History:

Scholars widely consider Busayra to be the capital city of ancient Edom, a kingdom that emerged in southwest Jordan during the early first millennium BCE. Edomites rose to prominence alongside other Levantine powers, such as the Moabites and Israelites. Despite the kingdom and its neighbors falling under the sway of successive empires – the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Achaemenid Persians – Busayra continued to prosper and maintained economic links with Arabia, the Levant, and Egypt. 
British archaeologist Crystal Bennett excavated at Busayra between 1971 and 1980, discovering a monumental building and a substantial fortification system associated with the Kingdom’s administration. Some of the most impressive of these features include a 1,500-square meter palace and a temple larger than 2,320 square meters.

Site Development :

A major problem facing sites like Busayra that date as far back as the Bronze Age is presentation to visitors. These sites often lack the impressive structures of later period sites. SCHEP’s goal at Busayra was to turn it into a tourist attraction, by clearing the site, creating a pathway, and developing signage to make the area comprehensible for tourists.

This challenge came on top of the work needed to rehabilitate the site from previous excavations, some of which had left rubble heaps and harmed the landscape. SCHEP worked to clear these dumps and preserve the site both for tourists and future scholars hoping to study the site.

SCHEP, the Department of Antiquities, and Busayra team members worked together to establish a trail through the site, allowing visitors to more easily access and explore the ruins. The trail begins at the main entrance and proceeds straight to the Acropolis, passing alongside the main palace, the temple, and the cistern. The trail then returns to the main gate, and then turns to the north to reveal a panoramic view. The panoramic station will be developed with a compass-oriented map that includes information about the direction and the distance of the main cities that were linked to ancient Busayra.

A young engineer from the local community was hired to assist in the creation of interpretation materials for the site. The process began with the design of three different types of interpretative devices: the design of the main gate; a sixty-meter long mural painting that describes the main events that occurred in Busayra over the centuries; and six interpretive signs that will be installed along the trail.

Finally, in order to sustain awareness raising efforts, SCHEP in cooperation with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Busayra Secondary School for Boys developed a three-room annex to a local school which will serve as a Heritage Lab. The Heritage Lab will promote archaeological awareness programs through providing a gallery that contains educational material which, At the same time, targets schools from different regions under cultural exchange.


SCHEP Support:

Capacity Building

More than 25 community members were trained in excavation, preservation, cleaning, and interpreting the site during the first phase of the project. In phase two, some 15 new community members were employed to develop a path for visitors and signs to help them understand the site and its history. 


Tourism and Economic Development

SCHEP has trained several local community members in maintaining and enhancing the archaeological site in order to enhance its capacity to attract and receive visitors. Building on the momentum of these trainings and utilizing the information and skills gained therein, the Busayra Foundation for Cultural Heritage was established on August 15, 2018 in cooperation with Busayra site steward, Ms. Safa al Rfou. This women-led community-based enterprise focuses on sustaining the work carried out during SCHEP.

The company will hire trained and qualified members of the local community to conduct necessary maintenance for the site (in coordination with DOA in Tafileh), and to operate the Heritage Lab which will be used for students’ education and awareness activities. The company will work on tourism product development and raising awareness of Busayra among potential visitors, as well as facilitating the provision of tourism services in partnership with other members of the local community.

Awareness

Throughout the project, SCHEP has been dedicated to engaging local community members in Busayra, especially school-aged children, to increase their awareness of the history of the archaeological site around which they live as well as their interest in caring for and marketing the site to visitors in the future. This was carried out through site visits, workshops, and the establishment of Jordan’s first Heritage Lab, located in a local school that is directly adjacent to the archaeological site. Through a program developed by SCHEP and local project staff, the Heritage Lab will be used to strengthen relationships between students from Busayra and beyond with the site and its history. This classroom and activity center will help students learn more and take responsibility for the site that is central to their community.

Among the many awareness-raising activities conducted in and around Busayra, SCHEP coordinated fifteen workshops inside nine schools throughout Jordan, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and the Crown Prince Foundation, in the summer of 2018. These workshops targeted 2989 students from nine schools near six of the SCHEP sites, Bayt Ra's, Madaba, Umm al Jimal, Ghawr as Safi, Busayra and Ayla. SCHEP also organized site visits for Busayra Boys Scout to the Busayra Archaeological site, followed by a lecture and a workshop on the history of the area and information on how to preserve the site. The fifty-student group attended a mosaic workshop at the end of the day on September 28, 2018. SCHEP also celebrated the Eid holiday in Busayra in both 2017 and 2018, with a community celebration and activities for some fifty children who restored and painted pottery, assembled puzzles, and put on a talent show.

 

Host Community:

Busayra is a village of about 8,500 people located 10km south of Tafila, which lies in a poverty pocket in Jordan’s south. The poverty rate in the town is recorded at 31.4%, more than double Jordan’s national average of 13.1%. Household income averages 6,385 JD per year, as opposed to the national average of 8,842 JD.

The site is located inside the village of Busayra and immediately adjacent to the Busayra Secondary School for Boys. This position has enabled USAID SCHEP Site Stewards to engage in numerous outreach activities with school groups and other local community organizations.

The people of Busayra have tremendous pride in their community. In addition to raising awareness of the historical site, one of the local teachers, Dr. Ishaq, has begun a museum recording education throughout the history of education in the area, collecting memorabilia and records that date back to the 1940s.

USAID SCHEP is working to increase community engagement with the site, which could ultimately lead to a sustainable community-based hospitality economy, linking the town of Busayra with tourists at near-by Dana.