History of Jordan
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There is evidence of human activity in Jordan as early as the Paleolithic period(c. 90,000 BC). The history of Jordan continues with the Muslim empires starting in the 7th century, the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, the Great Arab Revolt and the British mandate of Transjordan in the early 20th century, and the establishment in 1946 of the present-day independent Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Ancient kingdoms located in the region that is now Jordan, such as the Roman-era Nabatean kingdom, which had its capital in Petra, left particularly dramatic ruins popular today with tourists and filmmakers.
- 1 Ancient history
- 2 Iron Age
- 3 Classic period
- 4 Middle Ages
- 5 Ottoman rule
- 6 Transjordan Emirate
- 7 Kingdom of Jordan
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
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Evidence of human activity in Jordan dates back to the Paleolithic period (500000 - 17000 BC). While there is no architectural evidence from this era, archaeologists have found tools, such as flint and basalt hand-axes, knives and scraping implements.
In the Neolithic period (8500-4500 BC), three major shifts occurred. First, people became sedentary, living in small villages, and discovering and domesticating new food sources such as cereal grains, peas and lentils, as well as goats. The human population increased to tens of thousands.
Second, this shift in settlement patterns appears to have been catalyzed by a marked change in climate. The eastern desert, in particular, grew warmer and drier, eventually to the point where it became uninhabitable for most of year. This watershed climate change is believed to have occurred between 6500 and 5500 BC.
Third, beginning sometime between 5500 and 4500 BC, the inhabitants began to make pottery from clay rather than plaster. Pottery-making technologies were probably introduced to the area by craftsmen from Mesopotamia. The largest Neolithic site in Jordan is at Ein Ghazal in Amman. The many buildings were divided into three distinct districts. Houses were rectangular and had several rooms, some with plastered floors. Archaeologists have unearthed skulls covered with plaster and with bitumen in the eye sockets at sites throughout Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Territories and Syria. A statue discovered at Ein Ghazal is thought to be 8,000 years old. Just over one meter high, it depicts a woman with huge eyes, skinny arms, knobby knees and a detailed rendering of her toes.
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During the Chalcolithic period (4500-3200 BC), copper began to be smelted and used to make axes, arrowheads and hooks. The cultivation of barley, dates, olives and lentils, and the domestication of sheep and goats, rather than hunting, predominated. The lifestyle in the desert was probably very similar to that of modern Bedouins.
Tuleitat Ghassul is a large Chalcolithic era village located in the Jordan Valley. The walls of its houses were made of sun-dried mud bricks; its roofs of wood, reeds and mud. Some had stone foundations, and many had large central courtyards. The walls are often painted with bright images of masked men, stars, and geometric motifs, which may have been connected to religious beliefs.
Many of the villages built during the Early Bronze Age (3200-1950 BC) included simple water infrastructures, as well as defensive fortifications probably designed to protect against raids by neighboring nomadic tribes.
At Bab al-Dhra in Wadi `Araba, archaeologists discovered more than 20,000 shaft tombs with multiple chambers as well as houses of mud-brick containing human bones, pots, jewelry and weapons. Hundreds of dolmens scattered throughout the mountains have been dated to the late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Ages.
Although writing was developed before 3000 BC in Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was generally not used in Jordan, Canaan and Syria until some thousand years later, even though archeological evidence indicates that the Jordanians were trading with Egypt and Mesopotamia.
Between 2300 and 1950 BC, many of the large, fortified hilltop towns were abandoned in favor of either small, unfortified villages or a pastoral lifestyle. There is no consensus on what caused this shift, though it is thought to have been a combination of climatic and political changes that brought an end to the city-state network.
During the Middle Bronze Age (1950-1550 BC), migration across the Middle East increased. Trading continued to develop between Egypt, Syria, Arabia, Canaan and Jordan, resulting in the spread of technology and other hallmarks of civilization. Bronze, forged from copper and tin, enabled the production of more durable axes, knives, and other tools and weapons. Large, distinct communities seem to have arisen in northern and central Jordan, while the south was populated by a nomadic, Bedouin-type of people known as the Shasu.
