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Archaeology @ Andrews University: Home

Hisban Interactive Archive Project (HIAP Phase I)

2023 Faculty Research Grant

Oystein LaBianca
Terry Dwain Robertson
Graduate Assistants:  Aleksandar Kolarski and Patricio Ordonez

Draft Bibliographies

Online resources

Data Files

Profile Photo
Terry Robertson
James White Library
Andrews University
4190 Administration Dr.
Berrien Springs, MI 49104-1400


Tall Hisban’s claim to an iconic status in Jordanian archaeology is due to its having served as a field school and training site for multiple generations of American,  Jordanian and other international scholars; having trained much of the early leadership for American archaeological research in Jordan (especially during the early years of the American Schools of Overseas Research (ASOR); being a “type site” for pottery seriation and dating in central Jordan introducing the methods and theories of “the new archaeology,” including dissemination of a toolkit of constructs or lenses for discovering and analyzing long-term change processes in the Southern Levant; contributions to the development of Islamic archaeology in Jordan and beyond; legacy of prompt publication of seasonal and final reports; and most recently, its pioneering of community archaeology as a way forward for the protection of the archaeological heritage in Jordan.

Tall Hisban[1] and its surrounding hinterland has been investigated in two phases: the first, known as the Heshbon Expedition, took place from 1968 through 1976. The primary focus of this first phase was the quest for the site’s biblical connections—hence the name of the expedition which attests to the excavators’ interest in finding biblical Heshbon at Tall Hisban (Horn 1969; 1982). The second phase— known as the Hisban Cultural Heritage Project--began in 1996 as a “clean-up operation” with the goal of making the site more accessible to tourists. In 1997 stratigraphic excavations were resumed as well to clarify problems that became apparent during the process of planning and preparing for restoration and presentation of the site’s most prominent archaeological features. This was especially the case with the site’s Medieval and Early Modern history; hence a deliberate decision to make these later periods a major focus of renewed stratigraphic excavation and restoration activity. Another major emphasis during this second phase were efforts to engage the local community in helping to restore, protect and develop the site for tourism (LaBianca 2017).

The archaeological record of Tall Hisban’s and its surrounding region has thus been accumulated over more than two dozen seasons of fieldwork in Jordan between 1968 and 2018. It includes tens of thousands of chronologically stratified archaeological remains such as the foundations and spolia (reuse) of ancient buildings, courtyard walls, water and storage installations, burials, pottery, coins, glassware, iron and ivory objects, ballista, textile implements, jewelry, ostraca and a large corpus of identified animal bones and carbonized seeds. It also includes an abundance of data on the history of local settlement patterns, thanks to surveys carried out by the original Heshbon Expedition and later, by the Hisban Cultural Heritage Project. As already indicated, these materials are presently located in various storage facilities in Jordan, at the Horn Museum at Andrews University, and at the Islamic Research Unit lab at the University of Bonn.

These explorations have added to the body of knowledge in cultural anthropology and the socials sciences. A sampling of the wide range of humanities and social science topics with which our team has published include the formation and nature of tribal kingdoms during the Late Bronze and Iron Age; the emergence and unfolding during the Long Classical Millennium of the Greco-Roman cultural program known from ancient sources as the Decapolis; the impact of monotheistic movements and polities, especially Byzantine and Mamluk, on the rural landscape and economy of Jordan during Late Antique and medieval times; engagements of various local actors with the Silk Road; changes in economic well-being and fortunes of the local population following the arrival in Jordan of capitalism-inspired entrepreneurs; the massive cultural and environmental transformations in Jordan wrought in the wake of the Great Acceleration and the dawn of the Anthropocene; lessons about the accumulative impact of human activities over the past multiple millennia on the local environment; and stories of resilience and survival of the local population in the wake of transformations fashioned by all of the above processes.


[1] There are many versions of the name of the site: Heshbon is how the site is known in the Old Testament; in Greco-Roman times the site was known as Esbus. Later on, one encounters a variety of versions in maps, documents and signage offered up by various Jordanian government agencies, including Housban, Hesban and Hisban.  For our purposes here we have settled on the most recent version, Tall Hisban. Our final publication series, which was initiated 40 years ago, adopted the version that was current in signage at the time, Hesban.