About the project

The Shkarat Msaied Neolithic Project is an archaeological research project at a site dating to the 9th millennium B.P. The site is situated in the sandstone mountain area c. 13 km north of Petra in the Nemelleh region, and it consists of a settlement belonging to the Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (9.200-8.500 B.P.). This well-preserved site is of archaeological and historical interest as it was inhabited in a period marked by crucial developments in subsistence strategies as people began to experiment with cultivation of plants and herding of animals.

The semi-arid landscape around Shkarat Msaied, was mainly occupied by relative mobile or semi-sedentary hunter-gatherer groups, living in circular shaped permanent stone buildings with a rich and diverse material culture.

The project aims at investigating the material culture of the group which has occupied the settlement in order to shed more light on the technological, ideological and social aspects among early Neolithic communities settling in nowadays semi-arid territories. Current research work is on the architecture, animal bones, human remains and mortuary practices, botanical remains, chipped stone, bone tools, marine mollusc artefacts and ornaments, and ground stone tools. Results have proved that the community had complex technological skills and an intricate social structure. The finding of the burials suggests that they had very ritualised mortuary practices. All of this invalidates the use of the term primitive to describe early Neolithic societies as has be done previously.

The project started in 1999 as a salvage excavation project. From 1999-2001 the excavation operated as a multi-level educational field school during which it was funded by The University of Copenhagen. Since 2003 the excavation has run as a research project. Between 2010 and 2016 substantial consolidation works and back-filling activities were carried out to  help preserving the archaeological remains. This will be continued in near future. For the coming years works will concentrate on the study of human remains and burial practices. In addition  with the launch of the Graphic novel THE FOX we will enter into a new phase of our public outreach efforts.

The project is affiliated to the Centre for the Study of Early Agricultural Societies (CSEAS)  at our Department.

The project has been realised with the support and co-operation of:
The Department of Antiquities in Jordan
Petra Archaeolgocial Park and Cultural Heritage
Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority
Carlsberg Foundation (2003-2005)
Danish Institute in Damascus (2014-2017, 2019-2021)
Danish Palestine Foundation (2015, 2016)

Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science (2017-2020)

Topographical map of Shkarat Msaied, with 1 meter contour lines