New fortifications appeared at sites like Amman's Citadel, Irbid, and Tabaqat Fahl (or Pella). Towns were surrounded by ramparts made of earth embankments, and the slopes were covered in hard plaster, making the climb slippery and difficult. Pella was enclosed by massive walls and watch towers.
Archaeologists usually date the end of the Middle Bronze Age to about 1550 BC, when the Hyksos were driven out of Egypt during the 17th and 18th Dynasties. A number of Middle Bronze Age towns in Canaan and Jordan were destroyed during this time.
The most prominent Iron Age kingdoms in Jordan were Ammon, Moab, and Edom. The Ammonites had their capital in Rabbath Ammon. The Moabites settled Kerak Governorate with their capital at Kir of Moab (Kerak), and the kingdom of Edom settled in southern Jordan and southern Israel, and their capital was in Bozrah in Tafilah Governorate. The kingdom of Ammon maintained its independence from the Assyrian empire, unlike all other kingdoms in the region which were conquered.
In about 840 BC, Meshe, the King of the Moabites, revolted against the "House of David." Moab was a Jordanian tribe that lived east of the Dead Sea and about 70 kilometers south of Amman. This battle is recorded in the Bible's 2 Kings chapter 3. The Bible's story is corroborated by the Mesha Stele, the Moabite Stone that was found in the Jordanian town of Dhiban in 1868. This find indicated that the Moabites worked with inscriptions on bluish basalt stone.
Later antiquity saw the rise of the Nabatean kingdom with its capital at Petra, which was a border, client state of the Roman Empire absorbed into the Empire in 106 CE, and the ancient city of Saltus. During the Greco-Roman period of influence, a number of semi-independent city-states also developed in Jordan, grouped as a Decapolis including: Gerasa (Jerash), Philadelphia (Amman), Raphana (Abila), Dion (Capitolias), Gadara (Umm Qays), and Pella (Irbid).
In the early 7th century, the area of modern Jordan became integrated into the new Arab-Islamic Umayyad Empire (the first Muslim dynasty), which ruled much of the Middle East from 661 until 750 CE. At the time, Amman, now the capital of the Kingdom of Jordan, became a major town in "Jund Dimashq" (the military district of Damascus) and became the seat of the provincial governor. In fact, the name "Al-Urdun" (Jordan) was used on Umayyad post-reform copper coins beginning in the early 8th century and represent the earliest official usage of the name for the modern state. Additionally, lead seals with the Arabic phrase "Halahil Ardth Al-Urdun" (Master of the Land of Jordan), dating from the late 7th to early 8th century CE, have been found in Jordan as well. Additionally, Arab-Byzantine "Standing Caliph" coins minted under the Umayyads also have been found bearing the mint-mark of "Amman." Thus, usage of the names Al-Urdun/Jordan and Amman date back, to at least, the early decades of the Arab-Muslim takeover of the region
Under the Umayyad's successors, the Abbasids (750-1258), Jordan was neglected and began to languish due to the geo-political shift that occurred when the Abassids moved their capital from Damascus to Kufa and later to Baghdad.
After the decline of the Abbasids, parts of Jordan were ruled by various powers and empires including the Mongols, the Crusaders, the Ayyubids, the Mamlukes as well as the Ottomans, who captured major parts of the Arab World around 1517.
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During the Ottoman period, the area has become largely under semi-autonomous rule of local Arab lords, with little direct interruption by the Ottoman authorities.
With the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the League of Nations and the occupying powers, Britain and France, redrew the borders of the Middle East. Their decisions, most notably the Sykes–Picot Agreement, led to the establishment of the French Mandate for Syria and British Mandate for Palestine. The latter included the territory of Transjordan, which had been allocated to Abdullah I of Jordan approximately a year prior to the finalization of the Mandate document (the Mandate officially introduced in 1923).
One reason was that the British government had at that point to find a role for Abdullah, after his brother Faisal had lost his control in Syria and been given the role of the king of Iraq. The British consequently made Abdullah emir of the newly created Transjordan. At first, Abdullah was displeased with the territory given to him, and hoped it was only a temporary allocation, to be replaced by Syria or Palestine. The Permanent Court of International Justice and an International Court of Arbitration established by the Council of the League of Nations handed down rulings in 1925 which determined that Palestine and Transjordan were newly created successor states of the Ottoman Empire as defined by international law.
