Extreme Archaeology of the Black Desert, Jordan 

Yorke Rowan, on behalf of the Eastern Badia Archaeological Project (EBAP) team 

 

Our adventures in extreme archaeology in the Black Desert of Jordan bring known expectations. We know that the long first day includes loading a Toyota Hilux and larger cargo truck; various stop offs to pick up water tanks, ice, and fuel; driving two hours off road through the rough basalt; arriving to unpack, build camp, inhale dust and flies; ending with the inevitable search for the first night’s mealThe sore limbs, chapped lips, more flies, snakes and melted ice are also all known. What was unknown during the 2018 expedition was the two days of torrential rains, wind and lightening. The soggy beginning brought on by this unusual weather episode encouraged us to appreciate the warm days that followed, and the pleasant discoveries of a region that can look so starkly unwelcoming. Logistics are a challenge in an area without cell phone reception and far from food and water, even for our small team of ten people.  

 

Figure 1. The team surveys their soggy surroundings after the final rain at Wisad Pools (Photo: Y. M. Rowan) 

 

 

Returning to Wisad Pools for the first time since 2014, a primary goal of the Eastern Badia Archaeological Project was to complete the excavation of building W-80, a large structure with multiple building phases and occupations. These episodes indicate people lived in the building sporadically over at least 700 years during the Late Neolithic (C14 indicates intermittent occupation from the mid7th to mid6th millennia cal. B.C.)Situated on the southeastern edge of the harra (basaltic landscape), Wisad Pools consists of a short drainage (c. 1.5 km long) that flows from a plateau to a qa’ (mudflat) about ten meters lower in elevationNatural and blocked sections of this drainage created nine pools, surrounded by hundreds of collapsed basalt structureswhich until now had no known age or function. The pools of water attracted people and animals for millennia. Using basalt boulders and slabs as their medium, people pecked rock art representing animals and hunting traps, and the occasional human. Yet most of the animals depicted are not found in our excavations. 

Figure 2. Petroglyph depicting ibex and two hunters (Photo: A. C. Hill) 

 

Continuing the excavation of the large structure W-80, we were surprised to find deeper, continuing depositsAlthough very good news, this required establishing the connections between depositional phases and structural remodeling that occurred later in the building’s life. For example, the narrow entrance of the main northeast door was created by inserting a wall section into the earlier, much wider entrance. By removing this blocking wall to expose an earlier, roughly paved entrance, a working platform rich in artifacts was discovered. We found a large pierced mother of pearl plaque tucked away at the base of the later entrance. 

Figure 3. Mother of pearl plaque found at the threshold (Photo: G. O. Rollefson) 

 

Below this level at the same threshold, a large worked block of red ochre was unearthed, pressed vertically into the ground. At a slightly higher level, we have reported on a cache of caprine/gazelle astragalae (Rowan et al. 2015a: Fig. 11a).  

Conducted in 1 x 1 m squares and 5 cm spits, the excavations of these earlier interior layers had smaller hearths, ashy deposits, and small grinding slabs with handstones. In the later occupations, surfaces included massive grinding slabs and deep fire pits, suggesting significant changes not only in the structure but also its use. Around the central standing stone we discovered a concentration of mandibles and crania from gazelle, suggesting a foundation deposit.

Figure 4. Cache of gazelle mandibles and crania fragments at the base of the central pillar in W-80 (Photo: B. Heidkamp).   

 

 In the same shallow pit a polished sphere strengthens the idea this was a ritual deposit. Another cache of caprine/gazelle astragalae found at the base of this pillar leave little doubt that these were intentional ritualized deposits.  

After four seasons of excavation at Wisad Pools, our perceptions of the area are becoming radically transformed. We cannot attribute all of the many structures to the Late Neolithic period, but evidence points to a substantial building and reuse of the area during this time. The impressive structures and rich deposits hint at the repeated use by hunter-herders who returned and lived near the pools, possibly for substantial parts of the year. Although we might see this arid landscape as bleak and barely habitable for short periods, those soggy first days remind us that the ancient inhabitants developed strategies to thrive and build hamlets in the Black Desert despite the many unknowns. 

