Jordan has been inhabited at least since the early Paleolithic period (Abu Khas) about 1.2 million years BC. During the Middle Paleolithic period (about 100,000-40,000 BC), several settlements arose in Wadi al-Hasa and in the region of Kerata, followed by a longer decline due to drought. During the epipaleolithic period (18,000-8,000 BC), the semi-nomadic population, influenced by the Native American culture of present-day Israel, cultivated wild semen and raised gazelles and dogs; then rock carvings have been found in Wadi Rum and Kilwa. During Calcite times (the copper age, 4500-3200 BC) a high culture arose in Talaylat al-Ghassul. The dwellings were adorned with murals; inter alia an eight-pointed star has been found.
During the Early Bronze Age (3200-2100 BC), Jordan was densely populated, with cities such as Jawa, Khirbet Iskander and Bab al-Dhira. See AbbreviationFinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Jordan. The remains of the Bronze Age are imperfectly known, but probably Jordan had a permanent population throughout the period; nothing supports the hypothesis that during the Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BC) the land was inhabited only by nomads. At the beginning of the Iron Age (1200-500 BC) the kingdoms of Ammon, Edom and Moab were founded. Almost constant hostilities came between these and the United Kingdom of Israel. After King David’s death, Ammon regained his independence, but even in the 7th century King Amaziah ravaged Judah in Edom. Jordan then came to obey the Assyrian empire, until its fall 612 BC.
During the Assyrian dominion, an Arab nomad people, Nabateans, began to establish themselves in Edom. The Nabateans gradually developed a mercantile kingdom, whose influence extended from northern Syria to southern Arabia. During Hellenism, Jordan was a fighting apple between Ptolemies and Seleukids, later between the Seleukids and the Maccabeesian rebels in Palestine. During this time, the Nabataeans extended their empire northward; from the 300s BC Petra was their capital. Even after Roman conqueror Pompey’s conquest of Syria and Palestine 63 BC the Nabateans enjoyed relatively great independence. However, Emperor Trajan sounded 106 AD assimilate their kingdom as the province of Arabia Petraea, with Bosra (in present-day Syria) as its capital. Christianity came to Jordan early, and from the 300s a number of churches were erected. When Jordan again got in the way of a major power conflict, this time between the Byzantine Empire and the Sasanid Iran, most of the shrines were destroyed. In 627, the area was restored during the Byzantium by Emperor Herakleios.
- COUNTRYAAH.COM: Provides latest population data about Jordan. Lists by Year from 1950 to 2020. Also includes major cities by population.
The fighting between the Byzantine Empire and Iran made Jordan an easy exchange for the Arab armies that spread the new doctrine, Islam. The Arabs defeated in the Battle of Yarmuk 636 Byzantine forces under the emperor Herakleios. In 638, Jerusalem and 640 all of Syria and Palestine came under the control of Islam. The population, which gradually adopted Islam, was mixed up with the invading Arabs. The current Jordan, which was part of the province of Syria, was first part of the Umayyad caliphate with its center in Damascus, then of the Abbasid caliphate, ruled from Baghdad, and finally of the rival Fatimid caliphate based in Cairo. The Umayyad era (661-750) provided a boost for the area, as the caravan road from Damascus to Mecca and Medina went across eastern Jordan. The Christians were treated fairly well by the Muslims, II called in 1095 to crusade against the unfaithful. Crusaders entered Jerusalem in 1099 and established the Kingdom of Jerusalem, whose power in western Jordan, however, ended with Sultan Saladin’s victory over the Crusaders at Hattin 1187. A series of crusader castles in eastern Jordan recall this time. The area was again ruled from Cairo until the Ottoman Turks’ conquest in 1517. The Ottoman period, which lasted until the First World War, meant a certain decay. However, the religious communities, which constituted administrative units, enjoyed autonomy, the so-called millet system.
During the First World War, the Arabs revolted against the Turks, and after the Ottoman Empire’s 1918 collapse, parts of the latter Jordan came under British and French control in accordance with the secret Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916. Palestine became a British mandate under the NF. The Arab protests against Jewish immigration to Palestine and the struggle of Arab Abdullah to achieve military freedom led Britain to separate the area east of the Jordan River from the Palestine mandate and establish the Transjordan emirate. This was confirmed by the NF in 1922. The emirate became self-governing under the British mandate with Abdullah as ruler, and in 1925 the boundaries were fixed since the arrival of Aqaba and Maan.
Abdullah was able to build his country with British aid. It was undeveloped and poor with about 400,000 nomadizing Bedouins, often in disagreement. The British also assisted in the creation of an army, the Arab Legion, to introduce law and order, and to secure the obedience of the Bedouins to the state. Under the leadership of JB Glubb (“Glubb Pascha”), the legion became an elite force. In 1946 Jordan became completely independent under the name Hashimite Kingdom of Transjordan with Abdullah as King. However, the British retained some military privileges until 1956.
