Jordan’s history warrants more than a centennial

Nabeel Abu Ata
Nabeel Abu Ata (Photo: JNews)
Our Kingdom and people deserve to have more reasons to celebrate: The centennial is a great reminder of the accomplishments of our beloved Kingdom and a commemoration to the Arab patriots who stayed loyal to the mission of the Great Arab Revolt, the dream of the Arab Kingdom, and the liberation from Ottoman influence and Pan-Turkism. Yet Jordanians have much more than a 100 years to celebrate in their diverse and history-rich country.اضافة اعلان

Jordan is home to the most ancient human cultures known to man. “The Two-Headed Statue”, made of lime plaster, reed, and bitumen and found in Ain Ghazal village on the outskirts of Amman is considered the earliest large-scale representation of the human form and one of the most notable examples of prehistoric art from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B period.

According to Ihab Amarin, the general manager of the Jordan Museum, three of these series of statues are on display (as a loan) at the British Museum in London, the Paris’ Louvre, and Abu Dhabi’s Louvre. The statues are almost 9,000 years old, i.e. 4,000 years older than the oldest highly-celebrated Egyptian mummy.

“The Mesha Stele,” the longest Iron Age inscription ever discovered in the region, is an important demonstration of the Moabite language, and an exceptional account of military campaigns launched by King Mesha against the oppression of the King of Israel at the time.

It carries a parallel narrative to that found in the Old Testament when Mesha’s god speaks to him and gives his clear approval for war, promising victory and protecting him from enemy forces.

The stele was erected in the acropolis of Dibon, an area in Jordan that enjoys breathtaking mountainous and desert views. It is interesting to know that the distinctiveness of the Mesha Stele started a contest between Germany, France, and England to acquire it when it was discovered, but the pressure exerted by the Ottomans on Jordanian tribes to deliver it to the Germans caused the “Bani Hamad” Bedouins to destroy it and burn it in revenge of earlier atrocities committed against their countrymen by the Turks.

After being restored, it is currently being displayed in a special room at the Louvre in Paris and Jordan is calmly asking for its return.

At the end of a tour at the Jordan Museum, visitors can read about the Dead Sea scrolls, which are ancient Jewish and Hebrew religious manuscripts that were found in caves on the northern shore of the Dead Sea and date to the third century BC. Wikipedia cites scholarly consensus that those scripts include the second-oldest known surviving manuscripts of works and extra-biblical manuscripts which preserve evidence of the diversity of religious thought in late Second Temple Judaism. Almost all of the Scrolls have been seized by those west of the river; with no known effort to demand their rightful return.

A 100 years is too short of a period to celebrate. There is much to say about the inhabitants of this land, be it the Nabateans who had a remarkable understanding of water-harvesting, distillation, and hydraulics; or the Ain Ghazal Jordanians whose knowledge of chemistry produced the first-ever gypsum statue known to mankind; or the free thinkers who fled from the fundamental religious authorities from across the river and insisted on preserving their own views of religion and law during biblical times in the caves of the Dead Sea; or King Mesha who fought for his nation’s freedom and stability against the aggression of neighboring enemies.

The Jordanians that resided in this land, loved it, and welcomed those who came in peace and sought shelter in it. They have always fought for its freedom and the prosperity of its cities.

Witnessing all this wealth makes one wonder why our public institutions don’t proudly and unreservedly celebrate and promote this diversity and distinctiveness of history.

Why don’t we highlight the presence and impact of all the ancient civilizations that flourished here in our educational curricula so that we transform every pupil into a tour guide of this fabulous open-air museum? Is there a fear of upsetting the sensitive religious camp in Jordan that prevents the touristic, media, and educational institutions from broadly promoting Jordan’s narrative beyond a certain civilization, or is it pure negligence?

We have a lot to say about the history of the ancient world, with its diversity of religions, deities, thoughts, and knowledge, and about more recent civilizations; with their wars, setbacks, victories, and waves of exodus. Jordan’s arms must be wide open and its narrative and history widely and enthusiastically recounted.

As for the 100-year anniversary, I say, let’s take advantage of every occasion to celebrate, but I think 10,000-year anniversary is more like it.