A Day in Jerusalem

By Charlotte Kelsted

In April 2018, a generous travel grant from the Palestine Exploration Fund allowed me to carry out an introductory research trip to Palestine. My research explores the attitudes and experiences of British women (colonial wives, missionaries, teachers, nurses and others) who resided in Palestine during the British Mandate (1920-1948), focusing specifically on encounters between these British women and local Palestinian Arab and Jewish communities. I started my PhD seven months ago, and this research trip has undoubtedly been the highlight of my doctoral study thus far.

After arriving into Tel Aviv late in the evening, I spent the first night of my trip at the charming Kenyon Institute in East Jerusalem. The Kenyon Institute, formerly the British School of Archaeology at Jerusalem (BSAJ), was established during the British military administration of Palestine in 1919, as result of a joint effort by the Palestine Exploration Fund, the British Academy and the Foreign Office. The library at the Kenyon Institute contains over 10,000 volumes on the Middle East and is particularly rich in material relating to Mandate Palestine.

Next to the Kenyon Institute is Dar Issaf Nashashibi, an inspiring archive and library devoted to promoting Palestinian cultural heritage. Dar Issaf Nashashibi was my first stop in Jerusalem and I was fortunate to meet Dua, Head Librarian, who was exceptionally helpful. From the top of Dar Issaf Nashashibi one can see Mount Scopus and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Fig. 1). Founded in 1918 and inaugurated under the British Mandate, the Hebrew University has rapidly expanded since the early twentieth century: with 270 students in 1934, in 2017 there were 23,000 students registered at the university.

Fig. 1: Mount Scopus and Hebrew University of Jerusalem (photo by C. Kelsted).

 

Next I visited the Mount of Olives to see the Dome of the Rock in all its splendour. This iconic shrine dominates the Jerusalem landscape and as the golden dome sparkled in the midday sun, the adhan from Al-Aqsa Mosque drifted up the Mount of Olives. Setting eyes on this view for the first time was a stirring moment for me, having gazed longingly at a photograph of this view from my desk in Exeter for several months prior to the trip (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: The Dome of the Rock seen from Mount of Olives (photo by C. Kelsted).

Back in the heart of this remarkable city in the afternoon, I entered the Old City for the first time through Damascus Gate. The atmosphere that greeted me was intoxicating: narrow passageways full to bursting with fervent tourists, locals expertly weaving in and out of the crowds as they attempt to carry out their daily business, clamorous shopkeepers and street vendors selling their wares, young men speeding through the ancient, cobbled streets on motorbikes, popping up behind you without a moment’s warning and the intoxicating smell of cinnamon and other aromatic herbs and spices emanating from the souq.

Escaping the intensity of the Old City, I roamed along the ramparts from Jaffa Gate to Damascus Gate and onwards, finally reaching the Spafford’s Children Centre. I had first heard the moving story of this centre from The Right Honourable Lady Cope of Berkeley at a Remembrance Service for the British Palestine Police in November 2017, and had been looking forward to visiting ever since.

The Spafford’s Children Centre was founded by Bertha Spafford Vester – an ancestor of the Rt Hon. Lady Cope, a patron of the British Palestine Police Association – in 1925 (Fig. 3 – Special thanks to Rachel Lev at the American Colony Archives, for kindly supplying this image).

Fig. 3: Mothers, nurses and children, Anna Spafford Baby Home (today the Spafford Children’s Centre), 1925 – 1934; part of Members and Activities of the American Colony and Aid Projects, 1926 – 1937 (courtesy of American Colony Archive, Jerusalem).

Bertha’s parents, Horatio and Anna Spafford were pious Christians who moved to the Holy Land in 1881 following the loss of four of their children at sea and another to scarlet fever. On arrival in the Holy Land, Horatio and Anna Spafford founded the American Colony and embarked on a project of philanthropic work to benefit all sections of Jerusalem’s population. In 1925, inspired by the work of her parents, Bertha established the Spafford Baby Home (now the Spafford Children’s Centre). To this day, the centre aims to assist all children and families in need of support, regardless of race or religion.

In the early evening I left the Old City and headed northwards, back to the Kenyon Institute in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. On the way I came across St George’s Cathedral (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Façade of Saint George’s Cathedral (photo by C. Kelsted).