In May 1948, the Arab states attacked the newly formed state of Israel. However, they were fragmented and lacked coordination. Abdullah was more interested in preventing Egyptian success than in fighting Israel, and at the same time, in secret agreement with Jewish leaders, tried to stop the formation of the UN-planned Palestinian state. The Arab Legion never attacked Jewish territories but conquered the West Bank, ie. parts of the envisaged Palestine, and eastern Jerusalem, confirmed by ceasefire agreement with Israel in 1949. That same year, Abdullah attended a meeting in Jericho with leaders from the West Bank proclaim themselves king over all of Palestine, including Transjordan, which now changed its name to Jordan. The new areas were formally annexed by a newly elected parliament, which also represented West Bank residents.
Abdullah’s policies, which also included secret contacts with Israeli leaders, were seen as treason by the Palestinians. In 1951 he was murdered by a Palestinian and succeeded by his son Talal. However, the new king was insane and left the throne to his son Hussein in 1952.
With the incorporation of the West Bank, about 400,000 Palestinians followed and about 350,000 Palestinian refugees, all of whom received Jordanian citizenship. Tensions soon arose between the more educated and nationalist Palestinians, who also represented an old peasant culture, and the royal faithful East Bankers with their Bedouin traditions. The result was constant tearing between the almost single king and the Palestinians with their demands for democracy and a radical Arab policy. Hussein demanded that 1956-57 break ties with Britain and dismiss Glubb Pascha. However, British influence was replaced as a result of the 1958 Lebanese crisis by US financial and military support in accordance with the Eisenhower doctrine. Jordan did not participate in the Suez War in 1956 but well into the Six Day War in 1967, despite Israel’s efforts to keep Jordan out.
After the war, a Palestinian guerrilla emerged in Jordan. It threatened Hussein’s authority, and in bloody battles in 1970-71, the King’s army defeated the guerrillas, which developed into a state in the state and conducted raids against Israel. At an Arab summit in 1974, Hussein was forced to accept the PLO as the only representative of the Palestinians. In its quest for a coordinated Arab policy to end Israel’s occupation, Jordan has been unable or unwilling to act without the PLO’s consent, while Israel views Jordan as a natural counterpart. Intifadan with its demonstration of Palestiniannationalism with a cap even against pro-Palestinian Palestinian leaders, however, Jordan was forced to break ties with the West Bank in 1988 and to renounce claims in the area. Squeezed between a reluctant Israel and an increasingly self-conscious Iraq as well as with a large number of Palestinians in their own country, Jordan supported Iraq during the 1990-1999 Kuwait War, thereby angering UN Alliance members and again receiving many Palestinian refugees, now from Kuwait.. Relations have subsequently gradually improved with the United States as well as with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. Through the 1991 peace process, Jordan also negotiated openly with Israel, resulting in a definitive peace agreement between the two countries on October 26, 1994. Jordan subsequently recovered 380 km2land, which Israel occupied from 1948. The peace agreement with Israel has been criticized by the Jordanian opposition, partly by the Islamists and partly by leftist forces in the country (which in both cases were often of Palestinian origin). King Hussein played an active role as mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Internal opposition increased, and in 1997 the censorship of the mass media was tightened.
Hussein died in 1999 and was succeeded by his son Abdullah II. The second Palestinian intifada in 2000 put the regime’s balance between on the one hand the indigenous Palestinian citizens and the country’s critical Islamists on the other, taking into account the peace agreement with Israel and relations with the United States on difficult trials. King Abdullah and his governments have expressed support for the Palestinian uprising, but at the same time have stood firm both in the peace treaty with Israel and in most concrete Jordanian-Israeli cooperation projects. King Abdullah has also appeared as a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including hosting a summit in Aqaba in 2003, in which President Bush also participated. In 2005, parts of two large hotels in Amman were blown up by suicide bombers. Iraqi al-Qaeda, led by the Jordanian-born Palestinian Az-Zarqawi, took responsibility for the attack. Following Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Jordan has made a clear party for President Abbas and his Fatah regime on the West Bank. During the US and Britain’s war on neighboring Iraq in the spring of 2003, Jordan remained formally neutral, despite a strong pro-Iraqi opinion in the country. In addition, there were reports of Jordanian support for the warfare by the country’s allied US.
Today (2008), King Abdullah II seems to have succeeded in mastering the surge, both from the now fallen Palestinian uprising against Israel and from the US war in Iraq. Instead, Iran is now portrayed as the greatest threat to the Arab world, especially in Iraq, as a continuation of the centuries-old power struggle between Arabs and Persians.