Worth A Trip: Ancient Dana

There’s something rather magical about coming across a pile of smelted fragments and realising that this is evidence of industry, not from any industrial revolution but from the activities of communities 6000 years ago.

There are almost 100 archaeological sites in the Dana Biosphere Reserve, most still being excavated by British teams. The ruins of Khirbet Feynan, at the mouth of Wadi Feynan and Wadi Ghuweir, are particularly interesting: the 6000-year-old copper mines here were once the largest metal-smelting operations in the Near East and are mentioned in the Bible. The Romans later worked the mines using Christian slaves.

The hills of Dana still contain copper, but despite lobbying from mining companies, the Jordanian government has agreed not to allow mining in the reserve. A growing cement factory that quarries along the rim of the reserve is the nearest incursion permitted in this wildlife haven.