This cathedral was built in the late nineteenth century under the instruction of George Blyth, who had founded the Jerusalem and East Mission (now the Jerusalem and the Middle East Church Association) in 1888. This charming cathedral was the principal Anglican place of worship in the Palestine during the Mandate and thus a focal point for the British community between 1920 and 1948. Taking a moment to envision the British colonial wives, missionaries, teachers, nurses and others who would have congregated at this cathedral – several of whom taught at the adjoining school and college – was the perfect way to end my first day in Jerusalem.

Islamic Bayda Project 2017

By Micaela Sinibaldi

In October/November 2017 the Islamic Bayda Project has carried on its fourth season of archaeological excavations at Khirbet Bayda in Petra. The project, which I direct since its outset and is affiliated with the Council for British Research in the Levant, in season 2017 had a duration of 4 weeks.  The Islamic Bayda Project, part of a larger project, which I also lead, The Late Petra Project, is a project of excavations, surveys, conservation, training and community engagement.

In season 2017, we returned to the two mosques at the site, which are also the only two mosques ever excavated in Petra, therefore important witnesses of the Islamic-period settlement in Petra. After removing the backfill, we completed the study of Mosque 2 by studying in details its phasing and building style with the methodology of Archaeology of Standing Buildings (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Recording building styles and building phases in Mosque 2 (photo by Steven Meyer).

The building and its use included six different phases and it reused a former Nabataean columnaded structure; we also reconstructed that about 40 worshippers could be accommodated in it. The project is now fundraising for the complete conservation, protection and presentation to the public of the two mosques; solutions have been discussed with the local authorities for a potential development and an opening of the area to the public.

To make it possible for the public to see the Mosque details before its conservation, this season we took photos to create a 3D model reconstruction of this important structure, which will be made available to the public.

As for Mosque 1, this season more excavation along the southern wall has revealed more exciting discoveries: the mihrab was built directly on top of a former, most likely Nabataean, structure, which included a plastered water tank, consistent with the important, former Nabataean phase at the village. Moreover, remains of red-painted plaster were revealed not only on the side walls of the mihrab, but also on its floor and along the western wall of the mosque, an important find so far without known parallels locally, which shows that the whole mosque was probably largely decorated in this way (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: Exposing remains of red-painted plaster in the mihrab of Mosque 1 (photo by Micaela Sinibaldi).

The project includes a study of the local, modern culture, acknowledging its importance for understanding the material culture analyzed by the excavation, which has a very long tradition locally. In 2016 the team focused on analyzing the local traditional architecture; in 2017 we have visited a tabun, a bread oven which we regularly find in the excavation of the site, to observe its preparation and functioning. A local family has agreed to let us assist to the process of use of the oven over two days (Fig. 3). The bread we had as soon as it was baked in the oven was, needless to say, absolutely delicious.

Fig. 3: Our visit at a tabun in Bayda (photo by Micaela Sinibaldi).

The Schools Day is an outreach initiative I organize every year in cooperation with the Petra Archaeological Park, but this time the day has been particularly engaging: I invited the children to try simplified versions of the archaeologists’ activities of excavation, survey, study of the architectural material and recording of the data. The day was so successful that a class from the girls’ primary school from Umm Sayun, hearing about the initiative, organized a surprise visit (Fig. 4)!

Fig. 4: The girls’ school of Umm Sayun visiting the site (photo by Shayma Taweel).

Visits at the site have been particularly numerous this season, especially because Mosque 1 was completely visible for the first time. We received visits by the staff of the Petra Archaeological Park and the Department of Antiquities, staff and scholars of the American Center of Oriental Research and the Hussein Bin Talal University and  we have also been much honoured by a surprise visit by Prof. Hugh Kennedy from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (Fig. 5).

Fig. 5: The Islamic Bayda Project team, 2017 inside Mosque 2, during a visit of the staff of the Petra Archaeological Park (photo by Mohammed Eid Ammarin).

In addition to my core local team from Bayda, my team was very international this season: there were archaeology trainees from Jordan, the U.K., France and Australia. As always, being part of the Islamic Bayda Project included lots of barbecues under the stars and, of course, weekend visits to Petra, including a day trip to the Jabal Harun.

This year the project has launched a Facebook page.  Moreover, a video on the project’s activities and results is currently in preparation.  Finally, on 4 December, 2017, The Jordan Times published an article on the Islamic Bayda Project.