The most serious threats to Emir Abdullah's position in Transjordan were repeated Wahhabi incursions from Najd into southern parts of his territory. The emir was powerless to repel those raids by himself, thus the British maintained a military base, with a small air force, at Marka, close to Amman. The British military force was the primary obstacle against the Wahhabis between 1922–1924, and was also utilized to help emir Abdullah with the suppression of local rebellions, first at Kura and later by Sultan Adwan, in 1921 and 1923 respectively.
In 1928, Britain officially provided King Abdullah with full autonomy, though the British RAF continued to provide security to the Hashemite Emirate.
Kingdom of Jordan
On 17 January 1946, Ernest Bevin the British Foreign Secretary, announced in a speech at the General Assembly of the United Nations, that the British Government intended to take steps in the near future to establish Transjordan as a fully independent and sovereign state. The mandate for Transjordan ended on 22 May 1946 with the signing of the Treaty of London and Transjordan gained full independence. On 25 May 1946 the country became the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan when the ruling 'Amir' was re-designated as 'King'. Transjordan was one of the Arab states opposed to the second partition of Palestine and creation of Israel in May 1948. It participated in the war between the Arab states and the newly founded State of Israel. Thousands of Palestinians fled the Arab-Israeli fighting to the West Bank and Jordan. The Armistice Agreements of 3 April 1949 left Jordan in control of the West Bank and provided that the armistice demarcation lines were without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines.
1948 War and annexation of the West Bank
On 24 April 1950, Jordan formally annexed the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) declaring "complete unity between the two sides of the Jordan and their union in one state...at whose head reigns King Abdullah Ibn al Hussain". All West Bank residents were granted Jordanian citizenship. The December 1948 Jericho Conference, a meeting of prominent Palestinian leaders and King Abdullah, voted in favor of annexation into what was then Transjordan.
Jordan’s annexation was regarded as illegal and void by the Arab League and others. It was recognized only by Britain, Iraq and Pakistan. The annexation of the West Bank more than doubled the population of Jordan.
On July 20, 1951, King Abdullah I was shot dead in Jerusalem while visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque. His assassin, a Palestinian from the Husseini clan, was angry at Abdullah's apparent collusion with Israel in the carve-up of Palestine. Abdullah's grandson, Prince Hussein Ibn Talal was with him at the time and was hit too.
Jordan had two towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants in 1946: Amman (65,754) and Salt (14,479). Following the influx of Palestinian refugees, Amman's population increased to 108,412 by 1952, and both Irbid and Zarqa more than doubled their population from less than 10,000 each to more than, respectively, 23,000 and 28,000.
Reign of King Hussein
King Abdullah's eldest son, Talal of Jordan, was proclaimed king in 1951, but he was declared mentally unfit to rule and deposed in 1952. His son, Hussein Ibn Talal, became king on his eighteenth birthday, in 1953.
The 1950s have been labelled as a time of "Jordan's Experiment with Liberalism". Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of association were guaranteed in the newly written constitution as with the already firmly established freedom of religion doctrine. Jordan had one of the freest and most liberal societies in the Middle East and in the greater Arab world during the 1950s and early 1960s.
Jordan ended its special defense treaty relationship with the United Kingdom and British troops completed their withdrawal in 1957. In February 1958, following announcement of the merger of Syria and Egypt into the United Arab Republic, Iraq and Jordan announced the Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan, also known as the Arab Union. The Union was dissolved in August 1958.
In 1965 Jordan and Saudi Arabia concluded a bilateral agreement that realigned the border. The realignment resulted in some exchange of territory, and Jordan's coastline on the Gulf of Aqaba was lengthened by about eighteen kilometers. The new boundary enabled Jordan to expand its port facilities and established a zone in which the two parties agreed to share petroleum revenues equally if oil were discovered. The agreement also protected the pasturage and watering rights of nomadic tribes inside the exchanged territories.
Jordan signed a mutual defense pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it participated, along with Syria, Egypt, and Iraq in the Six-Day War of June 1967 against Israel. During the war, Israel took control of East Jerusalem and West Bank, leading to another major influx of Palestinian refugees into Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population—700,000 in 1966—grew by another 300,000 from the West Bank.
