About the project – University of Copenhagen

Shkarat Msaied Neolithic Project > About the project

About the project

The Shkarat Msaied Neolithic Project is an archaeological research project at a site dating to the 9th millennium B.P. The site is situated in the sandstone mountain area c. 13 km north of Petra in the Nemelleh region, and it consists of a settlement belonging to the Middle Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period (9.200-8.500 B.P.). This well-preserved site is of archaeological and historical importance as it was inhabited in a period marked by crucial developments in subsistence strategies as people began to experiment with cultivation of plants and herding of animals.

The semi-arid landscape on which the Shkarat Msaied site is situated was mainly occupied by mobile hunter-gatherer groups, living in circular shaped buildings of more substantial character than previous and with a rich and diverse material culture.

The project aims at investigating the material culture of the group which have occupied the settlement in order to shed more light on the technological, ideological and social aspects among early Neolithic communities settling in semi-arid territories. Current research work is on the remains of architecture, animal bones, human bones, botanical remains, chipped stone, bone tools, marine mollusc artefacts and ornaments, and ground stone tools. Results have proved that the community had complex technological skills and an intricate social structure. All of this invalidates the use of the term primitive to describe early Neolithic societies as has be done previously.


The project started in 1999 as a salvage excavation project. From 1999-2001 the excavation operated as a multi-level educational field school during which it was funded by The University of Copenhagen. Since 2003 the excavation has run as a research project. In the forthcoming seasons focus will be more on heritage site management which will include preservation and conservation undertakings as well as presentation of the site to the broader public.

The project is affiliated to the Centre for the Study of Early Agricultural Societies (CSEAS)  at our Department (https://ccrs.ku.dk/research/centres/cseas/).

The project has been realised with the support and co-operation of:
The Department of Antiquities in Jordan
Petra Archaeolgocial Park and Cultural Heritage
Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority
Carlsberg Foundation (2003-2005)
Danish Institute in Damascus (2014-2017)
Danish Palestine Foundation (2015, 2016)

Topographical map of Shkarat Msaied, with 1 meter contour lines