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Jordan, although a relatively young state, is very rich in history and home to some of the earliest settlements and villages. 
It has hosted some of the greatest ancient civilizations in the world, leaving behind rich heritage and intriguing sites

Paleolithic Period - Old Stone Age  ( 500,000 – 8,300 BC approx. )

Remains of stone tools such as flint and hand-axes were uncovered at Azraq oasis in the eastern desert region where the Neanderthal man hunted wild animals and gathered food.


Neolithic Period - New Stone Age  ( 8,300 – 4,500 BC approx. )

Agriculture began to develop and profound shifts in the lifestyle of Stone Age people took place where they started to settle down in permanent villages. Evidence of early farming communities were found at el-Beidha village near Petra and Ain el-Ghazal large settlement northeast of Amman. The most significant development was pottery.


Chalcolithic Period - Copper Age  ( 4,500 – 3,200 BC approx. )

Copper was smelted for the first time and used to make axes and arrowheads. Copper mines were excavated at Khirbet Feinan in Wadi Araba and Copper artifacts were found at Tuleitat Ghassul Chalcolithic village in the Jordan Valley.


The Bronze Age  ( 3,200 – 1,200 BC approx. )

Trading with Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq), Egypt and Arabia was developing and as a result urban civilizations emerged and more complex settlements expanded in the Rift area, which had acquired an economic significance, as the main goods traded were copper, which was abundant in the Araba Valley, and asphalt from the Dead Sea, which was used for caulking and mummifying. Along the eastern shore of the Dead Sea, five Bronze age cities were discovered; believed to be the Cities of the Plain mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 14: 1-3) including Lot’s home city of Sodom and Gomorrah which were destroyed by the wrath of God. The Hyksos invaded the region and caused destruction but were later expelled by the Egyptians who revived the trade. Many villages were fortified with defensive towers and massive walls like Tabqet Fahl (Pella) in the Jordan Valley to protect the inhabitants from nomadic tribes. Widespread destruction following the invasion of the “Peoples of the Sea”, also known as Philistines, who settled in the southern coast of Palestine and gave the area its name.


The Iron Age  ( 1,200 – 330 BC approx. )

Three kingdoms emerged and developed in Jordan due to the growing importance of the trade route which crossed the deserts from Arabia to the Euphrates carrying spices, gold and other precious goods. The Edomites occupied southern Jordan with their capital at Buseira near Dana. Their economic and political power depended on their control over Feinan where copper was smelted. The Gulf of Aqaba also gave them access to major trade routes. They developed great skills in mining and smelting copper and had major settlements in Buseira, Aqaba where they had left intriguing sites surrounded by vertical cliffs at Sela (Petra) & Umm el-Biyara in addition to Ba’ja in Little Petra. The Ammonites settled in the northern mountainous areas with their capital at Rabbath Ammon (present day Amman) while the Moabites occupied central Jordan with its capital at Dhiban. The Israelites conquered the entire Levant but were defeated by Mesha, king of Moab, whose victories were recorded on the famous Mesha Stele but eventually the Iron Age kingdoms faded away in the 6th century BC as the region fell to the Babylonians (from Iraq) and eventually to the Persian Empire. Most of the biblical events of the Old Testament took place during this period. The Exodus of the Israelites to the “Land of Canaan” through the wildernesses of Egypt and Jordan which was led by Moses and his brother Aaron - Mount Hor (possibly Jebel Haroun near Petra) is believed to be the site where Aaron died while Mount Nebo in Moab is believed to be the traditional site where Moses died & from where he viewed the land of Canaan. During the sixth century BC, a thriving new civilization, known as the Nabataens, had emerged in southern Jordan where they had acquired considerable power.


Hellenistic Period  ( 332 – 63 BC approx. )

The Persian army was defeated and the entire Levant region was conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great except for the Nabatean capital city of Petra in southern Jordan which remained independent. The influence of the Greek culture could be felt in the Decapolis region (Deca-ten, Polis-cities) in northern Jordan where new Hellenistic cities were founded such as Gadara (Umm Qais) and others were renamed such as Philadelphia (from Rabbath Ammon – Amman nowadays), and Antioch on the Golden River (from Garshu – todays Jerash). Among other cities of this region was Pella. Most of the Hellenistic sites in Jordan were later reconstructed during the Roman, Byzanitne and Islamic eras but one impressive remaining Hellenistic site is Qasr al-Abd at Iraq el Amir west of Amman. After Alexander’s death, his successors struggled over control of the Near East and eventually the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt and the Seleucid rulers of Syria both ruled Jordan, but still the Nabatean kingdom remained independent.


