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Tell Dhiban Aerial view of Khirbet ed-Dharih


  • Reference: APAAME_20191029_FB-0117
  • Photographer: Firas Bqa'in
  • Credit: Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East
  • Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works

Click on Image for high resolution magnifiable image


Transliterated Name Source Name
Dhiban Arabic ذيبان
Dīḇōn Hebrew דִּיבוֹן
Daybān Moabite

The Tell of Dibon is located about 70 km. south of Amman next to the modern Jordanian village of Dhiban. The site is famous as this is the place where the Mesha Stele (aka the Moabite stone) was discovered in 1868 CE. This stone bears an inscription memorializing the deeds of King Mesha which refers to events and persons until then known only from the Bible (e.g., 1 Kgs. 16:23-24; 2 Kgs. 3:4-27) ( A.D. Tushingham in Meyers et al, 1997:156-158). Remains have been found from the Early Bronze Age, Iron Age II, Nabatean, Roman (?), Byzantine, Umayyad, and later deposits with some breaks in occupation ( A.D. Tushingham in Meyers et al, 1997:156-158). The ancient site of Dibon was abandoned (except as a cemetery) when the village moved to its present location, probably in the 14th century CE ( A.D. Tushingham in Meyers et al, 1997:156-158).


Dibon, a city in Moab first settled in the Early Bronze Age, was the capital of the Moabite kingdom in the Iron Age and an important center in the Nabatean and later periods. The site of biblical Dibon is adjacent to the modern village of Dhiban (map reference 224.1 01), 64 km (39.5 mi.) south of'Amman on the road to Kir Moab (Kerak) and 4 km (2.5mi.) north of the Arnon River. Of the two natural hills lying to the west of the highway, the southern is occupied by the modern village and the northern is the site of the ancient city. The northern hill (200 by 150 m), which is by far the more defensible of the two, is protected on the west, north, and northeast by deep ravines. On the south and southeast today, however, there is a broad saddle joining the mound proper with the hill of modern Dhiban. Excavations have indicated that this is largely artificial, a result of wash, and does not reflect the original Dibon: general plan of the excavation areas. contours. There is every indication that the original city site (Early Bronze Age, probably, and certainly Iron Age I) and the enlarged, later Moabite site (Iron Age II) were well protected on their southern flanks by natural ravines or depressions.

The location of the site of ancient Dibon was first established by its similarity to the name of the modern Arab village. Its identity was subsequently confirmed in 1868 by the discovery on the site of the Mesha Stela.


The chief sources for the history of Dibon are the Bible and the stela of Mesha, king of Moab. In general, the city's fortunes were directly linked with those of Moab, especially with that part of the kingdom lying north of the Arnon River. It was an important Moabite city, possibly as early as the thirteenth century BCE. It is referred to in Numbers 21:30 as one of the cities seized from Moab by Sihon, king of the Amorites. When the invading Israelites defeated Sihon, they took Dibon. Tradition assigned the territory to the tribes of Gad (Num. 32:34) and Reuben (Jos. 13: 15-17), but it probably had stronger ties with Gad, because it is also called Dibon-Gad (Num. 33:45-46).

Dibon was Mesha's birthplace (stela, lines 1-2) and apparently also his father's capital. It is thus not surprising that Mesha made it his capital and erected monumental buildings there. The details of his building activities in Qarhoh (probably the city's royal citadel) are described in lines 2, 21-26 of the stela. Biblical references to Dibon (Is. 15 :2; J er. 48: 18) indicate that it was the chief Moabite city at the time when Moab had achieved some limited independence from Assyria and Babylonia. Dibon is again mentioned in the fourth century CE, in the Onomasticon of Eusebius, where it is described as "a large town near the Arnon" (76:18). The latest reference to Dibon is to be found in the writings of the Arab geographer Yaqut (1179-1229 CE), who speaks of the village Dhiban.


Excavations were carried out in Dibon by the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem, beginning in 1950. There were several campaigns: 1950-1951 under the direction of F. V. Winnett; 1952 under W. L. Reed; 1952-1953 under A. D. Tushingham; and in 1955, 1956, and 1965 under W. H. Morton. The first three campaigns were limited to the southeast corner of the mound. The other campaigns investigated the northwest, the northeast, and the summit and center of the mound.

Aerial Views, Plans, and Illustrations
Aerial Views, Plans, and Illustrations

Aerial Views

  • Tel Dibon in Google Earth


Normal Size

  • General plan of the excavation areas of Dibon from Stern et al (1993)
  • Plan of the Nabatean remains of Dibon from Stern et al (1993)


  • General plan of the excavation areas of Dibon from Stern et al (1993)
  • Plan of the Nabatean remains of Dibon from Stern et al (1993)


  • No. 9 Drawing of the Ruins of Dhiban from Tristram et al. (1873:133)

1834 or 1837 CE Earthquake


Tristram et al. (1873:135), while speculating on the discovery of the Mesha Stele in 1868 CE, suggested that the Stele was first exposed during the 1837 CE Safed Quake probably unaware that if an earthquake from around that time exposed the Mesha Stele, it would probably have been the 1834 CE Fellahin Revolt Earthquake.


