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—  City  —
Ancient Dhiban with modern settlement in the background, looking south
Jordan location map
Red pog.svg
Coordinates: 31°29′56″N 35°47′8″E / 31.49889°N 35.78556°E / 31.49889; 35.78556
Country Jordan
Province Madaba Governorate
Founded 2000 B.C.
 - Type Municipality
 - Mayor Salim Hawawsheh
 - City 10.24 km2 (4 sq mi)
 - Metro 20.35 km2 (7.9 sq mi)
Elevation 726 m (2,382 ft)
Population [1]
 - Metro 13,043
Time zone GMT +2
 - Summer (DST) +3 (UTC)
Area code(s) +(962)5

Dhiban is a modern town located in Madaba Governorate in Jordan, approximately 70 kilometers south of Amman and east of the Dead Sea. Previously nomadic, the modern community settled the town in the 1950s. Today, Dhiban is approximately 15000 members strong, with many working in the army, government agencies, or in seasonal agricultural production. A number of young people study in nearby universities in Karak, Madaba, and Amman. Most inhabitants practice Islam.

Settlement at Dhiban

The ancient settlement lies adjacent to the modern town. Excavations have revealed that the site was occupied intermittently over the past 5,000 years, its earliest occupation occurring in the Early Bronze Age in the third millennium BCE. The site's extensive settlement history is in part due to its location on the King's Highway, a major commercial route in antiquity. The majority of evidence for this population is concentrated in a 15 hectare tall. The release of the Mesha Inscription in 1868 led to an upsurge in visitors to the town (including tourists and scholars) due to its ostensible confirmation of biblical passages. Excavations began at the site in the mid-20th century with the American Schools of Oriental Research’s project in 1950-53 and continued with seasons in 1955, 1956, 1965, the 1990s, an excavation and restoration program from Jordan’s Department of Antiquities, and the ongoing Dhiban Excavation and Development Project, which began in 2004.

Bronze Age

The first substantial settlement at Dhiban’s tall was during the Early Bronze Age. Archaeological evidence for a habitation of the tall between the Early Bronze Age and Iron Age has not yet been found. However, the disturbed archaeological context at the site means that this might not be definitive. Dhiban might correspond with the town “Tpn” or “Tbn” found in Egyptian texts from the reigns of Thutmoses III, Amenhotep III, and Rameses II.

Dhiban and the Israelites

The Israelites stopped at Dhiban during the Exodus. The Bible mentions "Divon" (Hebrew: דִּיבֹן‎), or "Divon Gad" (דִּיבֹן גָּד) because the city was said to have been occupied by the Gad. The name in Biblical Hebrew means wasting or pining.

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According to the Mesha Stele found at the site, Mesha, a Moabite king, expelled the Israelites and established ancient Dhiban as an important settlement in the kingdom of Moab.

Mesha and the Iron Age Moabite Kingdom

The Mesha Inscription connected Dhiban with the biblical “Dibon” as well as implying that it was the capital of Mesha, a prominent Moabite king from the 9th century BCE, though it’s role in Mesha’s reign has not been confirmed. In the Iron IIb period Dhiban underwent at least three large building projects. The tall was artificially enlarged during this period and included several new architectural features, including retaining walls, towers, and a monumental city wall. The building dates of these features have not been confirmed, but might be somewhere between the 9th and 8th centuries BCE. These large buildings appear to have been abandoned in the Iron IIc period. The site also featured a large necropolis to the northeast of the tall. This contained multi-generational burials with corresponding funerary offerings, and one had a clay coffin with an anthropomorphic lid. The necropolis appears to be contemporary with these building projects.

Hellenistic Dhiban and the Nabataeans

There has been little evidence recovered from the site for the Persian, Hellenistic, and early Nabataean periods. But several lines of evidence indicate that Dhiban became part of the Nabataean empire in the mid-1st century BCE. These include Nabataean-style ceramics, coins, and architecture (such as a temple with a Nabataean-like layout, Nabataean masonry, and aqueduct, retaining wall, and monumental stairway).

Roman and Byzantine Dhiban

In 106 CE the Romans incorporated Nabataean territories into their own empire, including Dhiban. The Nabataean monumental buildings were abandoned and there were indications of a population decrease at the site. Coins, a multi-generational family tomb, and an inscription do, however, indicate that the site remained inhabited and there were some building projects during this time. The inscription also suggests that the Romans maintained a road near the site, which might have been the King’s Highway. Later on in the Roman period and leading into the Byzantine period Dhiban’s population began gradually increasing in size. It was even mentioned in EusebiusOnomasticon as a very large village in the 4th century CE. Excavations have uncovered two significant buildings from this time period—a bathhouse and two churches.

Early and Middle Islamic Periods

The exact date of Dhiban’s early Islamic period settlement is under debate and could be from the 7th- 8th century Umayyad period or the 8-9th century Abbasid period. The community thrived during this time and covered most of the tall by the 14th century CE Mamluk period, if not earlier during the 13th century CE Ayyubid period. Several structures on the site have been dated to this period using coins and ceramics.

Late Islamic and Hashemite Periods

The Ottoman defter for Transjordan from 1538 to 1596 neglect Dhiban, which implies that the settlement declined through the 16th century. Families of the pastoral nomadic Bani Hamida tribe established modern Dhiban in the 1950s and both built upon preexisting structures and used them for raw materials. In the following years the land surrounding the tall were distributed to the community for private ownership and the tall itself remains Jordanian government property.


  1. Ministry of Municipal Affairs


  • Cordova, C., C. Foley, and A. Nowell (2005) Landforms, Sediments, Soil Development, and Prehistoric Site Settings on the Madaba-Dhiban Plateau, Jordan. Geoarchaeology 20(1): 29-56.
  • Ji, C. (2007) “The Iraq al-Amir and Dhiban Plateau Regional Surveys,” Pp. 141-161 in Crossing Jordan – North American contributions to the archaeology of Jordan. T. Levy, P. M. Daviau, R. Younker and M. Shaer, eds. London: Equinox.
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  • Porter, B., B. Routledge, D. Steen, and F. al-Kawamlha (2007) “The power of place: The Dhiban community through the ages,” Pp. 315-322 in Crossing Jordan – North American contributions to the archaeology of Jordan. T. Levy, P. M. Daviau, R. Younker and M. Shaer, eds. London: Equinox.
  • Routledge, B. (2004) In Moab in the Iron Age: Hegemony, polity, archaeology. Philadelphia, Pa: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Sauer, J. (1975) Review: The Excavation at Dibon (Dhiban) in Moab: The Third Campaign 1952-1953. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 20: 103-9.
  • Tushingham, A. (1972) The Excavations at Dibon (Dhiban) in Moab (Cambridge: Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research).
  • Tushingham, A. (1990) Dhiban Reconsidered: King Mesha and his Works. Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 34: 182-92.
  • Tushingham, A., and P. Pedrette (1995) Mesha’s Citadel complex (Qarhoh) at Dhiban. In Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan, V, edited by Muna Zaghloul (Amman: Department of Antiquities): 151-59.
  • Winnet, F. and W. Reed (1964) The Excavations at Dibon (Dhiban) in Moab: The First and Second Campaigns (Baltimore: J.H. Furst).



Coordinates: 31°30′N 35°47′E / 31.5°N 35.783°E / 31.5; 35.783 Template:Amman Governorate


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