Iron Age


Here we get into the historical period, it means that at the Iron Age, we start disposing of documented sources other than archaeological records. Theoretically, we could say that the historical period begins at the Bronze Age, as Egyptians archives already mention our area at that time. But this written documentation is very thin… the Iron Age corresponds to the period when Transjordan comes into contact with the kingdoms of Judah and Israel and plays a role in the biblical history. It is essentially the period of interests for pilgrims.


The Bronze Age ends by a period of destruction and violent invasions, at the end of the 2nd millennium. With the emergence of efficient metals, technological progresses and commercial development throughout the whole area of Near- and Middle-East, appear also the first geopolitical tensions. In addition, migratory movements are upsetting the established order. The Egyptians had been the first to expand their rule over the area during the 2nd millennium. This rule runs down at the end of the Bronze Age, as well as the rule of the Hittite empire in the North, which competed with him. The collapse of those empires around 1200 BC result in the emergence of new political forces. At the same period, the “People of the Sea” roll over the Near-East.  Those populations come from the East of the Mediterranean Sea which, pushed ahead by the Indo-European invasions, seek to force the entrance of Egypt or to settle on the Near eastern coast.

The Iron Age is divided in two sub-divisions: Iron Age I (1200 - 1000 BC), characterized by the retreat of the Egyptian political power, and Iron Age II (1000 - 332 BC) characterized by a socio-political development. 



The migration of the Hebrew out of Egypt may have taken place at the Late Bronze Age or during the Iron Age I, an event which, even if it is well attested in the biblical narratives, has strangely left no archaeological evidence…. Many archaeologists have abandoned the archaeological investigation of Moses and the Exodus as "a fruitless pursuit"... Anyway, this is perhaps a general disorder that favored in Transjordan the emergence of small independent kingdoms of Amoun, Moab and Edom. The "city-state" system is replaced by political entities based on the ethnicity and tribes. The existence of those small kingdoms and their conflicts with the Hebrews is historically well documented by the biblical narratives. They stand somehow in front of Israel kingdom, but get dominated by the Assyrians from the late 8th century, in favor of a remarkable economic and commercial upturn, at least as regards of Amoun kingdom.

(left: Map of the Levant circa 830 BCE / wikipedia.org)




Indeed, the area of Amman proved a high productivity and creativity level at that time. The Ammonites have invented their own writing system (see photo below the Siran Bottle), their own sculpture which is a funny mixture of Egyptian, Syrian and Mesopotamian art. They produced a ceramic of very high quality that can be found till in the Mediterranean areas. During the Iron Age II, the three kingdoms took control over the international trade routes, the main axis that will become later the Via Trajana (Kings' Way) and became engaged in an extensive trade network with their neighbors.


exp. Arch. Museum 
exp. Jordan Museum
exp. Arch. Museum


For the traveler, the remains of this period on the sites are, however, not very meaningful as the most of the time those sites were reused during the later periods. A visit to the museums (Amman Archaeological Museum and over all the Jordan Museum) would be more suitable to appreciate the history and importance of the Iron Age. Those museums exhibit, among other treasuries, some Ammonites statuary, Moabite sarcophagi and the Siran bottle (photos above), the Al-Balu' Stele (right photo below) and a replica of the Mesha Stele (left photo below). For the sites, we can indicate to the archaeology lovers Tell Hisban, located in the Madaba plain, Dhiban, where the Mesha stele was discovered (photo below), Lehun and Buseira. Petra preserves an Edomite village on the top of Umm Al-Biyara, as other lesser known places of the South of Jordan.


exp. Jordan Museum
exp. Jordan Museum