Shifting Sands: A Reflection

By Philip Davies (PEF Chairman)

On that day I decided to visit an exhibition at the National Civil War Centre in Newark (UK): Shifting Sands: Lawrence of Arabia and the Great Arab Revolt, I awoke to news of another Islamist attack in London. It was hard not to keep pondering the possible connections between these two.

The main reason for my visit to Newark was the association between Lawrence and the PEF, which had lent some items for the exhibition, including a copy of the original edition of The Wilderness of Zin, from the title page of which Lawrence wished his name as co-author to be withheld, (his written instruction is documented in another exhibit).

It’s an exhibition I would strongly recommend to anyone, especially those not too familiar with the central place of the Arab and Muslim world in the Great War itself, about which so much has been said and written recently. As Peter Frankopan interprets it in his wonderful history of the world as seen from central Asia, The Silk Roads, this conflict, though triggered in Serbia, had roots in the struggle of the ‘Great Powers’ over Asia, with the encroachment of Russia on the borders of India and the ambitions of Germany to penetrate beyond the Middle East, not to mention protection of the Suez Canal. The covetousness of these Western powers (Russia, Britain, France, Germany) for the lands of the weakening Ottoman empire and the need to secure sources of oil to fuel their economies during the war and after, led to the configuration of the political geography of the Middle East that is now witnessing terrible upheavals (aided by further Western intervention). As the exhibition also reminds us, the mission of the PEF—including Lawrence himself—was used by the British War Office as an disguise for military intelligence-gathering in the years before the outbreak of the Great War.

The exhibition makes clear, too, the British government’s duplicitous—if, in the circumstances, minimally defensible—exploitation of both Jews and the Arabs for the purpose of gaining their benevolence and cooperation in the war. Promises were made on the one hand to support Jewish settlement in Palestine, while on the other the Emir Hussein was to be installed as ruler of an independent Arab kingdom in Syria, Palestine and Iraq. The first promise was kept; the other, on the basis of which Lawrence was able to secure the ‘Arab revolt’, was betrayed, and, as the exhibition explains, its breach left him deeply ashamed of both his government and of his own role in the deception.

Whether or not the contemporary British visitor also feels a sense of shame at such behaviour, the experience prompts an awareness that the jihad of which Lawrence was so proudly a part, and the Arab kingdom of which its participants dreamed, have both awoken again in grisly forms. Such terrorist attacks, and the creation of an ‘Islamic State’, are grisly perversions of what Lawrence and Hussein dreamed of. Arguably, the State of Israel is not what Balfour would have wished, either: it exists in the midst of hostility and enmity rather than in the peace and security for Jews that it was surely supposed to offer. The exhibition reproduces Balfour’s famous ‘letter’ in which he alludes to the ‘civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine’, but also remarks that Zionism was of ‘far profounder import than the prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land’.

Current reflections on the Great War often remark that the reallocation of power within Europe after the fall of the Habsburg, Ottoman and Russian empires (and the dissolution of the British) is still not quite accomplished. This is even truer of the Middle East, where long-established tribal identities were sliced through by lines on the ground, separating territories carved out among European victors. The exhibition shows Lawrence’s own proposed map of a post-war Middle East, which, unlike what became the reality, attempted to take account of the identities that mattered to its inhabitants.

That Western intervention in the Middle East will end as the Crusades did is unlikely. But between the nationalist jihad once vital to Britain’s seizure of Ottoman spoils and the fundamentalist jihad now waged against the it and other Western nations (along with countless Muslims, it must be added) runs the same stream. I left this impressive exhibition realizing how great is the need for an impartial, scholarly but sympathetic dedication to the history and culture of a land which has for centuries been the focus of the West’s Christendom, yet which our governments, past and present, have treated with such disdain.

My Fieldwork with Israeli Bedouins

By Monika Wanis

During the summer of 2017 I conducted a cross-sectional, mixed methods research project consisting of interviews, participant observation and case studies with urban and rural-dwelling Bedouin women in the Negev region in Israel. The goal of the research project was to determine how the enactment of the 1995 universal health insurance law has shaped Bedouin people’s patterns of utilization, awareness and preferences associated with biomedical and traditional health.

