Khirbet Salameh

Just a few meters beyond ACOR’s front steps, the archaeological site of Khirbet Salameh (“secure ruins” in Arabic) is a uniquely preserved site of ancient human presence within Amman’s modern city limits. Located next to ACOR in Tla’ al-Ali, Amman, the site was first surveyed in the 1970s by Mujahed Muheisin of Yarmouk University and was partially excavated in the 1980s by Cherie Lenzen and Allison McQuitty on behalf of ACOR. In the early 1990s, ACOR Director Pierre M. Bikai carried out further excavations. At that time, the site became a field school for the training of students at the University of Jordan.  

What is visible today dates to the late Roman (approximately 2nd to 4th centuries A.D.) and Byzantine to Umayyad periods (5th–7th/8th centuries). The roughly square building encloses fourteen rooms surrounding a courtyard and contains multiple subfloor cisterns and storage pits. The many broken storage jars found within one of the rooms attest to an agricultural storage function. It is likely to have been a farmhouse. 

The earliest coins found at the site date to the 3rd century B.C. Pottery discovered in the bottom of pits within the building further indicate the Hellenistic phase of use. A probable cave tomb dated to around 600–400 B.C. points to the site having been used during the Iron IIC/Persian period.  

I. Hellenistic coin (Ptolemy ll?, possibly from Tyre) found in the survey around Khirbet Salameh (published in Bikai 1993, Pl.II.1)

Khirbet Salameh is important because few archaeological sites of this period are preserved or visible in the capital Amman, especially due to the fast pace of urban development. This site was protected when the Jordanian government purchased the land and provided adjacent property so that ACOR could build its center here in the 1980s. The site continues to be a haven for wildlife, including foxes and lizards. In the 1990s, a natural history survey of the site revealed the presence of over 66 species of plants.

For more details, see:

Lenzen, C. J. and A. McQuitty. 1984.  Khirbet Salameh. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 28: 295. 

Lenzen, C. J. and A. McQuitty. 1987.  The Site of Khirbet Salameh. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 31: 201–4. 

Bikai, P. M. 1993. “Khirbet Salameh 1992.” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 37: 521–29, pls. I–II. 

Bikai, P. M.  1993. “Khirbet Salameh,” in B. de Vries and P.M. Bikai (eds.) “Archaeology in Jordan.” American Journal of Archaeology 97 (3): 503–4. 

Walker, S. C. 2004. “Khirbet Salameh: An Archaeological Analysis of a Late Roman/Byzantine Farm Complex.” Unpublished M.A. thesis, University of Leicester.    

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