Nelson Glueck’s “Madeba line” and the Tall Madaba Archaeological Project
Jonathan Ferguson [+]
University of Toronto
In his survey of Transjordan, Nelson Glueck noted that the fine wares so characteristic of the Nabataean kingdom were generally absent from the territories north and west of Madaba, and he later referred to this ceramic watershed as the “Madaba line.” This paper demonstrates that Glueck’s “Madaba line” reflects a real gradient in the frequency of Nabataean fine wares, which generally follows the kingdom’s historical border in the first centuries BC and AD. This distribution can be visualized on a regional level by using GIS software to plot Thiessen polygons around sites recorded as Hellenistic or Nabataean in the Jordan Antiquities Database and Information System. Moreover, excavations on Madaba’s western acropolis have helped to demonstrate the Nabataean cultural presence there. While the common wares from Madaba followed the same developments seen in Judaea and the Peraea, the fine wares reflected the fashions current in Petra. Similar assemblages have been found at the contemporary Nabataean site of Dhiban to the south, but the fine wares from Hesban to the north and Machaerus to the west (both in the Judaean Peraea) reflect Cisjordanian ceramic traditions.