  

Back to London 

 

OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury [Birzeit University – Palestine] 

 

At the risk of using a cliché, I find it a bit hard to believe that a year has already passed since the start of the first phase of the project Documentation of the British Museum’s Palestine Textiles Collection. I remember the frantic last minute proposal writing and organising efforts communicated through pastmidnight e-mails fired back and forth across the world. Not much has changed; especially not the frenzy or past-midnight e-mails! Indeed, the excitement is reassuringly undiminished and chaos as always, reigns supreme. Now as I prepare for my return to London to resume the second, and possibly final, phase of the project, I reflect on last year’s experience. 

 

In 2018, I spent more than four months at the British Museum and updated more than 400 museum records. The bulk of my time was spent at the Textile Centre at Blythe House (BH) in West London working under the supervision of Helen Wolfe and Imogen Laing (Collections Managers at the BM Textile Centre). On a typical day I would arrive at 10 and work until 16:30/17:00, although my times were flexible. For each object record that I updated I had to physically examine its corresponding textile (usually a garment) to ensure that all information entered was accurate and correct to my best possible knowledge. In many cases, exact information could not be discerned, especially in terms of dating or the content of synthetic material, and therefore generalisations had to be made (time periods, like early 20th century, or 1930’s were entered instead of exact dates) in order to avoid misinformation. A lot of the time I found that I had to ask Helen or Imogen for a second opinion, or refer to external references, like Shelagh Weir’s Palestinian Costume (1989) to assist me in identifying some aspects of the textile and/or updating the record. In some instances, I had to surrender to my ignorance and proceed with the best possible generalisation. The alternative was a series of research rabbit holes that had me wondering far off into the realms of the obscure and usually irrelevant. At the beginning, one of the most confusing (and maddening) instances was to differentiate between indigo-dyed linen and cotton. Indigo dye actually coats the textile fibres, thus masking and altering the original texture and weight of the fibre which makes it a great feat of tactility and observation to discern one from the other. With time more hints became apparent and the task grew easier. Nonetheless, I have since become very suspicious of indigo dyed textiles and will always have that unsettling question: linen or cotton? 

 

It is worth mentioning that in addition to my specialist academic knowledge in the field of historic rural Palestine textiles, I myself am a maker and designer whose approach to textiles and dress is from a hands-on technical point of view. I have often felt that to have the ability to understand the deeper story behind an ethnographic object one needs to also understand how it was made just as much as why. Compreheniding the chemistry of colours and dyes, composition of constituent materials, as well as the techniques of making provide us with more clues when it comes to identifying, understanding and analysing each object. I have since 2006 dedicated the bulk of my time toward studying and understanding historic rural dress from Palestine and have been ingaged in making dress and researching and writing about embroidery 

 

Resuming this project is vital in so far as it will offer a sense of completion and achievement that I feel necessary both personally and professionally. The questions and research avenues opened up during last year’s experience, were far too many to adequately tackle or give time to. The sheer joy of having the chance to return and have such unique access to one of the world’s finest collections of Palestine textiles cannot be overstated. Especially when it is complemented with a world-class team who are all too generous with their time, support and wisdom. 

 

This project is supported and hosted by the Department of the Middle East and the International Training Programme at the British Museum, in partnership with the Palestine Exploration Fund, the British Council and Birzeit University Museum. 

 

  

‘Supposedly a Bird’ Couching embroidered silk sleeve insert in the Bethlehem area style on a village woman’s dress from Lifta (Jerusalem area) – late 19th to early 20th century. The British Museum Collection: Photo by OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury 2018 

 

 

 

Tallis – Solid Wall of EmbroideryCross-stitch embroidery in red floss silk on the skirt of an indigo dyed linen Jillayeh (coat-dress) from Ramallah area – late 19th or early 20th century. The British Museum Collection: Photo by OmarJoseph Nasser-Khoury 2018 

 

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.

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.

