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travel

Iron Age and Roman settlement in the hills of southern Jordan (or, a photo of me appears in a peer-reviewed journal)

I have (as usual?) been remiss in my blogging duties here, and have allowed the August issue of Journal of Field Archaeology (40.4) to come out without blogging about my colleague, Kyle Knabb (et al.)'s, paper in the June issue (40.3). That can't stand, of course.

His paper (long title in the citation below) presents some of the results of a survey he conducted in 2009 in Wadi al-Fayḍ (transcribed al-Feidh in the paper), near Petra in southern Jordan. The focus is primarily on the settlement patterns of this wadi system during the Iron Age and Roman periods. He argues that, during the Iron Age, Wadi al-Fayḍ was settled by people who subsisted on a combination of farming and herding, in contrast to the plateau, where the evidence suggests a "loosely organized agricultural state" (375). During the Roman period, evidence for settlement sites disappears, suggesting that Wadi al-Fayḍ essentially became the agricultural hinterland of more concentrated settlement in and around Petra.

The really interesting part of the paper, though, is that I was, in fact, a member of the Wadi Feid Expedition (WFE) survey team way back in 2009. Actually, now that I think about it, the WFE was the first archaeology project I was involved with in Jordan (followed very shortly by the excavation at Khirbat al-Nuḥās that same year). Should you read this paper, there is actually a photo of me rappelling down a waterfall on page 372 (why yes, I'm wearing a previous pair of Merrell Moabs, although you can't really tell). If you're reading it for the photos of me, though, I should point out that the previously linked National Geographic site is a rather better source of those.

Incidentally, Kyle and I (with a few others) are currently preparing something of a sequel to this paper, which will focus on the settlement patterns in Wadi al-Fayḍ during the Middle and Late Islamic periods. Stay tuned for more.

ResearchBlogging.orgKnabb, Kyle A., Najjar, Mohammad., & Levy, Thomas E. (2015). Characterizing the rural landscape during the Iron Age and Roman period (ca. 1200 B.C.–A.D. 400): An intensive survey of Wadi al-Feidh, southern Jordan. Journal of Field Archaeology, 40 (3), 365-380 DOI: 10.1179/2042458214Y.0000000004

These boots weren't made for this amount of walking

A little while back (a few months ago now, actually), I was back in Faynan for two weeks of archaeological survey. The project was, unfortunately, right in the middle of the UCSD Spring quarter, but it was small and fun, and we found some interesting things. I'll leave it to my girlfriend to describe those at some point, though, as it was her project, and we were mostly looking for prehistoric sites, which isn't exactly what I do, as occasional readers will have noted. I'm writing about it because, on this trip, I destroyed another pair of boots.

Dead Boots

There they are, on the floor in my room at ACOR, looking the way most archaeologists feel when they get back to ACOR after a field season.

This was my second pair of Merrell Moabs. On the one hand, I really like these boots. They're comfortable, they breathe well, and they provide enough ankle-support to survey fairly rocky terrain. Also, they tend to be easy to find on sale, which is nice if you're super cheap a grad student. On the other, I'm beginning to think they might not be my best choice in the future. Sure, survey is pretty rough on boots, but you'd think a pair of $100+ boots could stand up to more than two field seasons. . .

Also, I noticed as I was about to post this that Bill Caraher has recently posted about his own boot woes. To be fair, had I posted this when I intended, I would have beaten him by a few months!

Conferences past and future

It's been a bit sparse around here, not necessarily for lack of things to blog about, but for lack of time in which to do so. But, I've always heard that you should never apologize for not updating your blog, so that's something I'm not going to do. Instead, since I do have a bit of time right now, I'm going to finish a post I've been meaning to finish for some time, with updates about a conference I recently attended, and one that's coming up.

