By: Juan Manuel Tebes, Catholic University of Argentina,
University of Buenos Aires, National Research Council
Platt Fellowship Recipient
Thanks to an ASOR Platt Fellowship I was able to participate in the 2013 season of the Barqā Landscape Project (BLP), Jordan, directed by Dr. Russell B. Adams (University of Waterloo, Canada). My participation in this project stemmed from my interest in the archaeology and history of the southern arid margins of the Levant during the Iron Age – the Negev and biblical Edom –, areas that were of key importance for the socio-political and economic development of the Iron Age civilizations of the Levant and northwestern Arabia.
The Barqā Landscape Project’s objective is to study the socio-economic and environmental history of the Barqā area, a region located to the south of the copper mining district of Wadi Faynan, the most important source of copper of the Levant in ancient times. Through a combination of archaeological excavations and surveys, multi-spectral analysis, and geochemical mapping, BLP is focused on understanding how the local landscape was shaped by human activity in ancient times – through mining, industrializing, building, cultivating and pasture – and, vice versa, how landscape affected the daily lives of ancient men – through environmental and weather changes, human subsistence activities, daily eating habits, and even breathing – throughout the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods.
I supervised the excavation of two Iron Age sites, located on the top and the hillside of a tell. Robber pits also cover the area, so it was considered better to start digging in this area due to possible future disturbance made by the illegal digging. Our fears came true when one day we discovered that part of a wall that had just been excavated was vandalized, maybe in the afternoon of the day before. In both sites were reached the floors, uncovering the material culture of what seems to be one-period domestic buildings based on an economy of farming. In one site we discovered a thin black layer with several large pieces of charcoal, probable evidence that the site was destroyed by fire. The students I was in charge of worked very hard throughout the season, and I warmly thank Davin, Gaya, Amanda, Will, Shura, Amreet, Mike, Manuel, Debbie and Riti (I hope not to forget anyone!) for the work and responsibility they put in the dig.
Working at Barqā is hard, even for those used to digging in the Middle East. We stayed in tents at a camp of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan located in the bedouin village of Qurayquira. The camp at Qurayquira still has not electricity, and bathrooms and showers are pretty much primitive, but after a couple of days everyone got used to that. As usual, an early waking up at 5:00 was followed by a short breakfast and then fieldwork from 6:00 to 12:00. After lunch and a short rest, we started working at the lab, students usually doing pottery wash and the staff processing the daily finds.
Constant heat (the excavation was carried out in late spring and early summer), sweating, dust, and lack of sleep were normal for everyone during the whole season. But that, alas, is part of the fun of digging in the Middle East! Essential for keeping our good mood were the excellent meals cooked by our camp manager Aladdin and his team, who ensured our diet was both nutritious and tasty. After lab work, drink time with the staff (following the British tradition, Gin and Tonic is the preferred drink of the desert!) was one of the most coveted times of the day. The well-deserved weekends were spent traveling to such wonderful places as Petra, Wadi Rum, Amman, Jerash, Aqaba, Karak, and the Dead Sea.
I would like to thank the generosity of ASOR and the Platt fellowship for allowing me to be part of such an extraordinary experience. I encourage everyone to be part at least once of an archaeological experience and to apply to ASOR for funding.
Barqā Landscape Project and Barqā Houses 5 and 6 – a Platt Fellowship Report
In June and July 2013 I participated in the Barqā Landscape Project (BLP), southern Jordan, directed by Dr. Russell Adams (University of Waterloo, Canada). The aim of the project is the study of the socio-economic and environmental history of the Barqā area, located south of the Wadi Faynan district, the largest source of copper in the southern Levant.
Through a combination of archaeological excavations and surveys, multi-spectral analysis, and geochemical mapping, the project focused specially on the evidences of early copper mining and industrialization, such as production residues and palaeoecological materials preserved in the ancient landscape. I supervised the excavation of two Iron Age sites – which we called Barqā Houses 5 and 6 – located northwest of Barqā ridge and of two sites excavated by German archaeologist V. Fritz in the 1990s and by the BLP in the 2010 season.
The two sites are located on the top and the hillside of a tell; they were chosen because rock walls were visible on the surface. Robber pits also cover the area, so it was considered better to start digging in this area due to possible future disturbance made by the illegal digging. In both sites the floors, uncovered the material culture of what seems to be one-period domestic buildings based on an economy of farming; finds consisted of pottery, copper pieces, slag, animal bones, shells and grindstones.
In Barqā 6 we discovered a thin black layer with several large pieces of charcoal, probable evidence that the site was destroyed by fire. We took several samples of charcoal for radiocarbon analysis, and further analysis will have to test the historical implications of our finds. A preliminary study of the local pottery may indicate a 10th-9th century BCE dating for the sites.
I wish to express my sincere appreciation to ASOR and the Platt fellowship donors for enabling me to participate in this archaeological experience.