mportant new information about the area of Bethany beyond the Jordan -- where John the Baptist preached and baptized during the early days of his ministry -- has recently been revealed following archaeological surveys and excavations along the length of Wadi Al-Kharrar since 1996.
Combined evidence from the biblical text, Byzantine and medieval writers' accounts, and most recent archaeological works, place the tradition of John the Baptist's mission, including the baptism of Jesus, adjacent to -- and directly east of -- the Jordan River, in the land of the modern Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
John 1:28 speaks of: Bethany beyond the Jordan the place where John baptized; the expression "beyond the Jordan" referring to the east bank of the river. In a later reference to the same place on the east bank, John 10:40 says that Jesus travelled across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized: "And He went again beyond the Jordan, into that place where John was first baptizing and there He abode". Mathew 3:13 states that Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John, while Mark 1:9 says Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John.
The recent excavations in Jordan in 1997 uncovered a series of ancient sites associated with the tradition of John the Baptist and the baptism of Jesus, located along the length of the Wadi Al-Kharrar, east of the river. At the site of Tell Al-Kharrar, identified as Bethany beyond the Jordan, a Byzantine monastery was discovered. The site is located nearly two kilometres (1.2 miles) east of the Jordan River, at the start of the Wadi Al-Kharrar. Several natural springs form pools that start the flow of water through the Wadi Al-Kharrar, eventually feeding into the Jordan River. An idyllic oasis dominates the start of Wadi Al-Kharrar and the site of Tell Al-Kharrar.
Three pools are seen on the Tell. The first one is located on the lower southern slope dating to the Roman period during the 3rd - 4th centuries AD. The other two pools are located on the top of the northern edge of Tell Al-Kharrar. Rectangular in shape, the southern pool had an inner staircase on the eastern side, and four steps extending the full width of the pool can be seen. Pilgrims would descend into the pool to be baptized.
Two square pools also date from the same Roman period. Ashlars were added near the southwestern corner of the northwestern pool during later periods, possibly used as a staircase to go down into the pool. The pools receive their water supply through canals carried over arches.
More excavations under the damaged floor of the pool have revealed a cistern dating from the Early Roman to Late Byzantine periods. Circular on top, it is built of well-cut sandstone ashlars.