On July 8th 2017, I landed at the Ben-Gurion International Airport in Tel-Aviv Israel. I rented a car and headed immediately for the Negev Desert, which was about 160 kilometers away. On the drive I immediately noticed climate and environmental changes as I approached the desert region. Almost every single day I was in the Negev, the temperature rose well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It was hot, arid, and at times, unbearable, especially in homes that did not have air conditioning.

The Negev desert is beautiful. There were hundreds of miles of tan sand dunes everywhere around me. In the evenings it was still about 90 degrees Fahrenheit outdoors but it felt much cooler without the sun beating down. Throughout my time in Israel I learned fascinating information from the different types of healers, as well as the Bedouin women I interviewed. These included using a specific individual’s saliva to diffuse the effects of a poisonous spider bite, healing only on certain days of the month, and putting camel hair on aching body parts. I was surprised to learn about the variability of healing methods employed by the Bedouin healers.

Some of the self-built Bedouin homes that are located in the Negev desert. Specifically, this image comes from Kesefi, Israel, an unrecognized Bedouin town. (Photo: M. Wanis)

I quickly learned that some of the knowledge I had acquired through reading literature about Bedouins and their healing processes were no longer accurate or was unexpectedly different than what the literature implied. For example, based on my reading I assumed that after 1995, when the Israeli National Health Insurance Law was implemented, healthcare was free of cost to all. Contrary to my understanding, health insurance is actually collectively paid for by withdrawing certain amounts of money based on income from each individual’s paycheck or retirement fund.

These misunderstandings were incorporated into my research plans and my interview schedule was slightly modified to match what I was actually experiencing during my fieldwork. During the interviews, I also noticed some points of confusion. Dialectical differences between Egyptian Arabic and Israeli Arabic made for some humorous moments. For example, I interviewed one woman and commented on how “smart” I believed she was. Her body language and behavior shifted drastically after that comment. I later discovered that I had called her “fat” in the Israeli Arabic dialect!

Picking figs at my main informant Rawan’s neighbour’s house in Rahat, Israel. (Photo: M. Wanis).

Despite these misunderstandings, I was wholly welcomed by everyone in both the rural and urban Bedouin communities. Rawan, my main female Bedouin informant, was crucial to the success of the data collection portion of my project. Every day I spent in the Negev was spent with her taking me around to interview local Bedouin women.  One of the most interesting health care decision making trends that I found was that there weren’t as many distinct differences between rural and urban Bedouin women with respect to the utilization of biomedical healthcare and traditional medicine. Currently, I am working on transcribing my interviews and thoroughly analyzing the data I have acquired in order to accurately depict the rich diversity and complexity I found in the Negev.

War in the Holy Lands

Guest post by Briar Barry

We’d hear a heavy smack and know a horse had been hit. Mostly they were hit through the stomach and would just shake themselves a little. The owner would take the saddle off immediately, for it was always a mortal wound. The horse would nose around among his mates, shake himself, and five minutes later roll on the sand. It was the beginning of the end.”

Captain Arthur Rhodes, New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade, World War 1

War in the Holy Lands, a new temporary exhibition about New Zealanders’ First World War experiences in the Middle East, is now playing as part of The Great War Exhibition in Wellington, New Zealand. The show is fourth in a series of six created by Story Inc and Dusk, and funded by the Lottery Grants Board, with the intention of telling some of the lesser-known New Zealand stories of the First World War. The exhibit uses six big projection screens and an immersive audio environment to create a powerful visitor experience out of still imagery and first-hand verbatim accounts of soldiers’ experiences.

A talented photographer, Arthur Rhodes captured his experiences during the Beersheba Campaign in Sinai and Palestine on film. The Palestine Exploration Fund of London kindly provided some of the photographs which feature in the show.

Guns drawn up for inspection, a photograph by Captain Arthur Rhodes which features in War in the Holy Lands. PEF/P/RHODES/29, Palestine Exploration Fund, London.

The story of New Zealand’s war in the Middle East is often overlooked. It doesn’t fit with the traditional image of World War 1 – the mud and trenches of the Western Front. Some soldiers at the time shared this view, feeling that they were missing out on the ‘real war.’ A few people back home agreed, seeing them as ‘tourists in uniform’ having an easy time of it in the sun-drenched Middle East. But while the casualty rate was certainly lower than on the Western Front, the Sinai and Palestine campaigns were hardly a holiday. The men faced fierce battles, hordes of flies, extreme temperatures, and rampant malaria. In total 17,723 New Zealanders served in the Middle East. Of them, 640 were killed in action and 1,146 wounded.

