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26 November 2016
4,500-year-old Canaanite citadel's final hours

Excavations beneath a layer of ash and rock inside a pillared hall of the ruined palace within a 4,500-year-old citadel Khirbet al-Batrawy, on the fringes of the black desert in northeastern Jordan, have uncovered four copper axes, a bearskin, and a highly decorated drinking cup, along with dozens of ceramic pots, jars, cups, and storage vessels.
     The citadel of sits on top of a naturally fortified triangular hill overlooking the fertile Zarqa River valley. The city rose to prominence in the middle of the 3rd millennium BCE, largely due to its strategic location at the intersection of two important trading routes: one northeast into the Arabian Desert and Mesopotamia, and one south to the Arabian peninsula. This was the period of 4th, 5th, and 6th pharaonic dynasties in Egypt - a time of brisk trading of salt, copper, bitumen and sulfur, as well as gems, spices, and exotic goods.
     Excavations have uncovered an impressive citadel heavily fortified with mud-brick walls, towers, and gates, sitting on three-meter high stone foundations. On top of the hill was a 2,000 square metre palace complex.
     In 2300 BCE the citadel came to a violent and fiery end. The ceilings of the palace collapsed in the blaze, burying everything. Finds include copper arrowheads, carnelian beads, fragments of a potter's wheel, along with large quantities of ceramic storage jars containing barley, beer, red ochre and animal fat, and a large quantity of intact pottery vessels, some decorated with snake and scorpion motifs, and imported vases. Twenty storage jars with a storage capacity of 150 litres were arrayed along the sides of the main hall, as well as a large number of smaller vessels.
     The hall appears to have been a dining hall, where all precious items had been gathered. The four copper axes were found at the base of a pillar, earning the building the title, "Palace of the Copper Axes." A double-handled vessel with a spherical body and a squat grooved pedestal set apart from the ceramic assemblages was found near the pillar.

Edited from Haaretz (13 November 2016)

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