University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

The Dhiban Excavation and Development Project in Jordan

Tell Dhiban

The site of Dhiban

The Dhiban Excavation and Development Project (DEDP) investigates more than five millennia of Middle Eastern history at Dhiban, a 12-hectare settlement located in Jordan, 20 kilometers east of the Dead Sea. The project, which began in 2004, is co-directed by Fellow Benjamin Porter, an Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at the University of California, Berkeley, with colleagues from the University of Liverpool and Knox College. The site of Dhiban has supported repeated attempts to organize large sedentary populations despite its position in a semi-arid environment. The physical evidence from Dhiban, recovered using a whole host of field scientific techniques, demonstrates Early Bronze Age, Iron Age, Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic settlement. Each of these settlements languished after a few centuries.

Ben Porter on site

The project has developed a research design that seeks to answer a range of questions that span the disciplines. The most basic, but arguably the most important, goal is to determine the size, date, and nature of each settlement episode, and document landscape use in Dhiban’s vicinity. The DEDP is also reconstructing agricultural, pastoralist, and craft economies with the organic and inorganic artifacts recovered in excavations. Because Dhiban was often settled when empires such as the Assyrian, Roman, and Mamluk were active in the Levant, the DEDP investigates how local communities responded to each imperial intervention. Not least, the DEDP is keen to understand the modern Dhiban community’s relationship with the adjacent tell, and hopes to develop a site management plan with Jordan’s Department of Antiquities in the coming years.  

Excavation at Dhiban

The DEDP concurrently runs an archaeological field school for undergraduate students. Participants learn excavation, survey, mapping, and artifact processing, earning credits from UC Berkeley.  Exemplary students are often invited back the following year as assistant supervisors. Likewise, most DEDP staff members are graduate students and post-doctoral scholars, who help supervise excavation units. The DEDP is always recruiting new staff members, so interested candidates should write: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The DEDP’s website,, and the project blog,, provide more information about staff members, recent publications, and sponsors. 

Read more about Benjamin Porter.

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