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Deir Alla

32°11′20″N 35°36′11″E / 32.18889°N 35.60306°E / 32.18889; 35.60306

Deir Alla
مدينة دير علا
Mosque of Abu Ubaidah Amer ibn al-Jarrah in Deir Alla
Flag of Deir Alla
Official seal of Deir Alla
Deir Alla is located in Jordan
Deir Alla
Deir Alla
Location in Jordan
Coordinates: 32°11′20″N 35°36′11″E / 32.18889°N 35.60306°E / 32.18889; 35.60306
Grid position208/178
ProvinceBalqa Governorate
Municipality established1967
 • MayorKhalifa Solomen Diyat
−1,030 ft (−314 m)
 • City7,321
 • Metro
Time zoneUTC+2 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST)+3
Area code+(962)5

Deir Alla (Arabic: دير علا) is the site of an ancient Near Eastern town in Balqa Governorate, Jordan. The Deir Alla Inscription, datable to ca. 840–760 BCE, was found here.

Tomb of the Muslim commander Abu Ubaidah ibn al-Jarrah

On 20 August 2010, it recorded a temperature of 51.1 °C, the new official highest temperature in the history of Jordan.[2]


Deir Alla has been suggested to be the biblical Sukkot in Transjordan.[3][4] Some believe it to be the biblical Pethor.[5][6] It was also suggested by an early traveler to the site, Selah Merrill, who found parallels with names in the Hebrew Bible.[7]

Deir Alla is identified with the Byzantine period town of Tar'elah or Dar'elah, which the Jerusalem Talmud identifies with biblical Sukkot.[8]


The tell is 50 by 200 meters and rises to 27 meters above the plain. A series of Dutch excavations sponsored by the Netherlands Organisation for the Advancement of Pure Research began in 1960, under the auspices of the department of theology, University of Leiden. These excavations continued for five seasons until 1967.[9][10][11][12] The excavation made its most dramatic discovery in 1967, an ink wall inscription relating a hitherto-unknown prophecy of Balaam, who thereby becomes the first Old Testament prophet to be identified in an inscription.[13] After a long interruption, work resumed in 1976, initially under Franken, for several seasons.[14][15][16] After another long break, occasional seasons were conducted beginning in 1994 until 2008.[17]

At the end of the 1964 campaign, 11 clay tablets, 3 inscribed in a West Semitic Early Canaanite script, 7 bearing only dots, and one uninscribed, were discovered. The tablets were found in the destruction layer of storerooms dated by a cartouche of Queen Twosret of Egypt to around 1200 BC. Earlier objects were also found there so the tablets may well predate the destruction.[18][19][5] In the later excavations several more clay tablets were found, for a total of 15.[20]

The Balaam inscription

The 1967 excavation revealed a many-chambered structure that had also been destroyed by earthquake, during the Persian period at the site. On a wall was written a story relating visions of the seer of the gods "Balʿam son of Beʿor" (Balaam son of Beor), who may be the same Balʿam son of Beʿor mentioned in Numbers 22–24 and in other passages of the Bible. The Deir Alla Balaam is associated with "a god bearing the name Shgr, 'Shadday' gods and goddesses, and with the goddess Ashtar."[21]

It reflects the oldest example of story from a biblical book (Numbers) written in a West Semitic alphabetic script, and is considered the oldest piece of West Semitic literature transmitted in a still debated Semitic language.[22] The Deir Alla Inscription is datable to ca. 840–760 BCE; it was written in red and black inks on a plastered wall; 119 pieces of inked plaster were recovered. The wall, near the summit of the tell, was felled by yet another tremor.[23]


The town was a sanctuary and metal-working centre, ringed by smelting furnaces built against the exterior of the city walls,[24] whose successive rebuildings, dated by ceramics from the Late Bronze Age, sixteenth century BCE, to the fifth century BCE, accumulated as a tell based on a low natural hill. The hopeful identification of the site as the biblical Sukkot is not confirmed by any inscription at the site.

Deir Alla was the first Bronze Age city excavated in Jordan. The initial expectations were of establishing a relative chronology of Palestine pottery in the transition between the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, established through meticulous stratigraphy. It was intended to span a gap between established chronologies at Jericho and Samaria.[25]

The oldest sanctuary at Deir Alla dates to the Late Bronze Age;[26] it was peacefully rebuilt at intervals, the floor being raised as the tell accumulated height, and the squared altar stone renewed, each new one placed atop the previous one. The final sanctuary was obliterated in a fierce fire; the blackened remains of an Egyptian jar bearing the cartouche of Queen Twosret gives a terminus post quem of c. 1200 BCE, a date consonant with other twelfth-century urban destruction in the Ancient Near East. Unlike some other destroyed sites, Deir Alla's habitation continued after the disaster, without a break, into the Iron Age; the discontinuity was a cultural one, with highly developed pottery of a separate ceramic tradition post-dating the destruction.

