Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary


Biblical and/or Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology, PhD

First Advisor

Randall W. Younker

Second Advisor

Oystein LaBianca

Third Advisor

Paul Z. Gregor



The site of Tall Safut in Jordan was excavated under the direction of Donald Wimmer during the years of 1982-2001. Other than the preliminary reports and encyclopedia articles published by Wimmer, no detailed analysis of the remains and no final reports have been published since the conclusion of excavations in 2001. The site has received only brief mention in other articles and books dealing with archaeology because of its remains dating to the Middle Bronze Age, Late Bronze Age, and Iron Age. However, there is a significant gap in the scholarly understanding of the history of the northern hill country of Central Jordan due to the lack of publication. Safut has significant remains from these time periods, and a detailed analysis of these remains is important for understanding the ancient history of Jordan by placing Safut within its regional and global context. As the northern gateway to the hill country of Central Jordan, Safut had important interactions with local and imperial forces, and this role must be investigated and explicated.


The research focuses on the stratigraphy of the areas excavated rather than on small finds or other remains, with the ultimate goal of placing the cultural remains from these strata in their regional and global contexts. The stratigraphy of the site was compiled, based on information from the excavation notebooks and pottery dating from each level represented. Since this project offers the benefit of working through the material after the excavation's completion, this site report is organized by archaeological periods excavated. In line with the process that is typically called in archaeology the "comparative" approach, the pottery excavated from the site was compared with that from other sites with known chronologies. After a date was assigned to the sherds, the loci in which they were found were assigned to a particular phase, and from these phases the overall stratigraphy of the site was determined. After the stratigraphy was clarified, the material culture was related to other interregional and intraregional sites, and historical and anthropological insights collated. These insights were brought into focus through the theories of great and little traditions and world-systems theory. The great and little traditions analysis emphasized ritual and agriculture at Safut while world-systems theory focused on Safut's role in the Kingdom of Ammon on the periphery of Assyrian Empire.


In-depth study and analysis of the site of Tall Safut and its materials, which are housed in various locations, have contributed to the assessment, organization, and detailed analysis of the material finds and phases at Tall Safut. A new stratigraphy for the site was established following the examination of over 3,000 sherds and whole vessels. Material from the Middle Bronze III was identified including ceramics found mainly in the Central Jordan Valley and imports from as far as Cyprus. Architecture and finds from the Late Bronze II and Iron Age IA were observed. Special attention was paid to the Late Bronze Age IIB cultic area where a metal seated figurine was found with parallels in modern day Syria and Lebanon, but likely representing the eponymous founder of Safut indicating a little tradition in ritual at the site separate from the influence of great traditions. Six phases beginning in the Late Iron Age IIB and ending in the Late Iron Age IIC/Persian Period were clarified in the building complex found in Areas B and C. It is during this time that the site grew to a large size and evidence for large-scale agricultural production is evidenced including storage rooms with large pithoi and metal tools. These technological advances and agricultural intensification likely resulted from the impact of the great traditions of the Assyrian Empire on the little traditions of the kingdom of Ammon. Pottery and small finds such as seals and bullae show connections with the empires of Assyria and Babylonia, evidence of the little traditions of local elites being influenced by the great traditions of Neo-Assyria.


The study carried out from the Tall Safut material clearly shows the importance of the site for more fully understanding the history of the hill country in Central Jordan. The identification of Middle Bronze Age III pottery at Safut is significant because there was previously no known Middle Bronze Age presence at the site, and also because broad cultural connections between the Central Jordan Valley and further afield were revealed. As pottery was the only material found in this period it is hard to draw any strong anthropological conclusions other than to say that Tall Safut was likely under the influence of a polity in the Central Jordan Valley centered around the sites of Pella and Tall abu al-Kharaz. These broader regional connections from the Middle Bronze Age were followed by a lack of intraregional connections in the Late Bronze Age. Cultic material identified from the Late Bronze Age II at Safut is significant because of its ritual context, as well as what these ritual practices say about a shift in focus to a more localized region around Safut. The possible presence of a temple complex at Safut strengthens the possibility of the site being an integral part in a city-state polity centered around Amman. During this period local traditions were able to flourish at Safut likely due to its protection within the city-state polity of Amman and due to the lack of great traditions as the major empires largely avoided this area in the Late Bronze Age. The Iron Age II at Safut, in contrast, experienced expansive regional connections. The substantial archaeological evidence from the Iron Age II indicate the site’s importance for the Ammonites and external empirical control from Assyria and Babylonia. When viewing the findings from the different time periods at Safut with a focus on agricultural and religious evidence it is clear that the site shifts from a local orientation, based only on little traditions in the Bronze Age to an extra-regional perspective in the Iron Age II where the little traditions reflected by ritual practices and agricultural production in and around Safut reflect core influences of the great traditions of the Assyrian Empire. It was likely that the elite at Safut borrowed at least symbolism from the core of Assyria in order to gain social or political advantages in Ammon.

Subject Area

Tall Safut; Jordan--Antiquities; Excavations (Archaeology)--Jordan


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