Like other Nabatean cities in the region, Humeima once served as a relatively small trading post and stop-off for caravans traveling through the desert region of southern Jordan known as Edom. The town was established by King Aretas III at the end of first century BCE in hopes that it might provide a place where the nomadic Nabatean peoples of the region could settle more permanently.
With permanent settlement as a goal at the outset, the city was intentionally designed with numerous structures for water preservation and management that could bring water to the city from more than 25 km away. With this complex system of aqueducts and cisterns in place, the Nabatean people of Humeima did indeed begin to transition to a more sedentary lifestyle of agriculture and raising livestock.
When Trajan came to power in Rome at the beginning of the second century CE, the Roman Empire began to expand eastward, swallowing up some Nabatean territories. During this time period, Humeima became the site of a new Roman garrison; and the city was inhabited by subsequent powers through the Byzantine and Islamic eras until around 750 CE. After this point, material remains seem to indicate that the site was abandoned.
Today, most of the city is rocky rubble, a reality likely caused by several major earthquakes and the deconstruction and reuse of building materials for later structures. Still, there are parts of the city worth exploring for those with a discerning archaeological eye. Visitors should certainly take the time to admire the craftsmanship of the various water management systems in the city. Over the years, the Nabateans developed rather ingenious methods for trapping and keeping water. Their arch-roofed cisterns and covered aqueducts are merely two examples. Also of note is the large pool in the center of the city. Nothing quite like it has been found in Nabatean ruins elsewhere. Based on the presence of steps in each of the four corners, some scholars speculate that it might have been some kind of public swimming pool .
Those interested in ruins from the later periods will enjoy the remains of the Byzantine-era church at the southeast end of town. A careful look at the steps entering the church reveals that they were made from repurposed aqueduct blocks. Two other sites in greater disrepair are a Roman fort and the remains of an Abbasid mosque. If time is no issue, than a foray around the city’s rock quarries is also guaranteed to be a good opportunity for lizard-spotting.