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Umm el-Jimal is both a modern town and archaeological site of unknown name, located approximately 70km northeast of Amman and just south of the Syrian border. In ancient times the site was occupied from roughly the 1st to 8th centuries AD. After its decline, Umm el-Jimal’s dark basalt architecture lay silent until Syrian Druze and bedouin Msa’eid reoccupied it at the start of the 20th century. Umm el-Jimal was a frontier town in the desert, likely first inhabited by Nabataean traders caravanning between Petra and Damascus. With the arrival of Rome in the second century AD the village eventually became part of the Limes Arabicus—the line of garrisoned forts that protected the Roman province of Arabia. Even so, Umm el-Jimal’s inhabitants existed in relative autonomy, and by the 5th and 6th centuries it peaked as a prosperous Byzantine town of perhaps five thousand souls. Over the following centuries Umm el-Jimal’s residents remodeled and reused its stone structures, until its probable decline and gradual abandonment in the late 8th century.


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