The period following the 1967 war saw an upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian militants (fedayeen) in Jordan. Other Arab governments attempted to work out a peaceful solution, but by September 1970, known as the Black September in Jordan, continuing fedayeen actions in Jordan — including the destruction of three international airliners hijacked and held in the desert east of Amman — prompted the Jordanian government to take action. In the ensuing heavy fighting, a Syrian tank force took up positions in northern Jordan to support the fedayeen but was forced to retreat. By September 22, Arab foreign ministers meeting at Cairo had arranged a cease-fire beginning the following day. Sporadic violence continued, however, until Jordanian forces won a decisive victory over the fedayeen in July 1971, expelling them from the country.
An attempted military coup was thwarted in 1972. No fighting occurred along the 1967 cease-fire line during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to fight Israeli units on Syrian territory.
In 1974, King Hussein recognised the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. However, in 1986, Hussein severed political links with the PLO and ordered its main offices to be closed. In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement. Hussein also publicly backed the Palestinian uprising, or First Intifada, against Israeli rule.
Jordan witnessed some of the most severe protests and social upheavals in its history during the 1980s, protests in Jordanian universities especially Yarmouk University and urban areas protested inflation and lack of political freedom. A massive upheaval occurred in the southern city of Ma'an. There was rioting in several cities over price increases in 1989. The same year saw the first general election since 1967. It was contested only by independent candidates because of the ban on political parties in 1963. Martial law was lifted and a period of rapid political liberalization began. Parliament was restored and some thirty political parties, including the Islamic Action Front, were created.
Jordan did not participate directly in the Gulf War of 1990-1991, but it broke with the Arab majority and supported the Iraqi position of Saddam Hussein. This position led to the temporary repeal of U.S. aid to Jordan. As a result, Jordan came under severe economic and diplomatic strain. After the Iraqi defeat in 1991, Jordan, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Palestinian representatives, agreed to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. Eventually, Jordan negotiated an end to hostilities with Israel and signed a declaration to that effect on July 25, 1994; the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty was concluded on October 26, 1994, ending 46-year official state of war.
Food price riots occurred in 1996, after subsidies were removed under an economic plan supervised by the International Monetary Fund. By the late 1990s, Jordan's unemployment rate was almost 25%, while nearly 50% of those who were employed were on the government payroll. The 1997 parliamentary elections were boycotted by several parties, associations and leading figures.
In 1998, King Hussein was treated for lymphatic cancer in the United States. After six months of treatment he returned home to a rousing welcome in January 1999. Soon after, however, he had to fly back to the US for further treatment. King Hussein died in February 1999. More than 50 heads of state attended his funeral. His eldest son Crown Prince Abdullah succeeded to the throne.
Reign of King Abdullah II
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In March 2001, King Abdullah and presidents Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt inaugurated a $300m (£207m) electricity line linking the grids of the three countries. In September 2002, Jordan and Israel agreed on a plan to pipe water from the Red Sea to the shrinking Dead Sea. The project, costing $800m, is the two nations' biggest joint venture to date. King Abdullah and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched the Wahdah Dam project at a ceremony on the Yarmuk River in February 2004.
Jordan has sought to remain at peace with all of its neighbors. In September 2000, a military court sentenced six men to death for plotting attacks against Israeli and US targets. Following the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting in September 2000, Amman withdrew its ambassador to Israel for four years. In 2003, Jordan's Central Bank retracted an earlier decision to freeze accounts belonging to leaders of Hamas. When senior US diplomat Laurence Foley was gunned down outside his home in Amman in October 2002, in the first assassination of a Western diplomat in Jordan, scores of political activists were rounded up. Eight militants were later found guilty and executed in 2004. King Abdullah did, however, criticise the United States and Israel over the fighting in Lebanon in 2006.
Jordan's gradual institution of political and civil liberty has continued, but the slow pace of reform has led to increasing discontent. Following the death of a youth in custody, riots erupted in the southern town of Maan in January 2002, the worst public disturbances in more than three years.
