High-precision radiocarbon dating and historical biblical archaeology in southern Jordan

Thomas E. Levy, Thomas Higham, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Neil G. Smith, Erez Ben-Yosef, Mark Robinson, Stefan Münger, Kyle Knabb, Jürgen P. Schulze, Mohammad Najjar, Lisa Tauxe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent excavations and high-precision radiocarbon dating from the largest Iron Age (IA, ca. 1200-500 BCE) copper production center in the southern Levant demonstrate major smelting activities in the region of biblical Edom (southern Jordan) during the 10th and 9th centuries BCE. Stratified radiocarbon samples and artifacts were recorded with precise digital surveying tools linked to a geographic information system developed to control on-site spatial analyses of archaeological finds and model data with innovative visualization tools. The new radiocarbon dates push back by 2 centuries the accepted IA chronology of Edom. Data from Khirbat en-Nahas, and the nearby site of Rujm Hamra Ifdan, demonstrate the centrality of industrial-scale metal production during those centuries traditionally linked closely to political events in Edom's 10th century BCE neighbor ancient Israel. Consequently, the rise of IA Edom is linked to the power vacuum created by the collapse of Late Bronze Age (LB, ca. 1300 BCE) civilizations and the disintegration of the LB Cypriot copper monopoly that dominated the eastern Mediterranean. The methodologies applied to the historical IA archaeology of the Levant have implications for other parts of the world where sacred and historical texts interface with the material record.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)16460-16465
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number43
StatePublished - 28 Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Archaeometallurgy
  • Iron age
  • Levant
  • Social evolution
  • StarCAVE


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