Bir Madhkur is
one of approximately 40 sites in southern Jordan with a connection to the
ancient Incense Route. This major land and sea trading route stretched from
India across the Levant and Egypt, connecting incense, spices, and luxury goods
from the East and South to the Mediterranean world. The route existed between
the 7th century BC and 2nd century AD, while Bir Madhkur itself was occupied
during the Nabataean, Roman, and Byzantine periods.
The most prominent features of the site include a late Roman/early Byzantine military fort, dwellings, and bathhouses. Around the fort, excavations have revealed caravan stations, farmhouses, and nomadic encampments. Evidence also suggests the area once served as a hub both for agriculture and for the copper trade, linking Faynan to the north with Abu Kushayban, near Bir Madhkur.
At its peak, Bir Madhkur was home to a community of herders, farmers, and traders. Many others traveled through the site, including pilgrims, merchants, and soldiers. The expansive site is most tightly concentrated along the ridge that separates the fort from a nearby spring, which was the ancient water supply. Today, locals get their water from a well nearby, which gave rise to the name Bir (well) of Madhkur.
At Bir Madhkur, SCHEP supported work to revitalize the trails that link the site to Petra, as well as to further conserve the site and make it more comprehensible to public audiences. One of the most visible signs of SCHEP’s work has been the establishment of clearly marked trails and installation of interpretive panels along the route.
Another key component of the project included environmental protection, trying to fight erosion and other degradation. This included building terraced walkways to limit foot traffic in risk-susceptible areas.
For more information about SCHEP work at Bir Madhkur from 2014 to 2018, see our publication, The Story of SCHEP, 2014-2018.