Archaeological works were conducted in the Ghor es-Safi during 2010 and 2011 by the Hellenic Society for Near Eastern Studies (HSNES) in collaboration with the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (DoAJ). The project was funded by Aramex LLC with support of the above-mentioned institutions and directed by Dr Konstantinos D. Politis.
Survey, excavations and conservation have been conducted at various areas in the Ghor es-Safi since 2000 (Politis et al forthcoming 2012). The overall objective has been to understand human settlement and land-use patterns in the region during the last 12,000 years. Particular emphasis has been given to agriculture as the mouth of the Wadi al-Hasa, where Ghor es-Safi is located, is a soil-rich and well-watered place.
The work during 2010 and 2011 concentrated on understanding the process of the sugar factory at Tawahin as-Sukkar (TeS). The eastern pressing room which was excavated and back-filled in 2004 (Politis et al 2005) was re-exposed and restored according to the documentation. The western pressing room excavated in 2010 (by DoAJ but not recorded) was also exposed at the level of the crushing stones and paving slabs and then documented. [Fig. 1] A more complete picture is now emerging of the size and importance of the double press sugar factory. [Fig. 2]
The vertical penstock on the south-western end of the complex was also cleared to the 2004 state. This construction was obviously later than the two pressing chambers and apparently channelling a more regular water flow for irrigation purposes. A mill or crushing installation may have been present but is not apparent today.
A multi-chambered building with evidence of intense burning at the north-west side of the sugar factory partially excavated in 2010 (by DoAJ) was presumed to be the place where sugar cane juice was refined through boiling. Its associated ash dump on the north-eastern end of the site was excavated in 2004 (by HSNES) and sampled for botanical remains in 2011, disclosing evidence of actual sugar cane fragments for the first time (Politis et al forthcoming 2012).
Analysis of the pottery indicates that the sugar factory could have functioned from as early as the 8th or 9th centuries A.D., but primarily during the 12th-14th centuries A.D. (Politis et al forthcoming 2012). The most significant of these pottery finds are two types of related ‘sugar pots’ which are by far the most ubiquitous on the site (77% of all pottery finds). A study of other finds indicate a ca. 15th – 16th century squatting occupation in the disused sugar factory and a final phase in the early 20th century when adobe buildings were erected, probably associated with the Ottoman Army.
The new Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth located in the Ghor es-Safi now displays a range of finds from the archaeological works in the region.
- Politis, K. D. et al (forthcoming 2012) Archaeological Landscapes of Zoara: Results of the Survey and Excavations in the Ghor es-Safi (Jordan) from 1997 to 2010. Palestine Exploration Fund Monograph X, London.
- Politis, K. D. et al (2005) Survey and Excavations at Ghawr as-Safi 2004. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan. 49: 313-326.
- Ancient Landscapes of the Ghor es-Sāfī: Surveys and Excavations 1997–2009