Tristram (1875) - embedded

Notes and Further Reading

Bibliography from Stern et al (1993 v. 1)

Main publications

F. V. Winnett and W. L. Reed, The Excavations at Dibon ( Dhiban) in Moab (AASOR 36-37), New Haven 1964

A. D. Tushingham, The Excavations at Dibon ( Dhiban) in Moab 1952-1953 (AASOR 40), Cambridge 1972

W. H. Morton, Studies in the Mesha Inscription and Moab (ed. A. Dearman), Atlanta 1989, 239-246.

Other studies

N. Glueck, Exploration in Eastern Palestine 3 (AASOR 18-19), New Haven 1937-1938. 115, 242f.

S. J. Saller, Rivista di Archeologia Cristiano 15 (1938), 160-162

F. V. Winnett, BASOR 125 (1952), 7-20

W. L. Reed, ibid. 128 (1952), 7

146 (1957), 6-10

Winnett-Reed (Reviews), ZDPV 86 (1970), 99-100.- Qadmoniot 23-24 (1973), 132-133 (Hebrew).- ADAJ20 (1975). 103-109.- IEJ 25 (1975), 179-181

G. L. Harding, ADAJ2 (1953), 86-87

A. D. Tushingham, BASOR 133 (1954), 6-26; 138 (1955), 29-33, id., Studies of the Ancient Palestinian World(F. V. Winnett Fest.), Toronto 1971,29- 33

id., ADAJ34 (1990), 183-191

W. H. Morton, BASOR 140(1955), 5-6

A. H. Van Zyl, The Moabites, Leiden 1960, 77-80 passim

G. R. H. Wright, BASOR 163 (1961), 26-30

S. Ahituv, JEJ22 (1972), 141- 142, G. Rinaldi, Bibbiae Oriente 15 (1973), 215-220;J. A. Sauer, BA 42(1979), 72

American Archaeology in the Mideast, 124-125

P.-L. Gatier, Inscriptions de Ia Jordanie 2: Region Centrale (Bibliotheque Archeologique et Historique 114), Paris 1986, 196-200

Weippert 1988 (Ortsregister)

Akkadica Supplementum 7-8 (1989), 206-210

U. Hubner, ZDPV 106 (1990), 177-179.

Bibliography from Stern et al (2008)


Y. Elitzur, Ancient Place Names in the Holy Land: Preservation and History, Jerusalem 2004, 215–222

The Citadel King Mesha and his inscription

J. A. Dearman & G. L. Mattingly, ABD, 4, New York 1992, 708–709

G. L. Mattingly, ibid., 707

P. A. Viviano, ibid., 2, New York 1992, 194–197

H. Eshel, EI 24 (1993), 232*

A. Lemaire, BAR 20/3 (1994), 30–37

id., Prophetes et rois: Bible et Proche-Orient (Lectio divina. Hors serie

ed. A. Lemaire), Paris 2001, 85–118

B. MacDonald, Ammon, Moab and Edom: Early States/Nations of Jordan in the Biblical Period (End of the 2nd and during the 1st Millennium B.C.), Amman 1994

A. Niccacci, Orientalia 63 (1994), 226–248

A. D. Tushingham & P. H. Pedrette, SHAJ 5 (1995), 151–159

id., OEANE, 2, New York 1997, 156–158

J. Lewis, NEAS Bulletin 41 (1996), 51–52

B. Routledge, State, Empire and Identity in Iron Age Jordan. Debating Complexity: Proceedings of the 26th Annual Chacmool Conference (eds. D. A. Meyer et al.), Calgary, Alberta 1996

id., Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 43 (2000), 221–256

N. L. Tidwell, VT 46 (1996), 490–497

49 (1999), 132–134

N. Na’aman, IEJ 47 (1997), 83–92

D. Pardee, OEANE, 4 (ed. E. M. Meyers), New York 1997, 39–41

F. Zayadine, NEAS Bulletin 43 (1998), 31

S. Ah ̣ituv, EI 26 (1999), 226*

id., Israel Museum Studies in Archaeology 2 (2003), 3–10

A. Demsky, ibid., 228*

A. F. Rainey, IEJ 50 (2000), 116–117

id., The Land That I Will Show You: Essays on the History and Archaeology of the Ancient Near East (J. M. Miller Fest.; JSOT Suppl. Series 343

eds. J. A. Dearman & M. P. Graham), Sheffield 2001, 287–307

M. L. Steiner, SHAJ 7 (2001), 327–331

id., Svensk Exegetisk Arsbok 67 (2002), 37–45 (Eng.)

