The Watch

Ain Ghazal

Amman, Jordan

2004 World Monuments Watch

Considered among the most important pre-pottery Neolithic sites in the whole of the ancient Near East, the 9,000-year-old farming settlement of ‘Ain Ghazal (Spring of the Gazelles) first came to light during road construction on the outskirts of Amman in 1974. In the decade that followed, numerous finds were recovered from the 30-acre site, the most extraordinary of which were a suite of large, lime-plaster statues and funerary masks found in two caches beneath the floor of an abandoned building. Some 30 in all, the statues had faces tinted with red ochre and eyes inlaid with bitumen; the funerary masks had been modeled on human skulls. Today, the site, which straddles a seasonal river, suffers from erosion. However, its most pressing threat has been damage wrought by urban development. At present, only a portion of ‘Ain Ghazal is protected. The Jordanian Department of Antiquities hopes to preserve the entire site as an open-air museum. Last update: 2004

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