The Wadi Rayyan Archaeological Project (WRAP), Jordan.

The Wadi Rayyan Archaeological Project is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) based at the Dept of Archaeology, University of Sydney, and affiliated with the Council for British Research in the Levant.

The Wadi Rayyan project aims to investigate the development of tree crops in the late prehistoric and proto-historic periods in the southern Levant.

The Wadi Rayyan Archaeological Project is grateful for the continued assistance of Fawwaz al Khraysheh, Director General of the Department of Antiquities, Jordan, and his staff in Amman and in the Ajlun district office.

The site of el Khawarij (Wadi Rayyan) in March 2003

Olives are the essence of the Mediterranean region today and evoke powerful images of the climate, cuisine and social environment of the region. In 1993 Alex Joffe published his Settlement and Society in the Early Bronze Age I and II, Southern Levant in which he claimed that the export of olive oil to Egypt was the impetus for the Early Bronze Age (EBA) urbanisation process in the southern Levant (Israel, Jordan and Palestine). His idea was that the production and subsequent trade in olive oil (perhaps considered a luxury good) provided the mechanism for regular contact between the rural southern Levant and the highly centralised Egyptian state, which then prompted the state formation process in the Levant (ca 3500 BCE onwards). It has also been more recently suggested that the preceding Chalcolithic period saw a great number of political and economic changes and these might well have been triggered by prehistoric contact with the Egyptian delta which began as early as the Neolithic. In 1993 there was little direct evidence to support an EBA olive oil production, but recent excavations at Chalcolithic (4500-3500 BCE) sites in Jordan and Israel have revealed, for the first time, evidence for the domestication of the olive (Meadows 2001, 2005).

The wadi Rayyan sites provide a perfect opportunity to test the relationship between olive domestication and settlement patterns in later prehistory. Both have abundant evidence of agricultural processing (features cut into the bedrock) and both have clear evidence of Chalcolithic/EBA occupation.

These two sites, probably satellites of the larger Jordan valley townships, are chronologically on the cusp of state formation processes in the southern Levant (3500 - 3000 BCE) and invite discussions about the relationships between small and large villages and towns in an ecologically diverse agricultural landscape. It is possible that the olive producing highlands relied upon the valley sites to supply grain and other staples and this has huge implications for our understanding of the organisation and complexity of the rural hinterland in the Late Chalcolithic and EBA.

For further information on this project please contact the project director: