The Near East is regarded as the earliest centre of farming in the world, and much research has been undertaken on the adaptations of hunter-gatherers in this region through the late Pleistocene (Epipalaeolithic: 24-12,000 cal BP) and on the emergence and development of village-based farming during the early Holocene (Neolithic 12-7,500 BP). Much of this research has focused on the moister steppe and park woodland environments where the wild progenitors of the domestic crops were distributed and where there were sufficient resources for the establishment of permanent settlements.
The Azraq Project was initiated to examine the adaptations of Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic communities to the drier steppe environments at the margins of the "Fertile Crescent" and their involvement in the beginnings of cultivation and pastoralism in the early Holocene. The Azraq Basin is an extensive inland drainage area located in north-central Jordan and is currently a dry steppe and sub-desert region with an oasis at its centre.
During the 1980s, 18 Upper Palaeolithic, Epipalaeolithic and Neolithic sites were the subject of small-scale excavations by Andrew Garrard and colleagues, and broader area investigations were undertaken at five of the Neolithic settlements. Although many of the Epipalaeolithic sites represented small-scale encampments and activity areas of highly mobile groups, some were repeatedly occupied and one was of a considerably larger scale and likely to represent a seasonal aggregation locality (Jilat 6). The Neolithic settlements also appear to have been occupied by mobile groups, but there were traces of cultivars and evidence for the introduction of domestic sheep and goat from about 9,000 BP.
Since the end of the field investigations, over 35 publications have appeared on various aspects of the work plus several PhD and Master's dissertations. There are several current projects being undertaken on material from the excavations including the extensive stone bead assemblages, the faunal remains, the Natufian burials and the radiometric dating. The final monographs on the field project are also being prepared for publication, with the first volume appearing in 2013.
Over 35 articles have appeared on the Azraq project (or which incorporate substantial material from the project). These include:
- Garrard A. & Byrd B (2013) Beyond the Fertile Crescent. Late Palaeolithic and Neolithic communities of the Jordanian steppe. Volume 1. Oxford, Oxbow, CBRL Levant Supplementary Series.
- Richter T., Garrard A., Allcock S. & Maher L. (2011) Interaction before agriculture: exchanging material and sharing knowledge in the Final Pleistocene Levant. Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21 (1): 95-114.
- Wright, K.I., Critchley, P. & Garrard A. (2008) Stone bead technologies and early craft specialization: insights from two Neolithic sites in eastern Jordan. Levant 40: 132-65.
- Wright, K.I. & Garrard, A.N. (2003) Social identities and the expansion of stone bead-making in Neolithic Western Asia: new evidence from Jordan. Antiquity 77: 267-284.
- Baird, D. (2001) Explaining technological change from the 7th to the 6th millennium bc in the southern Levant. In I. Caneva et al. (eds.) Beyond Tools. Redefining the PPN lithic assemblages of the Levant. Berlin, ex oriente: 319-331.
- Colledge, S. (2001) Plant exploitation on Epipalaeolithic and early Neolithic sites in the Levant. Oxford, BAR S986.
- Wright, K.I. (2000) The social origins of cooking and dining in early villages of western Asia. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, 66(1): 89-121.
- Martin, L.A. (2000) Mammal remains from the eastern Jordanian Neolithic, and the nature of caprine herding in the steppe, Paléorient 25/2: 87-104.
- Garrard, A. (1998) Environment and cultural adaptations in the Azraq Basin, 24-7,000 B.P. In D. Henry (ed.) The Prehistoric Archaeology of Jordan. Oxford, BAR S705: 139-150.
- Garrard, A., Colledge, S. and Martin, L. (1996) The emergence of crop cultivation and caprine herding in the "marginal zone" of the southern Levant. In D. Harris (ed.) The origins and spread of agriculture and pastoralism in Eurasia. London, University College: 204-226.
- Baird, D. (1995) Chipped stone raw material procurement and selection in the Neolithic Azraq Basin: implications for Levantine Neolithic cultural developments. In K. Amr et al. (eds.) Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan Volume 5. Amman, Department of Antiquities: 505-514.