The ‘Mounteds’ gained a formidable reputation as fighters and became known by Ottoman troops as “devils on horses”. They would often ride through the night, taking the enemy by surprise at dawn. But it was not all glory. At the end of the war, one of the most shameful events in New Zealand’s military history occurred: a massacre of civilians, in which some New Zealand soldiers played a prominent part, in the Palestinian village of Surafend. Of course there are no photographs or images connected with the event. Instead, a ghostly series of animated “shadowplay” silhouettes hinting at the violence are projected into an otherwise completely black room.

Behind the scenes of the Story Inc and Dusk “shadowplay” shoot. Photo by Story Inc.

Other moments that pack an emotional punch in War in the Holy Lands come from the stories about the bonds between the men and their horses. The open spaces in the Middle East made this a mobile war. The connection between animal and rider was strong, and only made stronger on the battlefield where horses even acted as shields by lying down on the sand so the men could fire over the top of them. However, New Zealand’s strict quarantine policy and a shortage of transport meant that the horses who survived the war could not come home. In the Middle East they were either declared unfit and shot, sold locally, or kept by the occupying British Army. Many troopers, worried about how their horse would be treated if it was sold, made the heart-wrenching decision to shoot their own animal after having them declared unfit. Trooper Ted Andrews described the task,

It was the saddest day of the war…. Each man had to hold two horses, and it was the most sickening job I had… It seemed awfully sad that these poor old faithful creatures, after suffering from thirst, hunger and fatigue and carrying heavy loads for hundreds of miles, should have to end their days being shot down by the very people they had so faithfully served…”

A New Zealand soldier shoots a wounded horse. National Army Museum of New Zealand.

War in the Holy Lands is running from 13 December 2017 until 20 February 2018. Thank you once again to the Palestine Exploration Fund for access to, and permission to use images from their collection.

Visitors watch War in the Holy Lands. Photo by Story Inc.

In the Footsteps of Bliss and Dickie

By Yehiel Zelinger

The earliest excavations on the slopes of Jerusalem’s Mount Zion took place between the years 1894 and 1897 by Frederick J. Bliss and Archibald C. Dickie under the auspices of the London-based Palestine Exploration Fund. Due to issues in acquiring permits from the Ottoman authorities, the two excavated clandestinely by means of deep, narrow shafts interconnected via tunnels dug along the outer face of the defensive walls that enclosed the Mount from the south. The detailed and comprehensive account of their excavations is a milestone in the history of archaeological research in Jerusalem (Bliss and Dickie 1898).

Exposed walls on Mount Zion. Photo: Y. Zelinger.

On behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, since 2007 I have re-excavated a large portion of the city walls first exposed in Bliss and Dickie’s tunnels (Fig. 1). Thanks to a generous grant from the PEF, I was granted access to its rich archives and thus able to examine the two excavators’ original letters, maps and reports, and thus bring to light important details that had not been included in their original report. My first impression upon entering the archives was one of great anticipation at the wealth of information awaiting me. Even as a field archaeologist with some 25 years’ experience in excavating Jerusalem and its environs, I felt almost like a child set loose in a toy shop.

I found Bliss’ archives to contain dozens, if not hundreds, of letters, plans and pencil drawings, all pertaining to his work in Jerusalem in general and to the southern line of the city’s fortifications in particular. I was also curious as to whether he and Dickie noted certain walls or floors that did not come to light over the course of our own excavations. Although I often had difficulty deciphering his handwriting, it appears as though every week he would dispatch to the P.E.F. board a detailed report of his new findings — perhaps also as a means to recount for himself that week’s events.

Bliss’s markings on a map of Mount Zion. Photo: Y. Zelinger.

In these, the very early days of the ‘modern’ study of Jerusalem, I got a sense of just how much their activities had been carried out upon a near blank slate. Just one example has Bliss marking Mount Zion on a map as the City of David (Fig. 2). This evidently followed his discovery of the wall that enclosed Mount Zion from the south (which he originally vaguely ascribed to the First Temple period [8-7 Century BCE] but later correctly amended to the Second Temple period [1 Century BCE – 1 Century CE]); and, indeed, at this time it was not entirely clear whether the City of David was to be located on the southern slope of the Temple Mount or on Mount Zion.

