Welcome to the Expedition to the Dead Sea Plain

Directors:

Dr. Walter Rast – Emeritus, Valparaiso University

Dr. R. Thomas Schaub – Emeritus, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Publication Editors:

Dr. Walter Rast – Emeritus, Valparaiso University

Dr. R. Thomas Schaub – Emeritus, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Meredith S. Chesson – University of Notre Dame, Department of Anthropology

Cities of the Plain: Life and Death on the Shores of the Dead Sea

One of the most important transitions in human history involved the establishment of the world’s first cities approximately 5,000 years ago in the ancient Middle East. In the eastern Mediterranean region (Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan), people built the first walled cities during a period archaeologists call the Early Bronze Age (EBA, c. 3500-2000 BCE). In the EBA on the southeastern Dead Sea Plain, people began burying their dead in extensive cemeteries, creating a landscape of the dead. Interestingly, they soon built two walled towns next to the cemeteries that they had used for a few centuries. In these settlements, called Bab adh-Dhra’ (pronounced “bob-ed-draw”) and Numayra (pronounced “new-mere-a”), people established the way of life that we read about in the Bible. In fact, for the writers of the Bible, the desolate nature of this stretch of shore along the Dead Sea and the visible ruins of Bab adh-Dhra’ and Numayra may have helped them to identify this area with the stories of the ill-fated sites of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Over the last forty years, the Expedition to the Dead Sea Plain (EDSP) has investigated the way people lived and died in these settlements and cemeteries. Like the ancient site of Jericho, these sites are the only other walled settlements with extensive cemeteries from this time period that allow archaeologists to study the earliest cities in the region, by excavating their cities, and their inhabitants, by investigating the skeletal remains of individuals who lived in these settlements. The EDSP currently involves scholars from several prestigious research institutions and universities, including the Smithsonian Institution, Carnegie Institute, Yale University, DePaul University, and the University of Notre Dame. Throughout the history of the project, we have been supported by several endowments, foundations, and research agencies, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Geographic, Smithsonian Institution, American Schools for Oriental Research, the Wenner Gren Anthropological Foundation, Harvard University’s Semitic Museum, Valparaiso University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, the British Museum, and the Shelby White-Leon Levy Program for Archaeological Publications (please contact us for full list of supporters).

Current Work:

(1) Preparing the final publication of the 1977-1983 excavations at Numayra

(2) Ongoing fieldwork for the Follow the Pots Project (http://www.followthepotsproject.org)

Contact the EDSP Publication editors:

Dr. Meredith S. Chesson, Department of Anthropology, 611 Flanner Hall, University of Notre Dame, IN, Notre Dame, IN 46556 USA // Tel: 574-631-3775 // Email: mchesson@nd.edu // http://www.nd.edu/~mchesson/

Dr. R. Thomas Schaub (ND ’53, Emeritus professor Indiana University of Pennsylvania), 5700 Bunkerhill Street, PH3, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 USA // Tel: 1-412-362-0386 // Email: rtschaub@verizon.net

 

Artwork and Reconstructions: All images are copyrighted by the EDSP, and we request that people wanting to use any images from this website please contact Dr. Tom Schaub and Dr. Meredith Chesson for permission. All reconstructions of life on the southeastern Dead Sea Plain are drawn by Eric Carlson. For contact information for Eric, please contact Dr. Meredith Chesson.