id., Phoenix 49 (2003), 24–33

E. Easterly, Maarav 9 (2002), 9–18

J. A. Emerton, VT 52 (2002), 483–492

S. Mittmann, ZDPV 118 (2002), 33–65

V. Philips Long, VT 52 (2002), 372–374

H. Richter, Die Phönizischen Anthropoiden Sarkophage, 2: Tradition, Rezeption, Wander (Forschungen zur Phönizisch-Punischen und Zyprischen Plastik I/2

ed. Simone Frede), Mainz 2002, 243–271

K. A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, Grand Rapids, MI 2003 (subject index)

P. J. Ray, Jr., NEAS Bulletin 48 (2003), 17–31

U. Worschech, Occident and Orient 8/2 (2003), 15–16

H. -P. Müller, Das Manna fällt auch heute noch: Beiträge zur Geschichte und Theologie des Alten, Ersten Testaments (E. Zenger Fest.

HBS 44

eds. F. -L. Hossfeld & L. Schwiehorst-Schönberger), Frieburg 2004, 430–446

L. J. Mykytiuk, Identifying Biblical Persons in Northwest Semitic Inscriptions of 1200–539 B.C.E. (Society of Biblical Literature Academia Biblica 12), Atlanta, GA 2004, 95–110, 265–274; B. W. Porter, ASOR Annual Meeting 2004,

id. (et al.), AJA 109 (2005), 542–544; B. Routledge, Moab in the Iron Age: Hegemony, Polity, Archaeology (Archaeology, Culture, and Society), Philadelphia 2004

E. J. Van der Steen, SHAJ 8 (2004), 449–457

BAR 31/4 (2005), 55–56

B. Sass, The Alphabet at the Turn of the Millennium: The West Semitic Alphabet Ca. 1150–850 BCE (Tel Aviv Occasional Publications 4), Tel Aviv 2005 (index)

A. Schade, IEJ 55 (2005), 205–208

G. W. Vera Chamaza, Die Rolle Moabs in der –Neuassyrischen Expansionspolitik (Alter Orient und Altes Testament 321), Münster 2005.

Bibliography from Meyers et al (1997)

Bienkowski, Piotr, ed. Early Edam and Moab: The Beginning of the Iron Age in Southern Jordan. Sheffield Archaeological Monographs, 7. Sheffield, 1992.

Dearman, Andrew, ed. Studies in the Mesha Inscription and Moab. Atlanta, 1989.

Dornemann, Rudolph Henry. The Archaeology of the Transjordan in the Bronze andiron Ages. Milwaukee, 1983.

Freedman, David Noel. "A Second Mesha Inscription." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 175 (1964): 50-51.

Morton, William H. "Report of the Director of the School in Jerusalem." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 140 (1955): 4-7.

Morton, William H. "Dhiban." Revue Biblique 64 (1957): 221-223.

Morton, William H. "A Summary of the 1955, 1956, and 1965 Excavations at Dhiban." In Studies in the Mesha Inscription and Moab, edited by Andrew Dearman, pp. 239-246. Atlanta, 1989.

Murphy, Roland E. "A Fragment of an Early Moabite Inscription from Dibon." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 125 (1952): 20-23.

Mussell, Mary-Louise. "The Seal Impression from Dhiban." In Studies in the Mesha Inscriptions and Moab, edited by Andrew Dearman, pp. 247-251. Adanta, 1989.

Reed, William L., and Fred V. Winnett. "A Fragment of an Early Moabite Inscription from Kerak." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 172 (1963): 1-9.

Tushingham, A. D. "An Inscription of the Roman Imperial Period from Dhiban." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, no. 138 (1955): 29-34.

Tushingham, A. D. The Excavations at Dibon (Dhiban) in Moab: The Third Campaign, 19$2-53. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 40. Cambridge, Mass., 1972.

Tushingham, A. D. "Three Byzantine Tombstones from Dhiban, Jordan." In Studies in the Ancient Palestinian World, edited by John W. Wevers and Donald B. Redford, pp. 29-33. Toronto, 1972.

Tushingham, A. D. "Dhiban Reconsidered: King Mesha and His Works." Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 34 (1990): 183-191.

Tushingham, A. D., and Peter H. Pedrette. "Mesha's Citadel Complex (Qarhoh) at Dhiban." Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan, vol. 5, pp. 151-159. Amman, 1995.

Winnett, Fred V., and William L. Reed. The Excavations at Dibon (Dhiban) in Moab: The First Campaign, 1950-51, and the Second Campaign, 1952. Annual of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 36/37. New Haven, 1964.

Wikipedia pages

Wikipedia page for Dhiban

Wikipedia page for the Mesha Stele