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150-km-Long Ancient Wall In Jordan Mapped

Khatt Shebib, an ancient wall in Jordan extending over 150 kilometres in length, has been puzzling archaeologists for a while now. When was it built, who built it, and what was it used for?!

Khatt Shebib, the wall in ruins mapped by archaeologists using aerial archaeology. Photo credits: © Robert Bewley, Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East.

Researchers behind the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan (AAJ) are analysing its remains using aerial photography.

The findings show that Khatt Shebib has been built in a north-northeast to south-southwest direction. Running for 106 km, additional stretches of parallel wall makes the total length around 150km, says David Kennedy from the University of Western Australia whom, together with research assistant Rebecca Banks, recently published a paper in the journal Zeitschrift für Orient-Archäologie. The wall also includes parts that have two parallel walls, and portions with walls branching off.

The researchers estimate its original height to have been around a meter and its width around half a meter. The remnants of “towers” measuring 2 to 4 metres in diameter were also observed. Some of them might have been built after the wall, according to the archaeologists; they might have served as shelters or watch posts.

As the archaeologists analyse the wall further and further, they’ve realised that so many questions are yet to be answered. Who constructed the wall, and for what purpose? When was it made? The findings uncovered so far point to some time between the Nabatean era and the Umayyad period; any empire that ruled in that period of time might have been the architect of the wall. On the other hand, it could also have been the product of the labour of local populations. Furthermore, the implications of the size of the wall are also mysterious: it is too low and too narrow to have been used defence purposes. Perhaps, it might have just been a boundary delimiting land assigned to communities with different roles.

The authors explain that fieldwork will be required to address these questions — something that aerial archaeology will not be able to encompass.

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