Our own excavations on the southern slope of Mount Zion exposed a segment of an earlier line of fortifications, which we dated to the First Temple period (8-7 Century BCE). This came in addition to segments of the aforementioned Second Temple-period wall, as well as to those of the Byzantine Empress Eudocia’s 5th Century BCE fortifications. Bliss and Dickie did not come across segments of the early wall, even though they documented large quantities of Iron Age pottery and figurines. Likewise, Bliss made no mention of the early wall in his personal correspondence, no doubt due to the fact that it lay two meters south of Eudocia’s wall, and thus beyond the bounds of their narrow excavation tunnel – which measured on average only 70 cm in width! Some 120 years later, utilizing modern excavation methods, we were able to expose the broader picture.

With a great deal of work still ahead of me, my two weeks at the PEF archives were nevertheless immensely rewarding. There is no doubt that the multitude of documents belonging to these two pioneering scholars comprise a rare time capsule from which we can glean invaluable information on the ancient fortifications of this golden city.

Further Reading:

Bliss F. J. and Dickie A. C. 1898. Excavations at Jerusalem 1894-1897. London.

Umm at-Tawabin, Ghor as-Safi, Jordan, 2017

By Alexandra Ariotti

In February this year, I excavated the large fortified site, Umm at-Tawabin, positioned on a hill above the town of Ghor as-Safi and Wadi al-‘Arabah in Jordan, along with three Greek volunteers and some local Safi workers. With its vast size (880 x 450 m), strategic location, at least four interior buildings and over one hundred stone circles all fortified by a 2.5 km perimeter wall, this site has never been fully investigated since it was first discovered in the late 19th century until recently.

In 2015, I carried out a survey and study of some surface pottery which provided the evidence for a 1st century BC to 6th century AD occupation in one area especially, the site’s main fort on the citadel. However, to firmly establish the chronology of all of the site’s architectural features distributed over a wide area, the next logical step was to dig some strategically-placed sondages to retrieve pottery and other material and to compare types of building and construction where possible. Five trenches were excavated with Trench I in the middle of Fort A on the citadel and four trenches (II-V) below the fort on the site’s west side.

Work begins up on Umm at-Tawabin’s citadel where we’re hoping to expose the architecture of Fort A, a large defense post overlooking Wadi al-‘Arabah and the southern Dead Sea. Photo by Nikos Angelakis.

Some of our team made up of Safi locals, three Greeks and one Australian digging the fort, with spectacular views all around us. Photo by Nikos Angelakis

Our excavation of Fort A revealed some of the structure’s original architecture including a water reservoir and has produced a considerable quantity of pottery, coins and other finds like a stone slingshot and part of a Nabataean incense burner.

Fort foundations including a water reservoir are at last revealed. Photo by Nikos Angelakis.

This material has so far shown that Fort A was built and occupied from the first century BC onwards, serving as a lookout post designed for defensive and monitoring purposes.

At the same time, our team excavated two of the stone circles (from which the site gets its name “mother of bread ovens” in Arabic) that have been the subject of some longstanding debate concerning their origin and function.

Omar excavating one of the site’s one hundred circular stone installations situated along the west side of Umm at-Tawabin. Photo by Nikos Angelakis.

Stone Circle A (Trench II) did not yield much in the way of interior features beyond a thin layer of ash and a few residual pottery sherds. However, Stone Circle B (Trench III) was found to have been built directly on top of two walls belonging to an altogether different structure/s that dates to a much earlier (Early Bronze Age or Middle Bronze Age) period.

Antonis sieving for pottery and other finds from within one of the stone circles that will help to date these unusual features. Photo by Nikos Angelakis.

Some stratified pottery was found within the circle that I’m eagerly waiting to study. Trench IV was excavated as a probe along a line of very large boulder stones on the southwest side of the site that, together with another parallel line of boulders, forms its enclosure wall.

Two of our Greek volunteers excavating a probe along Umm at-Tawabin’s enclosure wall on the west side of the site. Photo by Nikos Angelakis.