The first parliamentary elections under King Abdullah II were held in June 2003. Independent candidates loyal to the king won two-thirds of the seats. A new cabinet was appointed in October 2003 following the resignation of Prime Minister Ali Abu al-Ragheb. Faisal al-Fayez was appointed prime minister. The king also appointed three female ministers. However, in April 2005, amid reports of the king's dissatisfaction with the slow pace of reforms, the government resigned and a new cabinet was sworn in, led by Prime Minister Adnan Badran.
The first local elections since 1999 were held in July 2007. The main opposition party, the Islamist Action Front, withdrew after accusing the government of vote-rigging. The parliamentary elections of November 2007 strengthened the position of tribal leaders and other pro-government candidates. Support for the opposition Islamic Action Front declined. Political moderate Nader Dahabi was appointed prime minister.
In November 2009, the King once more dissolved parliament half-way through its four-year term. The following month, he appointed a new premier to push through economic reform. A new electoral law was introduced May 2010, but pro-reform campaigners said it did little to make system more representational. The parliamentary elections of November 2010 were boycotted by the opposition Islamic Action Front. Riots broke out after it was announced that pro-government candidates had won a sweeping victory.
On 14 January, the Jordanian protests began in Jordan's capital Amman, and at Ma'an, Al Karak, Salt and Irbid, and other cities. The following month, King Abdullah appointed a new prime minister, former army general Marouf Bakhit, and charged him with quelling the protests whilst carrying out political reforms. The street protests continued through the summer, albeit on a smaller scale, prompting the King to replace Bakhit with Awn al-Khasawneh, a judge at the International Court of Justice (October 2011). However, Prime Minister Awn al-Khasawneh resigned abruptly after just six months having been unable to satisfy either the demands for reform or allay establishment fears of empowering the Islamist opposition. King Abdullah appointed former prime minister Fayez al-Tarawneh to succeed him.
In October 2012, King Abdullah called for early parliamentary elections, to be held at some time in 2013. The Islamic Action Front, continued in its calls for broader political representation and a more democratic parliament. The King appointed has Abdullah Ensour, a former minister and vocal advocate of democratic reform, as prime minister.
Mass demonstrations took place in Amman (November 2012) against the lifting of fuel subsidies. Public calls for the end of the monarchy were heard. Clashes between protesters and supporters of the king followed. The government reversed the fuel price rise following the protest. Al Jazeera stated that protests are expected to continue for several weeks because of increasing food prices.
- Harding, G. Lankester. 1959. The Antiquities of Jordan. Lutterworth Press, London. 2nd impression, 1960.
- Jordan - History - Ancient Jordan
- Scheltema, H.G. (2008). Megalithic Jordan; an introduction and field guide. Amman, Jordan: The American Center of Oriental Research. ISBN 978-9957-8543-3-1
- B. Mcdonald, Younker Ancient Ammon
- Smith's Bible Dictionary
- Old Testament Kingdoms of Jordan
- M. E. Yapp, The Near East Since the First World War, Longman Group ltd, 1996, pp. 117-118
- [Marjorie M. Whiteman, Digest of International Law, vol. 1, US State Department (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1963) pp 650-652]
- Salibi, Kamal S. The modern history of Jordan, p. 104
- Jordan’s State Building and the Palestinian Problem
- Jordan Formally Annexes the West Bank
- Annexation of the West Bank by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
- FRUS, US State Department Report
- Eyāl Benveniśtî. The international law of occupation, Princeton University Press, 2004. pg. 108. ISBN 0-691-12130-3. "This purported annexation was, however, widely regarded as illegal and void, by the Arab League and others, and was recognized only by Britain, Iraq, and Pakistan."
- Yoram Dinstein; Mala Tabory (1 September 1994). Israel Yearbook on Human Rights: 1993. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-7923-2581-9. Retrieved 21 December 2010. "Israel considers Jordan’s annexation of the West Bank, recognised only by Great Britain and Pakistan, to have been illegal."
- George Washington University. Law School (2005). The George Washington international law review. George Washington University. p. 390. Retrieved 21 December 2010. "Jordan's illegal occupation and Annexation of the West Bank"
- Andoni, Lamis (2011-01-16). "To the tyrants of the Arab world ...". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on 2011-01-18. Retrieved 2011-01-19.