Click below to see archival footage of excavations at Tell Madaba in 2011 (forthcoming).
The Tall Mādabā Archaeological Project (TMAP) represents part of a broader, regional research effort that seeks to test prevailing theories about the development of centralized institutions and the rise of early state-ordered societies in the southern Levant. Drawing on the historical perspective that the archaeological record represents, this effort seeks to achieve the following research objectives: (1) document the changing subsistence strategies of specific communities over time; (2) identify the underlying social factors that may have influenced decision making processes; and (3) assess the impact adaptive responses have had on the fragile balance critical to maintaining ecological equilibrium--and long term viability--in a marginal, or transitional, environment. Given the current concern in Jordan for developing, or re-introducing, economic strategies that conserve scarce cultural and natural resources, these research objectives address issues of contemporary relevance and importance.
Within this broader research framework, the Tall Mādabā excavations were initiated for the specific purpose of gathering archaeological data from the presumed urban center of a regional settlement network for comparison with existing data sets from comparable contexts (e.g. domestic/residential, administrative/public, etc.) at contemporary rural village sites in the region. In the modern Middle East, with its long history of urbanism, the consequences of urban continuity present a daunting challenge to this type of archaeological research.
The city of Mādabā, located 30 km southwest of Amman amidst the fertile rolling plains of the Central Jordanian Plateau, represents an exceptional example of this phenomenon. Continuing an urban tradition of some 5,000 years, the modern town engulfs the ancient settlement, preserved in the form of a large low-lying tall and acropolis that still forms a visible rise in the town center (Figure 1). Clearly, Mādabā's historical prominence necessitates a thorough assessment of its role in the long and eventful history of the Central Highlands of Jordan.
The Tall Mādabā excavations were conceived with the goal of pursuing this investigation. By focusing on the central site of Mādabā, the project has been working since 1996 to anchor an emerging regional database, and to facilitate analysis of the changing economic and sociopolitical organization of communities on a regional level. For more detailed descriptions of the project's research objectives and history, the reader is referred to previous reports submitted to the Department of Antiquities, and to published and forthcoming articles in the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.