Nabataean Period  ( 400 BC – AD 106 approx. )

During the sixth century BC, before Alexander’s conquest, nomadic Arab tribes, known as the Nabateans, began migrating from the Arabian Peninsula and settling in the southern region of Jordan where they established their own independent kingdom around 167 BC, stretching from northern Arabia in the south to Bosra (nowadays in Syria) in the north and to the Mediterranean shores in the west including the Neqab desert in Palestine and the Sinai Peninsula. The Nabataean’s magnificent capital was the legendary city of Petra where they had rock-carved remarkable sepulchral monuments, temples and tombs out of solid sandstone rock. They built their empire in the arid desert which forced them to excel in water conservation. They built dams and rock-carved canals, cisterns and reservoirs. The Nabataean civilization developed and grew in power and prosperity through trading as they had monopoly over the major trade routes which crossed their lands and were referred to as “Lords of the desert”. Their caravans, heavily-laden with valuable incense and expensive spices brought from the Far East and southern Arabia, traversed vast deserts towards the Mediterranean Sea ports, where rich consumers enjoyed Hellenistic lifestyles. Along the Rift Valley, many Nabatean temples, caravanserais and cisterns were found. The Nabataean kingdom fell under the Roman rule in 106 AD.


Roman Period  ( 63 BC – AD 330 approx. )

With the invasion of the Roman general Pompey, the whole region fell to the Romans in 63 BC and a confederation of Ten Roman Cities, known as the Decapolis, was founded in Palestine, Jordan and southern Syria. Greek culture was strongly felt in those cities, some of which were newly built such as Gadara (Umm Qais) and Dion (Irbid) while others were redesigned and reconstructed in a Roman-style, amongst which was Philadelphia (Amman), Pella and Gerasa (Jerash), conisdered as one of the most splendid and greatest provincial city in Rome’s empire. The Nabataean kingdom, in southern Jordan maintained its sovereignty until it was annexed to the Roman Empire in 106 AD and the province of Arabia Petraea was established with Petra as its capital but with the completion of the Via Nova Traiana road (Kings’ Highway), which ran from the southern port of Ayla (Aqaba) all the way up to the northern Syrian city of Bosra, new trade routes were established and the capital of the province moved to Bosra (now in southern Syria) which led to Petra’s inevitable decline.


Byzantine Period  ( AD 324 – AD 632 approx. )

Christianity spread rapidly through the Middle East. During the first and second century AD, the city of Pella in northern Jordan, became a refuge for Christians who fled from Jerusalem to escape the Jewish Revolt and the Roman persecution. In AD 333 the Roman emperor Constantine I converted to Christianity. He built a new imperial residence at Byzantium (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey), later named Constantinople, which became the new capital of the Eastern Roman Empire referred to as the Byzantine Empire or Byzantium. The whole region fell under the Byzantine rule and Christianity became widely accepted as most cities in Jordan served as seats of bishops. During the Byzantine period, Jordan flourished and the mosaic artistry thrived too. Dozens of churches (most of which were basilica type), decorated with mosaic floors, were built throughout the country, some on the foundations of ancient Roman settlements and pagan temples. The most impressive were in Madaba, which became to be known as the “city of mosaics”, the greatest was the 6th century Mosaic Map of Palestine, found on the floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. Throughout Emperor Constantine’s rule many churches were built in the region including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. A devastating earthquake hit the region in AD 363 causing considerable damage. In the sixth and seventh centuries AD, Jordan’s population severely declined due to the worldwide AD 542 Plague, which wiped out most of Jordan’s inhabitants.


Arab Rule  ( AD 634 – AD 1099 approx. )

Upon the advent of Islam from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century AD, Jordan fell under Arab Islamic rule and Damascus (Syria) became the capital of the Muslim Umayyad Dynasty ( AD 661 – AD 750 approx ). This marked the start of a long period of rule under various Islamic dynasties. Although Christianity was still widely practiced through the 8th century AD, Islam became the official religion and the Arabic language replaced that of the Greek. Jordan prospered during this time as it served as a crossroad for Muslim pilgrims on their way to visit the holy sites. Magnificent desert complexes were built by the Umayyad people throughout Syria and Jordan. These complexes testified to the Umayyad’s love of hunting, sport and leisure. In the eastern Jordanian desert, they constructed caravanserais, bath houses, hunting complexes and palaces, collectively known as the “Desert Castles”. However the greatest of all Umayyad constructions is the Dome of the Rock Mosque which was built in Jerusalem in AD 691. A series of powerful earthquakes hit the area the most devastating was that of AD 749 where many buildings and cities were destroyed. The Abbasids took the rule in AD 750 and moved the capital to Baghdad (Iraq). The Desert Castles were deserted and Jordan was neglected which led to its fast decline. In AD 969, the Muslim Fatimid caliphate of Egypt took control of Jordan.


