A Brief History of Jordan

By Tim Lambert

Early Jordan

Before 8,000 BC Stone Age hunters lived in what is now Jordan. However, by about 8,000 BC people in the region began farming although they still used stone tools. People began to live in villages. By about 5,000 BC people in Jordan were making pottery. By 4,000 BC they smelted copper and by about 3,200 BC they learned to make tools of bronze. During the bronze age, many people in Jordan lived in fortified towns. At that time there was a great trade between Egypt and Iraq. So trade routes passed through Jordan.

After 1,500 BC Jordan was divided into highly organized kingdoms. The most important were Moab, Edom, and Amon. Then after 500 BC, Arabs called the Nabateans migrated to Jordan. They developed a rich kingdom based on the trade routes through the area. Their capital was at Petra. Rome became the new power in the Middle East. At first, the Nabateans kept their independence. However, in 106 AD they were absorbed into the Roman Empire.

Under Roman rule, Jordan continued to flourish and Christianity spread. However the Roman Empire split in two and Jordan became part of the Eastern part, known as the Byzantine Empire.

However, in the 7th century, Jordan was conquered by Muslims and became part of the Islamic World. For centuries Jordan continued its traditional role of being a trade route between other areas. Then in 1516, it became part of the Turkish Empire. For centuries Jordan changed little.

However, in the late 19th century Muslims from the Russian Empire arrived in the area, fleeing persecution. In 1908 the Hejaz railway was built from Damascus to Medina. When the First World War began in 1914 the Turkish Empire joined the German side.

Modern Jordan

At that time Arab nationalism was growing, encouraged by the British. In June 1916 a rebellion, The Great Arab Revolt began. Finally, in 1918, Turkey was defeated by the Allies. However, Jordan was not allowed to become independent. In 1921 it was made a British mandate. Abdullah was made emir. However, Jordan finally became independent in 1946 and Abdullah became king.

However, King Abdullah was assassinated in 1951. He was replaced by his son Talal. However, in 1952 he was followed by Hussein. During the 1960s and 1970s, economic growth took place in Jordan. Martial law was declared in 1967 but elections were held in 1989. further elections were held in 1993. In 1994 Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel. Abdullah II became king of Jordan in 1999.

Today Jordan faces economic challenges such as poverty and unemployment but the economy is growing steadily. Jordan has great tourism potential. In 2024 the population of Jordan was 11 million.


Last revised 2024