In the Wādī al-‘Arab, one can find traces of human activities and settlement places from all periods. The surveys and excavations, which have applied the latest archaeological technologies and methods, show that the Wadi al-'Arab was inhabited from the Palaeolithic period to modern times. The outstanding natural conditions with respect to soil fertility and abundance of water made this region an extraordinarily valuable settlement area for thousands of years.
In 2001, the Gadara Region Project was initiated by Dieter Vieweger of the Biblical Archaeological Institute (BAI) of the University of Wuppertal (Germany). This project has focused on the interdisciplinary investigation of the Wadi al-'Arab south-west of Gadara and the excavation of its most prominent site, Tall Zira'a. The project has been a joint enterprise of the BAI and the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology (GPIA) in Amman since 2004, and the Jerusalem branch of same institute entered the project in 2006. It is jointly directed by Dieter Vieweger and Jutta Häser.
Tall Zira'a offers the unique possibility of excavating a stratigraphical sequence from the Early Bronze Age (3200 BCE) to 1900 AD in northern Jordan. For the Bronze and Iron Ages, the outstanding finds show exemplarily the cultural influences and changes in a contact zone between the historical 'global players' Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia.
This project has several main objectives. To fulfill them will mean conducting work and research in the area for an extended period of time.
1. Firstly, the Tall Zira´a contains evidence of over 5000 years of settlement – and that almost without cultural gaps. As far as archaeology is concerned, this is perhaps its most important feature. This means not only that all the different cultural periods can be studied in the one place, but also that it is possible to observe the transitions between them.
2. The Tall is situated in an ideal cultural location, at the point at which the Syrian cultural sphere meets the Palestinian. It was often the case that technical, cultural, or other innovations came from here, from the north, into the Palestinian world.
3. The technical knowledge and developments in the realm of handwork and craft – in our case especially pottery – can also be studied on the tall.
4. The tall also gives us the opportunity to investigate the survival strategies developed by the inhabitants over the millennia. They lived in a clearly demarcated area that was blessed with a great deal of water. How did they adapt to the natural conditions of the valley, and how did they respond to changes in climate and the given resources? This includes an investigation in the Wādī itself of the agricultural potential, flora and fauna and geological aspects (water, rock formation, and soil types).
5. Moreover, the influence of the trade route through the wadi will have been considerable, and is worth investigating in detail.
6. Finally, one very appealing topic of investigation are the demographic changes in the whole region. When Gadara rose to prominence, the tall temporarily stopped being the most important settlement in the region. At the end of the 7th century, however, Gadara declined and the tall became the central settlement once again.
The fact that these questions are formulated with a very regional orientation, taking into account the interplay of various factors within that region, means that the project is essentially concerned with the archaeology of a landscape.
- C. Steuernagel: Der ’Adschlun, in: Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 49 (1926), p. 80–83.
- D. Vieweger: Der Tell Zera’a im Wadi el-’Arab. Die Region südlich von Gadara. Ein Beitrag zur Methodik des Tell-Surveys,In: Das Altertum 48 (2003), p. 191–216.
- J. Häser/D. Vieweger: Preliminary Report on the Archaeological Investigations of the Wadi al-’Arab and the Tall Zira'a, 2003 and 2004,in: Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 49 (2005), p. 135–146
- J. Dijkstra/M. Dijkstra/Vieweger/K. Vriezen: Regionaal Archaeologisch Onderzoek Nabij Umm Qes (Ant. Gadara) De Opgravingen op Tell Zera’a en de Ligging van Laatbrons Gadara, in: Phoenix 51/1 (2005), p. 5–26.
- D. Vieweger/J. Häser: Der Tell Zera’a im Wadi el-’Arab. Das „Gadara Region-Project“ in den Jahren 2001 bis 2004, in: Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 121 (2005a), p. 1–30.
- D. Vieweger/J. Häser: Neueste Entdeckungen auf dem Tell Zera’a (Jordanien), in: Welt und Umwelt der Bibel (2005b), p. 62–64.
- D. Vieweger/J. Häser: Das „Gadara-Region Project“ – Der Tall Zira'a in den Jahren 2005 und 2006,in: Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 123 (2007), p. 1-27.
- D. Vieweger/J. Häser: Gadara Region Project. Preliminary Report on the Archaeological Excavations on Tall Zirā'a in 2005 and 2006, American Journal of Archaeology, 111, 2007, p. 526-530.
- D. Vieweger/J. Häser: “… sixty great cities with walls and bronze bars…”. 5000 Years of Palestinian History on One Settlement Mound, Near Eastern Archaeology, 70/3 (2007), p. 147-167.