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Excavation trench at the Khirbet Ghozlan site.

The Khirbet Ghozlan Excavation Project

Excavating a Bronze Age olive oil factory in Jordan
This project investigates the production of high-value liquid products such as olive oil and will help illuminate rural responses to urban collapse between c.2600–2000 BC.

About the project

The site of Khirbet Ghozlan lies in the eastern escarpment of the Jordan Rift Valley and dates to the Early Bronze IV period, c.2600–2000 BC. Despite being only 0.4 hectares, the settlement is defended by a monumental enclosure wall. Why enclose such a small site?

In 2017, the British Museum commenced excavations to test the hypothesis that Khirbet Ghozlan served as a specialised production centre for upland horticultural crops such as olive and grape, and was enclosed to protect seasonally-produced caches of high-value commodities such as oil and wine.

The implications are profound. This period is characterised as a rural 'Dark Age' between the collapse of the region's earliest urban centres by 2600 BC, and their rejuvenation as a mosaic of Canaanite city-states from 2000 BC. Although communities of this period are thought to have reverted to simple forms of agro-pastoral subsistence, the horticultural specialisation model suggests a complex rural economy, in which the production of olive oil was reconfigured within local settlement networks in niche environmental zones.

Dr James Fraser, Senior Curator of the Nicholson Collection, continues these excavations as a joint project between the Chau Chak Wing Museum and the British Museum's Department of Scientific Research.

The project is generously funded by The Curtiss T. & Mary G. Brennan Foundation, the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Gerald Averay Wainwright Fund, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Palestine Exploration Fund and the Mediterranean Archaeological Trust.

James Fraser

Senior Curator, Nicholson Collection