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).

Medieval Metalwork in Bilād al-Shām

By Gregory Bilotto

Through the generous support of the Palestine Exploration Fund, I was able to visit two mediaeval Islamic archaeological sites and the metal artefacts recovered from their subsequent excavations for my research in metalwork in Bilād al-Shām (the Levant). These two sites, Ḳayṣāriyya (Caesarea) and Ṭabariyya (Tiberias), have provided the largest quantities of metalwork datable to the Fāţimid period (909-1172 CE).

My interest in mediaeval Islamic metalwork stemmed from working in numerous archaeological excavations completing my MA degree in Islamic architecture while living in Cairo, Egypt. My graduate studies focused the architecture of the Fāţimids – a dynasty that reached ultimate feats in structure and design.

Fāţimid decorative arts, principally the often-overlooked study of metalwork, also helped express these accomplishments. It was Fāţimid artisans’ metalwork production in mediaeval Bilād al-Shām, Ifrīḳiya (North Africa) and Miṣr (Egypt) that inspired me to continue my research in the doctoral programme at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

Fig. 1. Copper-alloy vessels, 11th century CE cache Ṭabariyya, Israel Museum.
Photo G Bilotto, April 2016, courtesy Dr Na’ama Brosh.

Travelling from London to Jerusalem, my research brought me to the archaeological sites, but also to several museums in the Holy City. The Israel Museum, which contained a large quantity of the excavated metal objects (Fig. 1), had among its collection a copper-alloy and enamel vessel with human figural decoration. This type of decoration and enamel technique is exceptionally rare as there are no related examples from the Fāţimid period.

Fig. 2. Fāţimid copper-alloy vessel with human figural decoration in enamel, Israel Museum. Photo G Bilotto, April 2016, courtesy Dr Na’ama Brosh.

After holding this precious metal vessel in my hands, carefully examining the facial expressions and epigraphy, there is no doubt that it represents the epitome of Fāţimid art, which is truly incredible (Fig. 2). I also had the opportunity to visit the museum store administered by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) in Bet Shemesh, outside Jerusalem (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. A view of the IAA store, Bet Shemesh. Photo G Bilotto, April 2016, courtesy Dr Ayala Lester.

The store holds the remainder of the excavated metalwork, mostly consisting of tools and scrap. These objects were extremely helpful in determining centres of metalwork production and technique (Fig. 4). My research continued in Jerusalem with examination of several mediaeval Islamic metal vessels at the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum and a unique Fāţimid metal object at the Leo Aryeh Mayer Museum of Islamic Art.

Fig. 4. Copper-alloy scrap, 11th century CE Ṭabariyya, IAA store. Photo G Bilotto, April 2016, courtesy Dr Ayala Lester.

Arriving at the ruined mediaeval city of Ḳayṣāriyya for the first time, I was amazed and awed. The majestic coastal city has an exotic and almost tropical quality (Fig. 5). The living history was tangible, with years of habitation from the Romans to the Ottoman Empire, one can imagine ships and armies of conquest arriving throughout time.

Fig. 5. A northern view, Ḳayṣāriyya, with its antique and mediaeval ruins. Photo G Bilotto, April 2016.

The metal cache I was interested in was secreted away during the 11th century CE – a time when one of these conquering armies was invading; another such event occurred at Ṭabariyya.  I noted many unpublished details about the geography during my visit, and examining the findspot for the cache of metalwork was not only exciting but extremely helpful in placing the material in context (Fig. 6).

Fig. 6. Findspot of the Fāţimid metal cache, Ḳayṣāriyya. Photo G Bilotto, April 2016.

Further Reading

Arnon, Y., et al. 1999. ‘The Fatimid Hoard from Caesarea: A Preliminary Report’, in M. Barrucand (ed), L’ Égypte Fatimide: son art et son histoire, Paris: Presse l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 233-48.

