Location: Bir Madhkur, Jordan
The Bir Madhkur Project is a multi-disciplinary, archaeological field project aimed at exploring the economic hinterland of ancient Petra, a cultural heritage treasure in southern Jordan, as well as documenting the rich cultural landscape for purposes of preservation and community development. In 2014, the project will focus on excavating the bath/caravanserai at the site. We will also continue the archaeological, landscape survey of the environs of Bir Madhkur with special attention paid to mapping the ancient agricultural features and documenting the course of the ancient Spice Route through the region.
Overview of Site
Bir Madhkur, located in the Wadi Araba in southern Jordan, is a Roman/Byzantine fort and settlement as well as a major caravan stop along the Arabian Spice Route that connected the ancient city of Petra, now one of the Seven Wonders of the World, with the Mediterranean port of Gaza. The site was occupied in the late Hellenistic (Nabataean), Roman, and Byzantine periods. The main features of the site include a Late Roman/Byzantine fort, a domestic settlement, a bath complex/caravanserai, and various ancillary structures. Sites in the vicinity of Bir Madhkur include additional caravan stations, farmhouses, and nomadic encampments. There is also extensive evidence of ancient agriculture in the region around the site.
The inhabitants of Bir Madhkur and of sites in its territory were a mix of native peoples practicing subsistence strategies based on pastoralism, agriculture, and trade, at varying levels of intensity over time. These groups intermingled with non-native peoples, including pilgrims, merchants, and soldiers, who passed through or were stationed in the region throughout much of the Roman and Byzantine periods. The Bir Madhkur Project examines, through historical, archaeological, and ethnographic research, the relationships between these native and non-native populations. Emphasis is on revealing the past function of Bir Madhkur as a regional center of social, economic, and cultural interaction and exchange, in the context of Petra's rural economy and urban development.
Period(s) of Occupation: Prehistoric through Islamic periods (focus is on Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine)
Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 3 weeks
Room and Board Arrangements
On room and board arrangements, contact the project director.
Academic CreditNumber of credits offered Contact directors for more information
Smith, Andrew M., II. Roman Palmyra: Identity, Community, and State Formation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
Smith, Andrew M., II, Beyond the Nabataean and Roman City: Surveying the Central and Southern Wadi Araba, Crossing Jordan: North American Contributions to the Archaeology of Jordan, 393-400, 2007,
Smith, Andrew M., II, Pathways, Roadways, and Highways: Networks of Communication and Exchange in Wadi Araba, Near Eastern Archaeology, 68: 180-189, 2005
Smith, Andrew M., II, Bir Madhkur Project: A Preliminary Report on Recent Fieldwork, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 340: 57-75, 2005,