Ayyubid/Mamluk era

A sugar mill, dating from the Ayyubid/Mamluk era, was in use in the village until 1967.[27]

Ottoman era

In 1596, during the Ottoman Empire, Deir Alla was noted in the census as being located in the nahiya of Gawr in the liwa of Ajloun. It had a population of 46 Muslim households and 4 Muslim bachelors. They paid a taxes on various agricultural products, including wheat, barley, sesame, cotton, goats and beehives, in addition to occasional revenues, water buffalos and a water mill; a total of 10,500 akçe.[28]

Modern era

The Jordanian census of 1961 reported 1,190 inhabitants in Deir Alla.[29]

Tourist attractions

As well as being the site of the Deir Alla Inscription, Deir Alla is also the site of Battle of Fahl between the Muslim Caliphate and the Byzantine Empire. There are several tombs of Sahabah (followers of Muhammad) in Deir Alla:

See also


  1. ^ "The General Census - 2015" (PDF). Department of Population Statistics.
  2. ^ "..:: طقس الأردن - كن أول من يعلم ::". Archived from the original on 2011-08-23. Retrieved 2011-08-01.
  3. ^ Misgav, Haggai (2019-03-29), "Archaeology and the Bible", The Believer and the Modern Study of the Bible, Academic Studies Press, pp. 515–529, doi:10.2307/j.ctv2175qxj.30, retrieved 2022-04-04
  4. ^ Glueck, Nelson (1950). "Some Biblical Sites in the Jordan Valley". Hebrew Union College Annual. 23 (1): 105–129. ISSN 0360-9049. JSTOR 23614779.
  5. ^ a b W.H. Shea, "The Inscribed Tablets From Tell Deir `Alla" Part I: [1] Part II: [2] Andrews University Seminary Studies, vol. 27, pp. 21-37, 97-119, 1989.
  6. ^ "The Balaam Inscription from Deir ʿAlla", In Pursuit of Meaning, Penn State University Press, pp. 143–158, 2011-07-21, doi:10.5325/j.ctv1bxh27v.15, ISBN 9781575066387, retrieved 2022-04-04
  7. ^ S. Merrill, East of the Jordan. New York: C. Scribner's Sons., 1881
  8. ^ Avi-Yonah, Michael (1976). "Gazetteer of Roman Palestine". Qedem. 5: 41. ISSN 0333-5844. JSTOR 43587090.
  9. ^ H. J. Franken, The Excavations at Deir ֝Allā in Jordan, Vetus Testamentum, vol. 10, Fasc. 4, pp. 386-393 (Oct., 1960)
  10. ^ H. J. Franken, The Excavations at Deir ֝Allā in Jordan: 2nd Season, Vetus Testamentum, vol. 11, Fasc. 4, pp. 361-372 (Oct., 1961)
  11. ^ H. J. Franken, The Excavations at Deir ʿAlla in Jordan: 3rd Season, Vetus Testamentum, vol 12, Issue: 4, pp. 378-382, 1962
  12. ^ H. J. Franken, Excavations at Deir 'Allā, Season 1964: Preliminary Report, Vetus Testamentum, vol. 14, Fasc. 4, pp. 417-422 (Oct., 1964)
  13. ^ H. J. Franken and Ah J. Franken, Excavations at Tell Deir Alla: the Late Bronze Age Sanctuary, David Brown, 1992, ISBN 90-6831-408-4
  14. ^ Ibrahim, Moawiyah et al., Excavations at Tell Deir ʻAlla Season 1979, Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, vol. 23, pp. 41-50, 1979
  15. ^ Ibrahim, M. Moawiyah et al., Excavations at Tell Deir ʻAlla, Season 1982, Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, vol. 27, pp. 577-585, 1983
  16. ^ Ibrahim, M. Moawiyah et al., Excavations at Deir 'Alla, Season 1984, Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, vol. 30, pp. 131-143, 1986
  17. ^ Ibrahim, M. M., and G. Van der Kooij, Excavations at Tall Dayr ‘Alla: Seasons 1987 and 1994, Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, vol. 41, pp. 95-114, 1897
  18. ^ H. J. Franken, Clay Tablets from Deir ʿAlla, Jordan, Vetus Testamentum, vol. 14, Fasc. 3, pp. 377-379 (Jul., 1964)
  19. ^ H. J. Franken, "The Stratigraphic Context of the Clay Tablets Found at Deir 'Alla," PEQ 96, pp. 73-7, 1964
  20. ^ Michel de Vreeze - The Enigmatic Tablets from Late Bronze Age Deir ‘Alla Archived 2021-08-13 at the Wayback Machine ANE Today, vol. IX, no. 1, January 2021
  21. ^ Thomas L. Thompson (2000). "Problems of Genre and Historicity with Palestine's Descriptions". In André Lemaire, Magne Saebo (ed.). Supplements to Vetus Testamentum, Volume 80. Brill. p. 322. ISBN 978-9004115989.
  22. ^ J. Hoftijzer (ed.)The Balaam Text from Deir ‘Alla Re-evaluated (Leiden: Brill, 1991) ISBN 978-90-04-09317-1.
  23. ^ J. Hoftijzer and G. van der Kooij, "Aramaic Texts from Deir 'Alla" Documenta et Monumenta Orientis Antiqui 19 (Leiden) 1976.
  24. ^ Metal slag was found at every level, and often-rebuilt furnaces. (H.J. Franken, "The Excavations at Deir ʿAllā in Jordan" Vetus Testamentum 10.4 [October 1960, pp. 386-393], p 389).
  25. ^ H.J. Franken,Excavations at Tell Deir ʻAlla, Leiden Brill, 1969
  26. ^ There had been earlier, but unrelated Chalcolithic inhabitants of the tell. Franken (1961:371)
  27. ^ Pringle, 1997, p. 46
  28. ^ Hütteroth and Abdulfattah, 1977, p. 168
  29. ^ Government of Jordan, Department of Statistics, 1964, p. 17


  • Een Verhalla voor het Oprapen. Opgravingen de Deir Alla in de Jordaanvallei, Leiden: Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, 1989. ISBN 90-71201-09-0
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Deir Alla
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