First, I've recently returned (actually, the conference was the first weekend in October, so not all that recently) from the Conference on Medieval Archaeology at SUNY Cortland, organized by Scott Stull. As much as I love San Diego, it was very nice to be back in the northeast for at least one weekend of true autumnal weather, and the conference itself was quite interesting, as well. I was presenting a fairly general introduction to our work on the Islamic periods in Faynan, since the audience consisted of people working on medieval archaeology in several regions, primarily western Europe. Some observations: 1) I was pleased to see that Scott went with an amusing acronym. I'm not sure if CoMA is better than MIRE, but I'm happy to have been at both. 2) Beyond my own anxiety about the term "medieval," this also really brought home some conversations I've had with other Islamic archaeologists — Bethany Walker especially comes to mind — about communicating periodization across space, where dynastic and archaeological periods don't translate. It's not that it's difficult to default to calendar dates, but that a lot of the assumptions that come with dynastic and archaeological terms have to be made explicit. And then there are the dynastic terms that are used in multiple regions, but not in the same way; at one point, I found myself saying something along the lines of, ". . . Late Byzantine, which would be Early Byzantine in central Anatolia." Certainly that's not confusing. 3) On those same lines, it was interesting and, I think, useful to be odd person out at a fairly small, focused conference. (Interestingly, I spoke with a few other presenters who also felt that they were "outsiders.") I've been at conferences where the Levant wasn't very well-represented, but even at the most recent SAAs we were in an "Archaeology of Jordan" session. I've had to gear talks to people working on earlier periods in the Levant, but it was a different experience speaking to a room almost entirely full of archaeologists working on the same period, but in Europe.

After the conference, I managed to take a little drive over to Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, NY. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from their tasting room (apart from the beer, which I knew would be excellent), since they're part of the rapidly expanding Duvel Moortgat family, but I was pleasantly surprised. Their cafe was, from a San Diego perspective, fairly small and cozy, and the location is really rather out of the way. As evidence, here are two photos I took in their overflow parking lot.

Brewery Ommegang 1Brewery Ommegang 2

That's definitely a nicer view than most of the parking lots I've been in can boast, and I always enjoy being reminded of how much I love the northeast in fall. It's a comforting thought, especially now that I'm back in San Diego, where the forecast for tomorrow is 87 degrees and sunny. In November.

Of course, I'll be heading to cooler climes again soon enough. This year's ASOR Annual Meeting in Baltimore is just over a week away, and I'm excited to go this year. Our field season tends to conflict with ASOR, so it's not every year I can actually attend, and although I've been several times before, this is actually the first year I'll be giving a paper. This is also the first time I'll be speaking at length about our 2012 excavations at Khirbat Nuqayb al-Asaymir, and the "Archaeology of Islamic Society" session that I'm in this year looks quite good, so I think it's going to be an interesting conference. And, since I'm speaking about it anyway, it seems appropriate to end with my abstract for this year.

Life in a Mining Village: Insights from Domestic and Public Buildings at Middle Islamic Khirbat Nuqayb al-Asaymir, Faynan, Jordan

Ian W. N. Jones, Mohammad Najjar, and Thomas E. Levy

At some point in the late 12th century AD, due to changing economic conditions in Bilad al-Sham, the Faynan district of southern Jordan became an attractive source of copper, after a hiatus in production of more than half a millennium. In addition to reoccupying existing sites, a small copper smelting village, now known as Khirbat Nuqayb al-Asaymir (KNA), was founded during this period. While interesting from the perspective of production, exchange, and consumption, this village also provides a unique opportunity to investigate the mining settlement as a unique social formation, and to address questions not answered in historical sources of the Middle Islamic period.In order to take advantage of this opportunity, the UC San Diego Edom Lowlands Regional Archaeology Project’s (ELRAP) 2012 excavations at KNA focused primarily on non-metallurgical contexts. A large, “elite” building was partially excavated and revealed three distinct building phases, including both metallurgical and pre-metallurgical, elite strata of the Middle Islamic period. Additionally, two probes were dug in domestic buildings, and a third probe conducted in a small, one-room building which may have been a guardhouse.This paper presents some preliminary conclusions from these excavations, focusing on (1) the differences between the excavated domestic buildings, (2) identifying “elites” archaeologically at KNA, (3) the transformation of the elite building into a metallurgical workshop, and, finally, (4) the implications of the ceramic assemblage both for life and food preferences at the site and for Middle Islamic ceramic typologies in southernmost Bilad al-Sham more generally.

