Modern Madaba is built on an artificial mound which conceals the remains of much earlier sites. The town has a long history, being first mentioned in the Bible at the time of Exodus, about 1200 BC. A tomb of this period has been found in the east of the town.
By Maccabaean times (c.165 BC) it had been re-occupied by the Ammonites, but in around 110 BC it was taken, after a long siege, by John Hyrcanus. It remained in Jewish hands until the time of Alexander Jannaeus,