The round tower and its annex, which is preserved only in its foundations, were constructed of large limestone slabs, consisted of several rooms and at least two floors.
Elaborate substructures hint at a complex ventilation system. The entrance to the tower was probably located in the annex.
Rujm AlMalfouf, a large stone tower and annex, is one of a series of some 30-odd fortresses dotting the Kingdom that date back to the little-known period.
The function and origin of the 22-metre-diametre stone tower and a preserved height of ca. 5.5 m, which lies across the street from the Department of Antiquities, has had archaeologists and historians disagreeing for decades.
Many of the fortresses, built on sites overlooking valleys or perched upon hilltops, are now either in agricultural areas or in the midst of rising metropolises.
Initial excavations at Rujm Al Malfouf, which has been examined at different times for nearly two centuries, dated the tower to the early Roman occupation of the region.
Pottery-finds (e.g. Eastern Sigillata A) and characteristic architectural elements (Roman-Byzantine corbel arching) clearly date the complex to the Roman period. Comparisons with 18 other towers in the greater vicinity, however, hint at an earlier construction or use of Rujm al-Malfuf (North) most probably during the Iron-Age II, the so called Ammonite period (first half of the first millennium B.C.).
However, the site’s construction was considered poor craftsmanship by Roman standards and the building material did not conform to the monuments and structures found in ancient Gerasa (Jerash), Gadara (Um Qais) and other Roman sites across the country.
Some believe the towers were military installations, using their position overlooking valleys to secure Ammonite territory and prevent potential raids.
Other experts, however, see the stone towers as agricultural buildings designed to protect fertile farmlands and harvests from nomadic hordes and thieves as well as grain storage.
A third school of thought believes the watchtowers evolved over time, established originally for defence purposes and later converted to agricultural lookouts in peacetime.
Little is known of the so-called Ammonite period in Jordan, with an incomplete view from archaeological excavations revealing their way of life, but the era’s greatest specimens such as Rujm Al Malfouf remain an echo of the long-lost and little-understood civilization.
The three-story tower now stands a mere five-and-a-half metres, its stone stairs crumbling and the surrounding annex in ruins.