The archaeological remains of Umm al-Dabadib

The site includes three settlements: the older Northern Settlement, dating to the 3th century AD and perhaps sitting above and older settlement; the imposing Fortified Settlement with its central Fort, dating to the 4th century AD; and the small Eastern Settlement, possibly relating to the management of the large cultivation located to the east, also dating to the 4th century AD. The depleted remains of a Pigeon Tower lie nearby.

Near a large Well that might have acted for a long time as a watering point along the caravan route, a peculiar Temple was built: the earliest core was enlarged in the 4th century AD with the addition of a large room covered by barrel vault decorated with religious scenes, built transversally in order to avoid the nearby subterranean aqueduct. Most of the temple was sadly destroyed by vandals using a heave vehicle in 2004. The isolated Tower that used to stand on the other side of the wadi met the same fate; its original function remains unknown. A Christian Church was added at some point to the Fortified Settlement, probably in the mid-4th century AD; its remains suffered significant damages in the mid ‘90s and again in 2004. The main cemeteries are located along the eastern hill, and appear to yield material ranging from the early Roman or Late Ptolemaic period to the 4th/5th century AD.

The built-up area lies in the middle of a vast agricultural system, that includes seven parallel underground aqueducts of the type called qanawat or manawir, that discharged their waters into three vast cultivations. The outline of the fields is still discernable from the air, and only briefly at sunrise or sunset when the sun is low.The date of this vast installation is likely to be contemporary with the Fortified Settlement.

The central aqueduct was cleared at the end of the 19th century by a small community of farmers who settled in the Northern Settlement and water started to flow again after a break of 15 centuries. After the farmers abandoned the site in the ‘50s, the now-dry aqueduct is slowly filling up with blown sand, but can be still entered and explored for a substantial tract.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizion 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement n°  681673).