The Archaeology of Jordan’s Black Desert

Just south of Damascus begins the stony black basalt wasteland or Black Desert (‘Harrat al-Sham‘ in Arabic), stretching across North-Eastern Jordan and Saudi Arabia to the fringes of the sands of the great Nafud desert. New research east of Jordan’s capital of Amman shows that the arid and desolate basalt-strewn lands are astonishingly rich in archaeological monuments of all kinds and periods. There are circular stone dwellings, round enclosures with low stone walls, burial cairns, chambered tower tombs, hunting installations, rock drawings, and thousands of Safaitic and Arabic inscriptions on stone.
The Jebel Qurma Archaeological Landscape Project aims to study this extraordinary archaeological heritage in Jordan’s Black Desert over a long time scale and across several different environments. The project comprises field survey and excavation in the prominent Jebel Qurma range east of the oasis of Azraq, in the midst of the basalt, close to the Jordan-Saudi border.
Jebel Qurma is a research project of Leiden University, Faculty of Archaeology, in close cooperation with the Department of Antiquities in Jordan.
Director: Prof. Dr. Peter M.M.G. Akkermans
Satellite image of Jordan, with our area of research.
(Source: Terra-MODIS image, adapted from Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC)