Early History of the Petra Area - The Iron Age
by Henrik Jansson

The Iron Age means the entrance into historical times in Petra. Our archaeological knowledge of the Iron Age is very limited despite the appearance of more elaborate written sources. Archaeological research has given little insights to the beginning of this period. From written sources it can be said that the area of Petra was inhabited by the Edomites. Edom is first mentioned in Egyptian sources at the end of the Bronze Age when it most probably meant only an area. The later kingdom of Edom stretches from Wadi Hasa in the north to Wadi Hisma in the south. The raise of statehood was dependent of stability assured by Assyrian control and mining possibilities in the Faynan area (approximately 25 km north of Petra).

The most famous Edomite site in the Petra area is Umm el-Biyara, which is Arabic for "the mother of cisterns". It is a stronghold behind the main road in Petra, on top of a small mountain surrounded almost entirely by inaccessible cliff walls. The top plateau is covered with excavated Edomite remains and, as the name tells us, water cisterns. Other "mountain-tops" have also been located outside of Petra in the same region as the Late Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (LPPNB) site of BaŽja and at Umm el-Ala situated south of Petra. Single Edomite occupations has also been located in the Greater Petra region as the so-called es-Sela'.

A site at Tawilan, located about 5 km northeast of Petra, has been more extensively excavated. It is a settlement with a lot of architecture with rectangular rooms but also corridors and central courtyards. The walls are of dry-stone masonry with irregular and roughly dressed stones and with some evidence of plaster.

Further reading

 Early History of the Petra Area - Introduction

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