Regional survey in the Wadi Hauran (Western Iraq) with new results for land use and settlement of the wadi in the pre-pottery Neolithic Period (7th/6th millennium BC) as well as for the presence of nomads since the second half of the 1st millennium BC.
The Wadi Hauran is situated in the Iraqi-Syrian Desert and is nowadays crossed by nomads mainly during the winter months. It played a major role as an area of settlement in the pre-pottery Neolithic Period, as living space for nomads (at least since the second half of the 1st millennium BC) and also in the network of transregional routes between Western Syria and Mesopotamia. The use of the Wadi Hauran as a route of transport between Palmyra (Syria) and Hit (Iraq) can be historically documented in particular for the 1st c. AD. Additionally, at Qasr Muheiwir crossed the route between Damascus (Syria) and Hit, well-known since the 10th c. AD and in use until the 20th c.
A comprehensive catalogue of ancient settlement sites should be reached by systematic surveys in the Wadi Hauran. Single sites ought to be investigated by specific archaeological documentation (detailed mapping and excavation). The aim is to gain new knowledge of the mode of cultural exchange between the West (Syria, Jordan) and the East (Mesopotamia), which traditionally are assumed to use the river valley of the Euphrates. Climate changes should also be taken into consideration as well as the role of subterranean streams and techniques, which were used to adapt to the desert steppe.
Reports written by travellers such as Alois Musil and Gertrude Bell about archaeological sites in the Iraqi-Syrian Desert were published at the end of the 19th c. / beginning of the 20th c. Growing access to the desert steppe by the construction of new roads in connection with an oil pipeline in the 1920s and geological prospections since the 1970s resulted in discoveries of additional ancient sites. These reports were well published they, but rarely taken into consideration in general descriptions of Near Eastern history.
In spring 2000 and 2001 near Qasr Muheiwir in Wadi Hauran several sites were visited, which had been discovered earlier by Iraqi colleagues during geological prospections. Most of them are settlement sites of the pre-pottery Neolithic Period B characterized by stone settings and a large number of typical stone tools. Near by the sites petroglyphs showing animals (markhors, wild goats, ibexes, cows, deers, dogs, lions) were regularly observed. Part of them most probably are contemporaneous. Three sites had dromedaries and donkies with equestrians surely to be dated to later periods (2nd half of the 1st millennium BC or later). At two sites inscriptions using the old north-arabic dialect Thamudic B were documented.
Universität Baghdad, College of Arts - Department of Archaeology
State Board of Antiquities and Heritage Baghdad
Iraqi Association for geological and metallurgical prospection
Ricardo Eichmann - Margarete van Ess - Abdulillah Fadhil - Nazar Abdul Latif al-Hadithy - Sahar N. Shakir, Archäologische Fundstellen im Gebiet von Qasr Muheiwir (Wadi Hauran), Baghdader Mitteilungen 31, 2000, 9-44.