At the heart of the market town of Deir ‘Alla in the Jordan Valley, c. 230m below sea level, stands an imposing archaeological mound. Tell Deir ‘Alla (mound of the high monastery), has been identified by some scholars as biblical Succoth, and by others as Penuel, both punished by Gideon for refusing to help pursue the Midianites (Judg. 8:4-17).
Excavations since the 1960s, by Dutch and Jordanian teams, show that the tell was almost continuously occupied from r. 1700 to 400 BC, Middle Bronze Age to the Hellenistic era, though most remains are from the Iron Age.
A large Late Bronze Age sanctuary with associated workshops, contained a quantity of pottery, much of it not locally made. These foreign objects speak of an extensive trade network between Egypt, Mesopotatmia, the Levant and Mycene in which the sanctuary played a significant part. It functioned for about 400 years before being destroyed in an earthquake and fire in the early 12th century ac.
The settlement continued to flourish in the Iron Age, still as an important trading station with cultic significance. Among the most important finds were some inscriptions in an early form of Aramaic. One, in black and red ink dating from the 9th century BC ‘(unique in being written on a wall), recounts a prophecy of Balaam son of Beor, a character who also appears in the Bible (Num. 22-24) in a rather unfavorable light.