- Garrard, A., Baird, D. & Byrd, B. (1994) The chronological basis and significance of the Late Palaeolithic and Neolithic sequence in the Azraq Basin, Jordan. In O. Bar-Yosef and R. Kra (eds.) Late Quaternary Chronology and Paleoclimates of the Eastern Mediterranean. Tucson, Radiocarbon: 177-199.
- Garrard, A., Baird, D., Colledge, S., Martin, L. & Wright, K. (1994) Prehistoric environment and settlement in the Azraq Basin: an interim report on the 1987 and 1988 excavation seasons. Levant 26: 73-109.
- Wright, K.I. (1994) Ground stone tools and hunter-gatherer subsistence in southwest Asia: implications for the transition to farming. American Antiquity, 59(2): 238-263
- Baird, D. (1994) Chipped stone production technology from the Azraq Project Neolithic sites. In H.G Gebel & S.K. Kozlowski (eds.) Neolithic chipped stone industries of the Fertile Crescent. Berlin, ex oriente: 525-541.
- Wright, K.I. (1993) Early Holocene ground stone assemblages in the Levant. Levant 25: 93-111.
- Garrard, A.N. & Byrd, B. (1992) New dimensions to the Epipalaeolithic of the Wadi el-Jilat in Central Jordan. Paléorient 18/1: 47-62.
- Baird, D., Garrard, A., Martin, L. & Wright, K. (1992) Prehistoric environment and settlement in the Azraq Basin: an interim report on the 1989 excavation season. Levant 24: 1-31.
- Wright, K.I. (1991) The origins and development of ground stone assemblages in Late Pleistocene Southwest Asia. Paléorient 17/1: 19-45.
- Garrard, A.N. (1991) Natufian Settlement in the Azraq Basin, Eastern Jordan. In O. Bar-Yosef and F. Valla (eds.) The Natufian Culture in the Levant. Ann Arbor, International Monographs Prehistory: 235-244.
- Byrd, B.F. & Garrard, A.N. (1990) The last Glacial maximum in the Jordanian Desert. In C. Gamble & O. Soffer (eds.) The World at 18,000 B.P. Volume 2. Low Latitudes. London, Unwin & Hyman: 78-96.
- Byrd, B.F. (1988) Late Pleistocene settlement diversity in the Azraq Basin. Paléorient 14/2: 257-264.
- Garrard, A.N., Colledge, S., Hunt, C. & Montague, R. (1988) Environment and subsistence during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene in the Azraq Basin. Paléorient 14/2: 40-49.
- Garrard, A.N., Betts, A., Byrd, B. & Hunt, C. (1988) Summary of palaeoenvironmental and prehistoric investigations in the Azraq Basin. In A.N. Garrard & H.G. Gebel (eds.) The Prehistory of Jordan. Oxford, BAR S396: 311-337.
- Garrard, A.N., Betts, A., Byrd, B. & Hunt, C. (1987) Prehistoric environment and settlement in the Azraq Basin: an interim report on the 1985 excavation season. Levant 19: 5-25.
- Garrard, A.N., Byrd, B. & Betts, A. (1986) Prehistoric environment and settlement in the Azraq Basin: an interim report on the 1984 excavation season. Levant 18: 1-20.
- Garrard, A.N., Byrd, B., Harvey, P. & Hivernel, F. (1985) Prehistoric environment and settlement in the Azraq Basin. A report on the 1982 survey season. Levant 17: 1-28.
A number of public lectures and conference papers have been given on aspects of project including:
- Liverpool University, 2010
- Prehistory of Jordan Conference, Amman, 2009
- Nottingham University, 2008
- Ancient Levant Conference, UCL, 2008
- British Academy
- British Institute at Amman for Archaeology and History
- British Museum
- Council for British Research in the Levant
- National Geographic Society
- Palestine Exploration Fund
- Wainwright Fund