Crusader Period  ( AD 1099 – AD 1268 approx. )

The Crusaders took control over the region and established their Latin Kingdom in Jerusalem in AD 1099. A line of Christian strongholds were built in Jordan to protect the route to Jerusalem and to control the main pilgrim routes to Mecca. The first Crusader fortresses built in Jordan were Montreal Castle in Shawbak and Ils de Gray (today the Island of Salah ed-Din ) near Aqaba, but the largest one was built in Kerak in AD 1142 and afterwards two smaller castles were built in Petra. The Muslim commander Salah el-Din (Saladin) founded the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt in AD 1174. In 1185 Saladin’s nephew Izz al-Din Usama built the stronghold castle of Ajloun as part of Saladin’s defensive chain of forts against the Crusaders to limit their expansion. The Crusaders were defeated in AD 1187. After a siege of one year the stronghold of Kerak surrendered in AD 1188 and afterwards the Montreal Castle surrendered.


Mamluk Period  ( AD 1263 – AD 1516 approx. )

The Muslim Mamluks seized power in Egypt in AD 1250 and later ruled Jordan and Syria. Jordan witnessed a period of prosperity during the Mamluk’s reign where many castles were rebuilt and caravanserais were constructed to host pilgrims and strengthen the lines of communication and trade.


Ottoman Period  ( AD 1516 – AD 1918 approx. )

The Mamluks were defeated by the Ottoman Turks in AD 1516 and the whole region fell under the Ottoman rule and remained so for 400 years. Much of Jordan was neglected and only a series of fortresses were built along the pilgrimage route to Mecca, such as that at al-Qatraneh and el-Hassa, to protect Muslim pilgrims, who travelled by camel caravans, from hostile desert tribes. In 1908 the Ottomans finished the construction of the 1,300 km Hejaz Railway which was built mainly to transport pilgrims from Damascus in Syria, through Jordan, to Madina in Saudi Arabia, where they would travel on to Mecca for the Muslim pilgrimage. Another reason for constructing this railway was to facilitate the mobility of Turkish troops into the Arab heartland. The Arab desert tribes were not pleased with the construction of the railway, as they used to benefit from escorting and protecting the pilgrims who journeyed on camel caravans through their lands, and so they felt further threatened by the Ottomas but nevertheless the construction of the railway had a positive outcome on Jordan’s capital city Salt (north of Amman) which witnessed considerable growth in population. The Ottomans banned the use of the Arabic language and many Arab nationalist figures were arrested and persecuted. The Ottomans entered World War I (1914-1918) in alliance with the Central Powers. Britain promised the Arabs to support a unified independent Arab state, stretching from the Arabian Peninsula in the south to Aleppo in northern Syria, if they revolted against the Turks. In 1916, the Arabs revolted against the Ottoman rule in what became known as The Great Arab Revolt which broke out in Hejaz (nowadays Saudi Arabia). This revolt was initiated by Sharif Hussein bin Ali, Emir of Mecca (great grandfather of king Hussein and considered by many as the head of the Arab nationalists), and it was led by his sons the emirs Abdullah and Faisal with the aid of Britain’s military emissary, T.E. Lawrence. During the war the railway was frequently attacked and severely damaged by local Arab tribes. The Arab forces controlled all of modern Jordan, most of the Arabian Peninsula and much of southern Syria. The Ottoman Empire collapsed in 1918. The British reneged on their promises to the Arabs for a single unified independent Arab state and divided the Middle East amongst themselves and their French allies in 1916. A British mandate over Transjordan, Palestine and Iraq was enforced in 1920. 


Modern Jordan 

In 1921, Emir Abdullah, the second son of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, was appointed ruler of Transjordan (i.e. the land across the Jordan River) and established the Emirate of Transjordan under British mandate. Abdullah moved the capital from es-Salt to Amman. On May 25, 1946, the Emirate of Transjordan gained full independence from the British mandate and Emir Abdullah was proclaimed king of the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. War broke out between the Arabs and Jews upon the termination of the British mandate over Palestine and the proclamation of the state of Israel in 1948. Jordan was therefore flooded with Palestinian refugees. King Abdullah I was assassinated in 1951 and his grandson King Hussein Ibn Tallal ascended the throne of Jordan in 1953 when he was only 18 years old. When the 1967 Six-Day war broke out, Israel occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank causing more Palestinian refugees fleeing to Jordan. A peace treaty was signed between Jordan and Israel in 1994. The late King Hussein was a prominent leader and highly admired by his people. He ruled Jordan for 46 years until his death. King Hussein was succeeded by his eldest son, King Abdullah II in 1999.

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