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Proposal for the Zoning of the
Mount Nebo Archaeological Park

by Michele Piccirillo
Director, Franciscan Archaeological Institute
Gaetano Palumbo
Cultural Resources Management Consultant - ACOR
(proposal presented at Amman on January 10,1993)

a view

A view of the Nebo region

The rapid growth of Madaba and surrounding villages, as well as the expansion of agricultural and industrial activities, is causing a threat to the integrity of many important archaeological sites in the Mount Nebo area. For this reason the Government of Jordan has started a process for declaring Mount Nebo and its vicinity a protected area, with special zoning specifications.

The following is a proposal outlining the extension of the archaeological park and suggestions for the protection of archaeological sites within the park limits.


Fourteen major archaeological sites, or groups of sites are found in the Mount Nebo area. The fact has to be stressed that the intensive archaeological survey of the Nebo area is still being conducted, and that over 300 archaeological sites of various importance have already been located there. The most important sites are:

  1. al-Mehatta: Roman fortress along the road from Madaba to Livias and Jerusalem, at Palestine grid coordinates 218.5E 134.1N.
  2. Roman road: still preserved in many sections. Milestones are well visible along this road. The road alignment on the map is approximate.
  3. Khirbet Qurn el-Kibsch (Palestine grid coordinates 222.3E 132.4N): Large fortified site dated mainly to the Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age periods.
  4. Dolmens and stone circles (between Ayoun Musa and al-Mehatta): large area with many megalithic monuments, mainly stone circles, to be dated to the Late Chalcolithic or Early Bronze Age I period. The position of these structures on the map is approximate.
  5. Ayoun Musa (Church of Deacon Thomas, Palestine grid 219.80E 131.88N): Excavated church with mosaics.
  6. al-Mashhad (Palestine grid coordinates 220.1E 131.7N): Iron Age fortress and associated village on the hill slopes to the north of the spring of Ayoun Musa. Near the spring are Byzantine hermitages.
  7. Siyagha (Palestine grid coordinates 218.79E 130.70N): The Memorial of Moses with a monastery and a church with mosaics. It is the main touristic attraction in the area.
  8. al-Keniseh (Palestine grid coordinates 217.0E 128.7N): Spring and ruins of a Byzantine monastery.
  9. Ruins at Palestine grid coordinates 220.58k 129.56N).
  10. Khirbet Mekhayyat (Palestine grid coordinates 220.6E 128.7N): Iron A e fortified site and Byzantine village with important churches and mosaics (Church of Saint Lot and Procopius, Church of Saint George, etc.).
  11. Iron Age tower at Palestine grid coordinates 221.05E 128.08N.
  12. Megalithic stone circle at Palestine grid coordinates 219.81E 127.77N.
  13. Large area of dolmens between site 11 and the hills to the south. The position of these structures on the map is approximate.
  14. Ruins at Palestine grid coordinates 220.78E 126.68N.
  15. Khirbet Yusra (Palestine grid coordinates 222.3E 128.2N): Large ruin, with remains from several periods.

    the site of the roman road

    Pulling up a felled down roman milestone on the Livias-Hesban
    roman road with the peak of Siyagha at the Background

The borders of the park
The proposed borders, outlined on the map, are:

  1. North: the southern slopes of Wadi Hesban and a dirt track proceeding from the wadi to the village of al-Mashqar, approximately from Palestine grid coordinates 215.00E 135.00N to 222.50E 134.00N.
  2. East: the edge of the plateau, below the villages of al-Mashqar, al-‘Arish, and Faisaliyeh. South of Faisaliyeh the border will follow the road to Faiha.
  3. South: the paved road from Faiha to the west along the Maslubiyyeh ridge, from Palestine grid coordinates 215.00E 125.10N to 220.60E 125.20N.
  4. West a straight imaginary line from Palestine grid coordinates 215.00E 125.10N to 215.00E 135.00N.

These borders are meant to protect the natural and cultural landscape of the area. In particular, the northern border is meant to protect the Roman road alignment, and the southern border was designed to include the dolmen and stone circle area entirely. Dolmens are now very rare in Jordan and the ones still preserved around Mount Nebo are excellent examples of this kind of structure.

a dolmen in the region

A still standing dolmen in the region

Zoning recommendations
The suggested "green areas", numbered 1 to 5 on the map, are the areas where no construction whatsoever can be allowed. Modification of existing structures also should be avoided, but some modifications may be allowed only under strict control of the Ministry of Municipalities and Rural Affairs. The areas are:

  1. A "corridor" for the Roman road and the Roman for Mehatta
  2. The areas around Khirbet Qurn el-Kibsch
  3. The Siyagha (Mount Nebo), Ayoun Musa, and al-Keniseh areas
  4. The area of Khirbet Mekhayyat, Ain Jedideh, and the vast dolmen field under the Maslubiyyeh ridge
  5. The area around Khirbet Yusra.

The "borders" of the green areas are obviously only approximate, but in general a buffer zone of at least 500 meters should be designed around each primary archaeological area in order to avoid visual impact on the sites and on the natural landscape.

a view of Nebo

The Peak of Siyagha seen from the al-Mukhayyat region

Regulations In the areas not in proximity of archaeological sites but within the limits of the park, strict regulations should be applied:

  1. Houses should not be higher than two stories and their façades should be covered by a stone facing. Permits for construction must be released by the Ministry of Municipalities and Rural Affairs only after the area has been checked for the presence of archaeological remains by the Department of Antiquities.
  2. Chicken farms should be controlled in number and size. No more than two farms per square kilometer should be allowed, and none in the “green areas”, unless they already exist. Coordination should be established with the Ministry of Agriculture in order to lower the incentives for new farms built within the borders of the park; the location of new chicken farms should be approved by the Ministry of Municipalities and Rural Affairs only after the area has been checked for the presence of archaeological remains by the Department of Antiquities.
  3. No industrial activities, garages, fuel stations, or any other activity with any potential risk of pollution should be allowed.
  4. New access roads to fields (which should not be asphalted) should be built and existing roads improvement should be done only after a thorough archaeological investigation has been conducted along the road alignments by the Department of Antiquities. The construction work can only be conducted by the Ministry of Public Works or the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs
  5. Electricity and water should be brought at least to Siyagha and Mekhayyat, in order to serve better the needs of visitors. Cess pools should be built in case toilets and other facilities are planned. The work should be preceded by a thorough archaeological investigation by the Department of Antiquities in order to avoid involuntary damages to archaeological sites. The works should be conducted under the strict control of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.
  6. Agricultural activities are allowed, but the use of bulldozers to open terraces on hill sides should be totally forbidden, or in alternative only allowed under strict control of the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs. New fields should be inspected by the Department of Antiquities for the presence of archaeological remains before bulldozing, deep plowing, or tree planting.
  7. Each single archaeological remain should be properly located on large scale maps, and adequately but unobtrusively marked on the ground. Removal, modification, or disturbance of archaeological sites and ruins is forbidden by the 1988 Antiquities Law.

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Created / Updated Monday, August 19, 2002 at 18:50:18 by John Abela ofm
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