One thing I didn't miss about Jordan

I've just returned to the States from a week-long trip to Jordan – after less than two months back in San Diego following my fieldwork in Jordan this fall – to attend the 7th World Archaeological Congress. The conference was interesting, and the crowd was rather different from most of the meetings I've attended recently (more on all of this, hopefully, in the near future).  It was a bit strange to be back in Jordan so soon, though, and for such a short amount of time.Overall, I genuinely like Jordan a lot, and this trip was quite pleasant, even though I had to wake up and leave my hotel before dawn (and, more importantly, before they served breakfast) in order to get to the conference center on time. One thing I was reminded of, though – especially since I was waking up early every day – is how difficult it is to find a decent cup of coffee (by which, being an American, I mean "stock") in Jordan. That isn't to say that good coffee doesn't exist there. I actually find Arabic/Turkish coffee, generally served mildly sweet with cardamom added, quite delicious. But I usually prefer American coffee, and when that's served there, it's almost always instant coffee, generally referred to by the generic trademark Nescafe (نسكافيه).When we're out digging, we tend to have genuine Nescafe, usually the ubiquitous Red Mug variety, which is, at least, recognizable as something approaching actual coffee, although I wouldn't call it something I particularly like.  This trip, though, every cup of American coffee I drank was off-brand instant coffee, which can be surprisingly bad. I still gladly drank it (any port in a storm and all that), but it did make me reflect on how good we have it out in the field sometimes. We might be living in tents and waking up at 4:30 in the morning, but at least our Nescafe is, comparatively, not that bad.

You always have friends in Acre

This AP story promoting travel to Acre got forwarded around various archaeology lists the other day, and it got me thinking about my visit to Acre in 2009.  I was digging at Tell es-Safi at the time (there's a Crusader castle there, too, called Blanche Garde, although the current excavations focus on the earlier periods), and four of us decided to take a trip to see a few sites in northern Israel, including Acre, Caesarea Maritima, and Megiddo.  Acre was definitely a memorable place, and I'd say it's certainly worth a visit if you get a chance.The history of the site is, of course, fascinating.  As the article mentions, it was an important Frankish port up until its destruction in the late 13th century by the Mamluks, as part of a larger campaign wherein they destroyed nearly every Mediterranean port in the Levant (Gaza being the one exception).  Following that (and its abandonment in the 14th century), the city went through some ups and downs in the Late Islamic (Ottoman) period, and there are a few interesting stories there.  Notably, it was briefly a holding of Fakhr ad-Din II, starting in 1610.  Hartal (1997:111) describes that situation like this:

Following Fahr ed-Dîn's conquest of the city in 1610, he cleaned the harbor, renewed maritime trade, enlarged the city, and built some new buildings . . . In 1613, however, when the Ottoman Turks campaigned against him, Fahr ed-Dîn ordered the harbor to be filled in and had the city devastated.
I've always found this to be an amusing story, in a way.  In 1610, he cleans the harbor and expands the city, and three years later fills the harbor in and destroys part of the city.  There's also the story, mentioned in the AP article, of Napoleon's failed attempt to take the city in 1799, when it was controlled by Jazzar Pasha.  Al-Jazzar (الجزار), incidentally, is not a very nice nickname; it means "the butcher."  After Napoleon's unsuccessful siege, Jazzar Pasha understandably decided to fortify the city, using stone taken from the Crusader city as well as 'Atlit castle (Hartal 1997:112; generally, Hartal [1997] has a good, brief discussion of the post-Crusader architectural history of the city).Reading the story, though, I decided to go back and look at the photos I'd taken while I was there.  Of course, I got some nice, scenic shots of the city, like this one:Acre HarborLike most of coastal Israel, it really is a beautiful place.  I definitely wouldn't mind spending more time there.I also took quite a few photos of buildings in the Crusader city, like this one:AcreThis isn't the most interesting photo I've ever taken, but if you look at it closely you get some hints at the construction phases of the building.Then there's this one, taken in the refectory (dining hall) of the Hospitaller fortress in the old city:Acre, Crusader refectoryOh, hello there. . . didn't see you guys up there before.
1997     Hartal, MosheExcavation of the Courthouse Site at 'Akko: Summary and Historical Discussion. 'Atiqot 31:109-114.