Hirschfeld, Y., et al. 2008. Tiberias Excavations in the House of the Bronzes, Final Report

Volume I: Architecture, Stratigraphy and Small Finds, (Qedem 48), Jerusalem: Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Khamis, E., 2013. The Fatimid Metalwork Hoard from Tiberias: Excavations in the House of the Bronzes, Final Report Volume II, (Qedem 55), Jerusalem: Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Rosen-Ayalon, M., 2013. ‘A Unique Metal Object from Tiberias’, Atiqot 76, 173-81.

Stacey, D., et al. 2004. Excavations at Tiberias 1973-1974: The Early Islamic Periods, (IAA Reports 21), Jerusalem: Israel Antiquities Authority.

 

Miscellanea of Duncan Mackenzie

By Sarah Irving

This summer, a travel grant from the Palestine Exploration Fund allowed me to spend some time in London, rifling through the PEF’s archives for traces of Yusif ‘Abu Selim’ Khazin and Yusif Khattar Kanaan, two Lebanese Christian overseers who, between 1890 and World War One, worked on the Fund’s excavations.

My primary interest, and the focus of this piece of research, is the role of Arabs working on archaeological digs in Palestine in the Late Ottoman period. The standard view of the archaeology of this period tends to focus on a single (white, educated, male) leader who makes pioneering discoveries and to whom all credit for a dig accrues. As future publications emerging from this research will show, this image often does not hold up under scrutiny of the daily records and personal writings of excavators and their staff and visitors. I think that the two Yusifs – as well as many other non-Westerners who contributed to British, American, German and French archaeological digs in the Holy Land pre-WWI – were actually important figures, not only in the practical, day-to-day running of the excavations, but also at times in how finds were understood and interpreted.

One part of my approach to this issue has been to look at the networks of contact and knowledge exchange which happened, not only in formal, academic settings but also in informal environments. Much of my focus has been on the writings and activities of Frederick J. Bliss and R.A.S. Macalister, as the two longest-serving PEF excavation leaders at the time. In this blog, though, I want to show a couple of small, rather peripheral, but also quite fascinating and indicative objects which emerged from the archives.

The first is a pair of calling-cards found in a wallet belonging to Duncan Mackenzie. Mackenzie was a Scottish archaeologist, best-known for his work with Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos in Crete. After Macalister’s resignation from the PEF to take up his chair at University College Dublin in 1909. Although Mackenzie had a reputation as a brilliant field archaeologist, he was also a difficult character; in a 1996 article for Palestine Exploration Quarterly, Nicoletta Momigliano described his time at the Fund’s Ain Shams dig as one of “conflicting interests and expectations, of misunderstandings and self-delusions, of wounded pride and dysentery. It is not a ‘success’ story”.

Calling-cards bestowed on Mackenzie by Boulus Said of “The Palestine Educational Store, Jaffa Road” and Gustaf Dalman, styling him “Rector of the German Archaeological Institute, Consul to His Majesty the King of the Swedes, Goths and Wends, and to the King of Denmark”. (PEF-DA-MACK-313.01 – 03)

Calling-cards bestowed on Mackenzie by Boulus Said of “The Palestine Educational Store, Jaffa Road” and Gustaf Dalman, styling him “Rector of the German Archaeological Institute, Consul to His Majesty the King of the Swedes, Goths and Wends, and to the King of Denmark”. (PEF-DA-MACK-313.01 – 03)

The calling-cards reflect, however, a different aspect of Mackenzie’s time in Palestine, his interactions with the intellectual and social milieu of Late Ottoman Jerusalem. Jerusalem is often painted a somewhat of a backwater, especially in contrast with Cairo and Beirut, the thriving centres of the Arabic Nahda, or renaissance. But the city saw much coming-and-going of Western scholars, missionaries, diplomats and businessmen, as well as a more stable population of local Arabs and Jews engaged in thinking, writing, studying and publishing. Mackenzie met many people from each of these overlapping social worlds, as these cards demonstrate.

