AL-LAHUN Jordan
 
Late Bronze/Iron Age I                                

 

After a long period of abandonment, the site was surely inhabited again at the end of the 2nd millennium.  The new inhabitants of Lehun/al-Lahun chose the strategic sector D, a relatively leveled plateau in the southeastern part of the site. 

 

The architectural remains of a fortified LB/IA I village were excavated here between 1986 and 1997 [Figure]. The settlement was  probably built in the 12th-11th centuries B.C.E. At that time the region was reorganised: the Moabite kings had to protect their boundaries and wanted to defend militarily and politically their frontiers by building a series of forts to secure themselves from the invasions mentioned in the Old Testament or against attacks of nomadic tribes from the desert.  They built fortified settlements and fortresses along both banks of the Wadi Mujib: Balu'ah, Khirbet Medeiniyeh-Smakieh, Medeiniyeh-Ader and Lehun/al-Lahun.

 

This last village, enclosed by a precinct wall surrounding an elliptical area of 1700 sq m, was carefully planned: the rampart followed the relief of the plateau, already naturally protected by the impressive cliffs of the Wadi Mujib and the slopes of seasonal rivers. Up till now an entrance to the village has not been uncovered but might have been located in the northeast. The settlement was characterised by a peripheral belt of houses along the protection wall and a large central open space, partially completed by houses, and separated into an eastern and western section by a partition wall with an additional row of houses on each side. The rest of the open space probably served as a livestock paddock.  The rampart consisted of two parallel walls at a distance of 2.5 m from each other. Crosswalls transformed the space into several rooms of a casemate system, with broad and back rooms.  

 

Most of the houses presented independent dwelling units with rather similar dimensions. The building material throughout the entire village consisted of stones of local origin. The outer walls had a thickness varying from 0.70 to 0.80 m, whereas the inner partition walls, often built with less precision, were only between 0.40 and 0.50 m wide. Interior doorways as well as main entrances to the houses had an average width of 0.75 m. Floors made of beaten earth seemed to be a common feature. Small independent storerooms, being part of several houses, were paved with irregular stone slabs. They never had an entrance and were presumably only accessible through an opening in the roof. This kind of warehouse or grain barn was still used in Jordanian villages in previous centuries. Several houses had roof-supporting pillars. Remains of roofing material found in the Pillar House (House 1), suggest the use of reeds covered by huge flat stones. 

 

The best preserved house was the so-called “Pillar House” with walls reaching a height of 1.60 m in situ. Maybe it was the house of a local "sheikh" who was a vassal to a Moabite lord. The plan showed three parallel long rooms and at the back a broad room [Figure] being part of the casemate wall. The broad room was divided into three units, i.e. a small square space without an entrance, that probably served as a storeroom; and a rectangular space split up by stone pillars. Two lines of roof-supporting pillars, connected by low partition walls, divided the long rooms. The entrance (0.97 m wide) to the house was indicated by a threshold and a toatstone found in situ, leading to the central long room, probably used as an open courtyard. This room communicated with all the other rooms in the house, except for the storeroom where no doorway could be determined and that as aforementioned could only be entered from the roof. 

 

The fact that the village was an agricultural community is proven by various discoveries: ovens, millstones, mortars, basalt pestles, storage jars, loomweights and other ceramic vessels or tools for farmers. The pottery is very homogeneous and representative of the Late Bronze and the Early Iron Age. It has the same characteristics as the ceramics found in Ara’ir, Balu’ah, Medeniyeh and other Moabite sites and was exclusively for domestic use. There were open (craters, bowls, plates) and closed (pots, “cooking pots”, jugs) forms with small and large dimensions. The clay was generally coarse with sand, quartz, powdered limestone and basalt. A faience scarab [Figure] of the XX dynasty allowed to date this settlement to 1180-1070 B.C.E.  

 

If we try to interpret further the village life, we can estimate the total number of buildings, mainly private dwelling structures, at a maximum of 80 to 100. If we assume that a family could count 6 to 10 members, it is reasonable to imagine that 500 to 1000 people were living in Lehun at the end of the 2nd millennium B.C.E., which means 13 m² per inhabitant, including the open spaces, the warehouses and the stables. 

 

The most recent excavations suggest that several sites in Moab, like Balu'ah, Jawa south and Umeiri were temporarily abandoned in the Iron Age I period, and re-colonised in Iron Age II.  Also the village of Lehun seems to have been deserted temporarily, probably for political reasons (wars, insecurity, attacks by nomads), because during the excavations we found the entrance of "the House of the Palette" carefully blocked by the inhabitants with heavy stones [Figure].  They probably meant to return when the danger was over. 

 

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