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Ain al-Baida

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Ain al-Baida
    Volume VI , No. 3 , 2012 - ٧٥ -   Evidence for Dove Breeding in the Iron Age: A Newly Discovered Dovecote at ‘Ain al-Baida/‘Amman *   Randa Kakish **   ِ Abstract This paper presents new evidence for dove breeding in the vicinity of ‘Amman during the late Iron Age. A rescue excavation, carried out by the author between the 3 rd   and 13 th  of July 2011, identified an underground dovecote 1  (columbarium) 2  at the site of ‘Ain al-Baida near Khirbet Musalam. Raising doves for food, as sacrificial animals, for communication and pleasure or even for magic or oracular prophecies was wide-spread in the ancient world, where man was able to attract wild doves with food and a safe place to nest. What might be considered a “dove cultivation industry” was known in Egypt and the Middle East from as long as agriculture has been practiced. The discovery of an Ammonite dovecote at the site of ‘Ain al-Baida raises questions concerning the date of similar structures in Jordan. Keywords : ‘Ain al-Baida, Dovecote, Columbarium, Iron Age. Introduction ‘Ain al-Baida The site was noticed by two graduate students in the Department of Archaeology of the University of Jordan, Zeid Adnan Tahseen and Abid al Kareem al Hbeishan. Since the site lies close to Al-Urdon Road, it has been targeted by looters. A rescue excavation was carried out by the author in co-operation with the Department of Antiquities, which was represented by Samar Habahbeh. The work was carried out from the 3 rd to the 13 th of July 2011. The expenses of the project were covered by a grant from the Deanship of Academic Research at the University of Jordan. * This research was funded by the Deanship of Academic Research at the University of Jordan. ** Department of Archaeology, Institute of Archaeology, The University of Jordan. Received on 20/3/2012 and accepted for publication on 24/5/2012. 1   Dovecotes are also referred to as columbaria or pigeon houses.   2  A columbarium (pl. columbaria) in Latin is literally a nesting box for pigeons, equivalent to (columb; a  pigeon or dove + arium= ary). © 2012 DAR Publishers/University of Jordan. All Rights Reserved.  Evidence for Dove… Randa Kakish - ٧٦ -   The site is located to the northwest of Queen Alia Hospital, about 2 km south of the site of Yajuz, not far from the main highway, Al-Urdon Road, from ‘Amman to Jerash. Close by are the site of ‘Ain al-Baida, an Ammonite settlement, and a number of  Rujms  (stone-built towers), a dam and a structure known as Qasr ‘Ain al-Baida (Qasr Helileifeh) (fig.1). In 1938 Nelson Glueck carried out a surface survey in the ‘Amman region and documented the sites of Khirbet ‘Ain al-Baida (site no. 243), Rujm ‘Ain al-Baida (site no. 244) and Umm Rujum (site no. 245) (Glueck 1939: 183-186). In 1988 another major survey of greater ‘Amman was conducted as part of the Cultural Resource Management Project (Abu Dayyah et al. 1991: 361-395). The survey team revisited and recorded key sites, stretching from Shafa Badran on the north to Yadudah in the south and from Wadi as-Seir in the west to beyond Marka to the east, previously identified by Glueck and other researchers (Abu Dayyah et al. 1991: 393). A grid of 10x10m squares was laid out at the site and the underground structure reported here, hewn in soft chalky limestone, and the steps leading to it lay in Area B, Square A1 (fig. 2). Fig. 1: The newly discovered site of ‘Ain al-Baida dovecote and other nearby archaeological sites    Volume VI , No. 3 , 2012   - ٧٧ -  Rujm ‘Ain al-Baida 4 8 ‘Ain al-Baida dovecote 1 ‘Ain al-Baida dam 9 Rujm ‘Ain al-Baida 2 Qasr ‘Ain al-Baida (Qasr Helileifeh) 10 Al Maddba'a 2 3 Yajuz 11 ‘Ain al-Baida Ammonite Settlement 4 Roman Road 12 Rujm ‘Ain al-Baida 1 5 Al Maddba'a Quarry 13 Rujm ‘Ain al-Baida 2 6 Rujm ‘Ain al-Baida 3 7 Fig. 2: A grid plan of the site   The opening of the dovecote has a diameter of c. 3m, and a depth of c.2.80m. The stairs extend for c.1.90m with a width of 43-60cm and the interior has the shape of a well hewn from the soft lime stone. All of the interior surfaces are honeycombed with almost 300 niches to accommodate doves for breeding. Five  posts were hewn from the limestone in order to support the structure and the space gained on the posts was used to make more niches, making maximum use of the space (figs. 3, 4, 5 and 6). The measurements of the niches varied from c.15-25cm in width and 12-16cm in length, with a depth ranging between 15-25cm. Due to the limited time and budget of the excavation, the team was unable to follow the extension of a passage connected to the structure, which could be linked to other dovecotes in the vicinity, a question that awaits future work.  Evidence for Dove… Randa Kakish - ٧٨ -   Fig. 3: The subterranean dovecote at ‘Ain al-Baida Fig. 4: Drawing of the excavated dovecote      Volume VI , No. 3 , 2012   - ٧٩ -   Fig. 5: Part of the subterranean dovecote at ‘Ain al-Baida with two intact posts Fig 6: Details of the nesting niches inside the dovecote   Pottery: Comparable Study and Dating The dovecote was recently disturbed by looters and therefore the stratigraphy is not clear. Quantities of pottery sherds were found both inside and outside the dovecote. Remarkably these sherds are all from the same vessel form, and no other types of pottery were discovered (fig.7). The pottery sherds from the excavated area belong to a single group of vessels that bear the same characteristics:
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