The first was given to him by Boulus Said. Boulus owned the Palestine Educational Bookshop (the precursor to the Educational Bookshop on Salah Eddin Street, beloved of many visitors to present-day Jerusalem).  In his study of Palestinian books and literacy Reading Palestine, Ami Ayalon estimates that Boulus Said founded the bookshop around 1910 – so when he handed Duncan Mackenzie this card he had only recently set up his store. Later, on his return from the USA, Boulus’ cousin Wadie (later William) joined the business and established a branch in Cairo; Wadie is probably best-known as father of the great Palestinian scholar Edward Said.

The Palestine Educational Bookshop was not only one of the first bookstores and stationers in the country. It was also a publisher, and the company name appears on many works from the Mandate era, in both Arabic and English. A rival Jerusalem bookshop, the Andalus, advertised the fact that it could source books from Cairo within 24 hours, ordering via telegraph and receiving them through the railway which passed through Gaza and Jaffa to arrive in Jerusalem; there seems little reason why the Educational, with its Cairo branch, could not have performed similar feats. Certainly newspaper adverts highlight its range of international titles.

The presence of a calling-card from Boulus Said in Mackenzie’s wallet, therefore, represents a beginning – an early moment in the development of a significant cultural and intellectual phenomenon in pre-1948 Jerusalem, and the linkage of that moment to some of the most important figures in twentieth-century Palestinian history. The second calling-card, though, represents something more like an ending. It came from Gustaf Dalman, a German Orientalist, theologian and ethnographer.

In the 1890s and 1910s Dalman had lived and worked in Palestine (he also, early in his career, applied to become a Free Church of Scotland missionary there), and published major works on, in particular, the Aramaic language, Hebrew theology, and Christianity. At this point in time, German researchers were producing some of the most important scholarship on both contemporary and historic Palestine, and Dalman was foremost amongst them. But soon after Mackenzie left Palestine in 1913, WWI saw German influence in the Middle East (via its ally, the Ottoman Empire), collapse.

The American archaeologist WF Albright recorded just after the war that Dalman had returned to Jerusalem, but that his rivals amongst the British and French scholars in the city were trying to have his passport revoked. The portrait Albright’s letters paint of Dalman is of a rather sad and isolated figure. Mackenzie’s collection of cards, therefore, bears witness not only to the rise of a distinctive Palestinian literary and social milieu with Boulus Said, but also to the decline of Germany’s heyday in the Ottoman-ruled Holy Land.

Caption: A well-travelled envelope carrying a letter to Duncan Mackenzie, via Cairo, Wadi Halfa and back to Alexandria. (PEF/DA/MACK300)

Caption: A well-travelled envelope carrying a letter to Duncan Mackenzie, via Cairo, Wadi Halfa and back to Alexandria. (PEF/DA/MACK300)

Caption: Reverse side of the envelope showing further stamps. (PEF/DA/MACK300)

Caption: Reverse side of the envelope showing further stamps. (PEF/DA/MACK300)

The final small item also represents an ending, although on lesser scale. A little envelope, addressed to Mackenzie (care of the Thomas Cook travel agency), it is liberally covered with the stamps of postal offices stretching from Alexandria, via Cairo and Wadi Halfa, to Khartoum, and finally stamped ‘Unclaimed’. All date from 1913, and show it to be a remnant of the PEF’s attempts to contact Mackenzie during his employment on a dig in Sudan that year.

By this time he was embroiled in an acrimonious dispute with the Fund over the terms under which his employment had been terminated and his failure to deliver excavation reports from Ain Shams. The envelope – which presumably did reach Mackenzie, since it appears in the archive, or else was returned to its sender – highlights the efficiency of the Egyptian postal service in this era, and the reach of the British imperial administration. But with its array of postmarks and fruitless journey across North Africa, it also seems to echo the missed opportunities and miscommunications that marked the PEF’s relationship with this brilliant, troubled, unconventional man.

Further Reading:

Ayalon, A. 2004. Reading Palestine. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Momigliano, N. 1996.  Duncan Mackenzie and the Palestine Exploration Fund. Palestine Exploration Quarterly 128 (1): 139-170

Said, E. 2000. Out of Place: A Memoir. London: Granta.