Tell el-Kheleifeh, Jordan: An Iron Age II Caravanserai [ASOR 2020]

Tell el-Kheleifeh, Jordan: An Iron Age II Caravanserai [ASOR 2020]

We are pleased to share this presentation in celebration of the virtual conference convened by our colleagues at the American Schools of Oriental Research (@ASOResearch). For additional presentations from the ASOR Virtual Meeting 2020, please see the playlists on our and ASOR’s channels (ASORTV).
ACOR at the ASOR Annual Meeting 2020:

“Tell el-Kheleifeh, Jordan: An Iron Age II Caravanserai'”was presented by Wilma Wetterstrom (Ancient Egypt Research Associates) and Joseph Greene (Harvard Semitic Museum) in the ASOR session “Archaeology of Jordan II” on Sunday, November 15, 2020.

Located at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba, Tell el-Kheleifeh sits at the junction of major ancient trade routes. While later period sites in the region are well documented as caravanserai (e.g., Pliny ), no one has considered how Tell el-Kheleifeh served in this capacity, although the excavator, Nelson Glueck, assumed it did. The layout has caravanserai features. Fortified with a wall and a four-chambered gate, it offered protection from marauders and relief from desert heat and wind. Inside, a vast open courtyard could receive caravans and shelter them. Along the margins of the courtyard, long narrow chambers offered sleeping accommodations and places to securely store precious cargo overnight. Wells supplied water. Concentrations of multiple hearths, ovens, querns, and grinding stones within rooms and corridors suggest food preparation beyond the household level, possibly for caravanners’ meals and travel food.

The small corpus of botanical material from the site, including barley grains, dates, cordage, a piece of fabric, and prepared fibers ready for spinning, do not specifically reflect a caravanserai. But they could have satisfied the needs of caravans. Barley prepared as a dried or flat bread and dates would have been excellent travel foods; they store well and can be eaten without further preparation. Barley also could have been fodder to supplement grazing. Cordage, manufactured by residents, could replace broken or worn ropes and twine that secured cargo on the camels. Fabrics woven by the residents might have replaced caravanners’ worn bags and tattered clothing.