Numeira is a 0.5 hectare walled settlement located approximately 13 km south of Bab edh-Dhra’. The Wadi Numeira, bordering the north side of the settlement, has experienced extensive downcutting over the past 500 years, effectively washing away the northern portion of the site. Donahue, the team’s geologist, states that the settlement was probably twice the size we see today during the town’s occupation (Donahue 1984). Calibrated radiocarbon dates place the occupation and abandonment of Numeira within the EB III period, spanning approximately 250 years or 10-12 generations. Approximately 30% of the extant site was excavated (c.1500 sq. meters) from 1979 -1983.
Surveyors map of Numeira
Excavations recovered the second largest collection of EBA seal impressions, extensive remains of textiles and textile production tools, numerous grain storage installations, and amazing preservation of ceramics and other material culture in over 25 rooms with associated courtyards.
Storage and work areas at Numeira
Excavators opened three major areas: the west gate area, the central area, and the east tower area. Three phases of occupation have been identified, and in several areas these phases can be further divided into subphases. The earliest Phase (1) has two subphases: 1A and 1B. The most extensive evidence for 1A and 1B occupation was found in the central area. Phase 1A inhabitants constructed pits, many cobbled and plastered, across the surface of the site, and thus the research team referred to them as the “Pit People” as an easy label. This appellation was confirmed by the evidence: the earliest evidence for occupation at Numeira were numerous pits constructed across the central area of the site during the Phase 1A. Interestingly, some of the pits are arranged around open, roughly rectangular spaces, and there may have been tent encampments associated with these pits. Phase 1B people modified the space slightly by adding more pits and in a few areas we find the earliest stretches of walls, hearths, and evidence for more intensive (or at least more durable and archaeologically visible) use of the site.
Schematic plan of 1A and 1B features
Phase 2 coincides with the construction of the fortification walls and extensive residential and non-residential stone and mudbrick architecture within the town walls.
Schematic Plan of phase 2A
Schematic Plan of phase 2B
In the west gate area, where approximately 200 square meters were exposed, excavators found evidence primarily for non-residential spaces, especially focused on the fortification system.
Schematic Plan of the western gate area
In the eastern tower area, excavators opened roughly 270 square meters and found evidence for both residential and non-residential space. Interestingly (and tragically) during the final phase of occupation the tower collapsed and killed three individuals.
Base of collapsed tower with crushed individual
In the central area, where approximately 970 square meters were opened, excavators uncovered extensive evidence for everyday life in residential contexts. In many ways the most striking aspect of the Phase 2A remains was the relatively high density of storage features. There were six general categories of storage features recovered in excavations: pits (with or without vessels inside), vessels inset into and lying on floors, clay silos, stone-lined silos, bins, and “poorly preserved storage features” including remains of clay bins, basketry, and large piles of stored agricultural remains which had probably been stored in perishable containers.
Photograph of Room 11 features
Clay silo 20 from room 7
During the Phase 2B occupation, inhabitants of the town modified and renovated the built environment. In many cases, they subdivided spaces to create more barriers of access, especially to storage facilities. Many storage pits were reused from the Phase 2A contexts, and more silos and bin were constructed during this phase.
Excavation of stone silos 12 and 34 in Room 2
The final occupation of Numeira in Phase 2C was limited to a very small portion of the excavated areas, and this last habitation of the settlement ended when the town was burned and one of the fortification towers collapsed, crushing three individuals beneath its walls.
The on-going analysis of groundstone, chipped stone, ceramic, faunal, textile, jewelry, and paleoethnobotanical materials will enable the research team to assess the fundamental elements of the economic behaviors at Numeira, and the relationships between activity areas, residential structures and non-residential structures. Because so much of the town has been excavated (c. 16% of the proposed 1 hectare town), we have an extensive sample of the town plan and therefore an excellent case study for exploring the interplay between residential and non-residential spaces. Excavations discovered two distinct occupational phases at the site, demonstrating the potential to investigate diachronic change at the settlement.
With the publication of the Bab edh-Dhra’ town site volume completed, the publication staff has made Numeira its highest priority. The staff is currently collecting final reports from researchers, and in 2004 conducted a final, short field season to complete an updated plan of the site in relation to the Wadi en-Numeira and the site of Ras en-Numeira, a EB IB site 400 m to the east of the town.