We can now determine how this massive fortification was constructed, as well as the depth of its foundations, made all the more clear by the excavation of Trench V further to the south. This probe was dug across the two wall lines of boulder stones which showed us that Umm at-Tawabin is enclosed, on its west side at least, by a very wide type of case-mate wall. Once a study of the all of the finds recovered by excavation (as well as some surface sherds recently collected) has been completed, I hope to better understand the occupational history of Umm at-Tawabin which may now be much broader than previously thought, for example, with origins that date to the Bronze Age.

2017 Grant Abstracts

Umm at Tawabin: A Nabataean/Roman Military Camp, Ghor as-Safi

Alexandra Ariotti

Umm at-Tawabin is an extensive fortified Nabataean/Roman site overlooking Wadi al-‘Arabah in south Jordan. The site consists of four buildings, over one hundred circular stone structures and other related features that are fortified by a 2.5 km long wall. In 2015-2016 with a PEF grant, I sought to address the question of the site’s chronology through survey and a study of its surface pottery, the results of which are to be published in a forthcoming research article in the PEQ (2017). As my initial investigation concluded, selective excavation of these numerous architectural components was necessary to order to obtain a complete stratigraphic sequence of the site. In February 2017, excavations co-sponsored by the PEF have so far produced securely-dateable cultural material thus confirming that its main fortification, Fort A, was a Nabataean/Roman defence post designed for defence and monitoring. Pending analysis of the pottery recovered from two of the stone circles and the main perimeter wall will further augment our understanding of the site’s occupational history. I now propose to carry out a second 30 day excavation in February, 2018 to retrieve material from three of its remaining forts (Forts B-D) and along the east perimeter wall, and to summarise my findings from this preliminary 2017 season.

A study of Fatimid metal objects in the Keir Collection at the Dallas Museum of Art

Gregory Bilotto

My PhD research concerns metalwork produced under the Fāţimids (909-1172 CE). A component of my research involves the study of Fāţimid metal objects recovered from archaeological excavations and definitely identified as Fāţimid through scientific evidence. A previous travel grant was awarded in 2016 by the Palestine Exploration Fund to examine metal objects datable to the Fāţimids and excavated from two ruined cities in mediaeval Bilad al-Sham. Building upon the research completed in 2016, which includes metalwork designs, imagery and production techniques, a continuation study of Fāţimid metalwork without an archaeological provenance will be undertaken in the Keir Collection at the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas. The purpose is to apply the data collected from identified Fāţimid metal objects with those of an unknown origin. The result would be a more accurate identification for all the known Fāţimid metalwork without an archaeological provenance.

Religion, Modernity & the Material Reception of the Holy Land

Crispin Paine

The project’s aim is to examine the reception of the ‘Holy Land’ in modern America, in parks and public venues themed on the Bible – themed notably on Jerusalem, the Israelite Temple, life in ancient Palestine and Noah’s Ark. This project is part of a wider study of religion in theme-parks worldwide, which builds on my work on religion and museums. Religion impacts on modernity in a variety of ways, many of them material. As a burgeoning middle class seeks out modernity and fun as well as education and divine help, theme-parks are taking over much of the role of museums and much of the role of temples.

Diban: Food Production and Consumption in times of Rapid Change

Bruce Routledge

Changes in food production and consumption are sensitive indicators of social and economic change.  At Tell Dhiban, Jordan we have the opportunity to explore changes in diet during two moments of significant historical change and to compare that trajectory of change in a common environment under distinct historical circumstances.  In Field W we have identified domestic waste deposits from teh early eighth century BCE, correlating with a period of massive settlement growth as Dhiban became the capital of the Iron Age kingdom of Moab.  In Field 5 we have isolated a sequence bridging the earliest moments of the transition from Late Byzantine to Early Islamic rule.  In both cases, preliminary evidence suggests changes in both how food is produced and what food is consumed over brief periods of time. In 2017 we will collect further botanical and faunal remains in order to clarify, interpret and compare these patterns of change.

