The mining district of Feinan, Jordan

Studies of a prehistoric economic landscape

The mining district of Faynan is of capital importance in the economy of the ancient Near East, and is one of the best preserved and most thoroughly researched sites of early mining and smelting in the Levant. Ore from Faynan was extracted and processed from the preceramic Neolithic period (8th/7th millennium BC) to the Islamic period.

Faynan is especially important for the field of archaeology because, unlike in Europe, the ancient mining sites managed to survive and were not affected by more recent mining activities. Due to the excellent preservation and long period of operation of the mining and smelting sites at Faynan, the district is ideal for discussing the development and evolution of mining infrastructure and trade systems during various time periods and in different cultures. The excavations, descriptions and examinations carried out by the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum are essential in this discussion. Fundamental archaeological and archaeometallurgical investigations were undertaken from 1983-1993 under the administration of Prof. Dr. G. Weisgerber and Prof. Dr. A. Hauptmann.
The aim of this dissertation is the analysis and presentation of archaeological finds and features of each time period, in order to answer questions about the economic and ecological factors influencing the development and innovation of extractive metallurgy in Faynan. This includes the comparison of production capacity at various points in time and among different contemporary mining areas (e.g. Timna) which also showed political and economic influence on markets and trade.
The inventory and analysis of artefacts and features in terms of their archaeological, geological and ecological context is the foundation of the present investigation. The chemical and isotopic fingerprinting of each deposit provides a means of establishing the provenance of metal artefacts and ore fragments, and based on published analyses it is possible to show trade relationships through the distribution of objects traced back to the ore deposits of the Faynan area.

Relevant project

Archaeometallurgical and mining archaeology studies in Feinan and in the region of the southern Wadi Arabah, Jordan

PhD thesis

Ingolf Löffler

Responsible body

Deutsches Bergbau-Museum


Ruhr-Universität Bochum


2011 - 2014


  • Löffler, I., 2013. Standardization, centralization and scale: Focus on Faynan – characteristics and key features for economic and organizational growth. Metalla 20.2, pp. 60-68.