it has impact on the lower social classes. Wadi Natfieh was visited by our team in July 2005 to assess its potential for achieving our goals. Meeting our needs, the site was selected for conducting the 2006 field school with seven students.

Figure 3: Initial Excavation of Tombs in First Row

Excavation focused on a single row of horizontal shaft tombs along the east side of the wadi. Of the tombs in this row, 23 were excavated, and there were many robbed tombs evident in this row as well. The entrances were cut through hard limestone into the softer rock below, leaving the hard rock as the roof of the tomb. All of these tombs had been robbed in recent times except one, which had been robbed in ancient times, with the door replaced and the bones piled neatly at the end of the tomb.

Figure 4: Excavation of a Single Person Shaft Tomb

Figure 5: Final Photo of Excavated Single Person Shaft Tomb

Osteological analysis indicates that these tombs were primarily for single adults. Thirteen tombs had only adult remains, with only two being sexed, one male and one female. One tomb contained only a single 10-year-old juvenile. One tomb contained four subadult individuals: 0-6 months, 2-3 years, 5 years, and 11-15 years. No evidence of disease was found on the bones, although one person had suffered four episodes of childhood stress as indicated by hypoplasias on the teeth.

In the row below, two of the many robbed tombs were excavated, to reveal an interesting tomb type. These horizontal shaft tombs had an entrance cut as those above but the tomb chamber was only 1 meter deep and 40 cm wide. If a body were placed in these tombs, the feet would extend beyond the covered portion. This tomb type deserves more attention and future excavation.

Figure 6: Tomb 20 After Excavation Showing Its Shallow Depth

A large horizontal chamber tomb on the west wall of the wadi was also excavated. This tomb was extensively robbed and production dates on the food wrappers left by the robbers indicate robbing as recently as January 2006. This tomb had a nicely carved door and doorway, all destroyed. The chamber has 12 loculi, 2 stone-cut graves into a bench-like shelf, and 1 sarcophagus. Bone and teeth indicate a minimum number of 13 individuals including 8 adults (1 male and 1 female) and 5 subadults (birth, 6-18 months, 2-3 years, 6-12 years, and 12-15 years). No disease or nutritional deficiencies were found.

Figure 7: Excavation of Large Horizontal Chamber Tomb with Loculi for Bodies in the Background

Back to top