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30 September 2011
Secrets of the Jordanian wetlands exposed

Archaeologists and conservationists are fighting a vital battle to preserve what could be the most important archaeological sites in Jordan. The area in question is known as the Asraq Oasis. 20,000 years ago the area was blessed with an abundance of water.
     This environment encouraged a plethora of flora and fauna, on the back of which a thriving human community developed. Climate change then took over and the area is now a rapidly drying marshland, reduced in size to a small oasis. The occupants of this Epipalaeolithic site, who predate Neolithic humans, were adept farmers as well as hunters, and developed social skills which would translate themselves into village and town communities.
     A combined team from the Jordanian Department of Antiquities, and University College London & University of Cambridge (UK), carried out extensive excavations from 2005 to 2007, which yielded extensive data and several articles & papers have been published in academic journals which chronicle these finds.
     One particular find, however, stands out. It is that of a complete skeleton, unusually for the area and period, bound and buried. The unusual nature is two fold. Firstly, very few human remains have been found in the area, with a normal 'burial' leaving the body exposed on the ground, to enable natural recycling. So an actual burial lead the team to believe that a simple form of class structure had developed.
     The second unusual nature was the actual burial itself. The body had been placed in a crouched upright position and this was the first example of its type in Jordan. Further DNA analyses of the remains are being carried out and it is hoped that more secrets will be unlocked.
     There is severe pressure on the site, however, not only from the degrading and drying of the geography of the area, but also, and probably a more dangerous threat, the spread of modern development.

Edited from Menafn, Jordan Times (25 September 2011)

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