The Islamic Bayda Project

Micaela Sinibaldi

The Islamic Bayda Project focuses on archaeological investigations of an Islamic-period village in the area of Bayda, Petra region. The site, which includes village habitations organised in several clusters, a church, and two mosques, has been in use from at least the Nabataean to the Ottoman periods. This continuity of occupation originates from the fortunate geological and climatic conditions which have always made this area one of the most favoured of the Petra region for agricultural activities.  Some of the principal aims of the Islamic Bayda Project are to investigate the range and development through time of the forms and dynamics of settlement in the Petra region during the whole Islamic period and to explore the important relationship between the Petra valley, where settlement continued without major gaps, and its hinterland.  After three campaigns of excavation, it is proposed that the conservation of one of the two mosques is now started.

Differences in Traditional Health Seeking Practices between Rural and Urban Negev Bedouin Populations

Monika Wanis

Despite the establishment of Israel’s National Health Insurance Law which provided universal biomedical healthcare to all citizens, there remains a large number of rural Bedouins living in Israel’s Negev region with inadequate access to healthcare. This research project will determine how the enactment of this law has shaped Bedouin people’s patterns of utilization, awareness and preferences associated with biomedical and traditional health. A cross-sectional, mixed methods design consisting of interviews, participant observation and case studies will be conducted in the Negev region in Israel for six weeks beginning July 1, 2017. Research findings will educate policymakers on the ramifications of this law and encourage health policy modifications to enhance Bedouin health.

Islamic Bayda Project, Season 2016

By Micaela Sinibaldi

The third season of the Islamic Bayda Project took place from July to August 2016 and was again affiliated with the Council for British Research in the Levant. The Palestine Exploration Fund has generously co-funded the project since its first season; this support has been essential to reaching our important results.

This season, a larger team was in the field than in former years. In addition to a team of international and Jordanian volunteers, archaeology students from Cardiff University joined as part of their courses and trained in archaeological documentation and excavation. As usual, the project included local team members from the Ammarin tribe from Bayda, whose experience in excavating in Bayda from the former seasons was crucial to the team.

Fig. 1: The location of Islamic Bayda in relation to Petra, from the 1st edition of Jane Taylor’s Petra (London 1993).

This season was very exciting, as receiving funding for six weeks allowed the team to complete the excavation of Mosque 2, dated to the Late Islamic period, which we had started excavating in 2015. While in 2015 we had uncovered the mihrab (niche pointing to Mecca) of the mosque and its southern part, this season we uncovered the mosque entrance and its northern part. The good state of preservation allowed a detailed reconstruction of the architecture of the mosque. Particularly interesting was discovering that one of the arches supporting the roof had collapsed in such a way to allow reconstructing its height and curve, and therefore the height of the mosque. The evidence from this campaign confirmed the hypothesis that the mosque had been destroyed by an earthquake.

The team also carried on a survey of modern villages in the region and visited houses of the modern Ammarin village in Bayda and Dana and observed that there the construction techniques have many elements in common with the buildings excavated at Islamic Bayda. In addition to sampling organic material from selected stratigraphic units, we also took samples for micromorphological analysis of the stratigraphy. We also investigated parts of Mosque 1 and its relationship to the earlier phases, which had been detected in the 2015 season.

Fig. 2: The team practicing excavation and documentation in Mosque 1 (photo by Micaela Sinibaldi).

Fig. 3: Study of local building techniques at the nearby Ammarin village (photo by Sarah Elliott).

The project had numerous visits this season, as the news have been spreading about our important discovery: the first mosque ever excavated in Petra, and, moreover, in very good conditions of preservation. We had visitors from the Petra Park, the Department of Antiquities, the Hussein Bin Talal University in Petra, children from a workshop organized by the Petra National Trust, and a one-day visit by a team from the Council for British Research in the Levant, including Carol Palmer, the Director of the British Institute in Amman, and a group of staff and research fellows, who have helped with their expertise in advising on sampling for laboratory analysis. After the end of the season, a presentation on the Islamic Bayda Project was also part of a special day organized by the Council for British Research in the Levant on the cultural heritage in Bayda and the potential of involving its community in its promotion.

On our weekly day off, Friday, the team was as always free to relax and enjoy several well-deserved trips to Petra and other sites, like Aqaba, and camping weekends in the beautiful Petra region. Congratulations to the team for this excellent season which has allowed accomplishing all the original goals!

Fig. 4: Weekend trip to Dana Natural Reserve (photo by Micaela Sinibaldi).

Fig. 5: Presentation of the results from Mosque 2 to the local community (photo by Qais Tweissi).