Scholars widely consider Busayara to be the capital city of ancient Edom, a kingdom that emerged in southwest Jordan during the early first millennium BCE. Edommites rose to prominence alongside other Levantine powers such as the Moabites and Israelites. Despite the kingdom and its neighbours 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 Bennet, 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.

Excavation and Conservation:

During the 1980s, Department of Antiquities’ employees in the Tafileh regional office conducted a conservation project which consolidated a limited number of walls using cement. Despite this intervention project, these and other exposed buildings and features remain under threat from human and natural agents and call out for an ambitious conservation project.

Today, the Busayra Cultural Heritage Project (BCHP) investigates the history of ancient Busayra while developing site management solutions and sustainable economic opportunities for the adjacent Busayra community. The project seeks to elevate awareness of the site both for tourists and school groups, hopefully becoming a regular feature on the well-traveled tourist circuit along the King’s Highway.

Working with closely with Site Stewards Ali al-Soide and Safa al-Rfooh, project directors Ms. Stephanie Brown and Dr. Benjamin Porter have conducted site cleaning and stabilization at several monuments to make the site more accessible to visitors. 

More than 25 communities member have been trained in excavation, preservation, cleaning, and interpreting the site during the first phase of the project. Now in phase two, some 15 new community members are employed to develop a tourism path and signs to help visitors understand the site and its history. 

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.

Project Directors: Stephanie Brown and Dr. Benjamin Porter.

Site Stewards: Ali al-Soide and Safa al-Rfooh.

For more information on Busayra, check out the project on Facebook.