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  • Prof. Dr. Bethany J. Walker
    Research Professor of Mamluk Studies
    Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
    Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg
    Heussallee 18-24
    53113 Bonn
    Germany

    Forschungseinheit Islamische Archäologie
    Brühler Str. 7
    53119 Bonn
    Germany
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Contact

Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg
Heussallee 18-24
53113 Bonn
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Fax: 0228/73-62964

 

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Sie sind hier: Startseite Blogs from the Field

Jordan Blog 2016

Week One

Reports from the Field – Tall Hisban 2016 excavation season, Jordan

15-21 May 2016

 

The Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg launched its third Mamluk archaeological field school this week, in partnership with Andrews and Missouri State Universities in the U.S. The three-week field school is designed as an ASK summer school to train Mamluk scholars in material culture methods, to further the research of current ASK fellows, and to promote the study of the Mamluk period among archaeologists. It takes place at Tall Hisban in central Jordan, the flagship Mamluk-era site in the country. With a well-preserved Citadel of the 14th century and the contemporary village, the site is uniquely suited for the study of the Mamluks’ exercise of power on the frontier and of the contours of rural life, which are otherwise poorly documented in period texts.

 

Our 12-member team joined our American colleagues (17 in number) at “camp” at a hotel in Madaba last Friday. Excavation began last Sunday, during the onslaught of an unseasonable heatwave, which lasted for two days. The heat didn’t hamper our enthusiasm, and the 2016 season got off to a great start this week.

 

Excavation this year continues work of the last two seasons in portions of the Mamluk-era village located on the slopes of the tell and in the shadows of the Citadel. Several farmhouses of the Mamluk and Ottoman periods are under investigation. They are well-preserved, one-room structures with shared courtyards and cisterns, and heavily plastered floors and walls (some even painted!). Our goals for this season are to reach foundation trenches and be able to date the original construction of these buildings (which largely reuse earlier buildings), map the physical layout of the village and identify neighborhoods and the pathways connecting them, and to document the spatial patterning of artifacts in each farmhouse in order to better understand the structure of the medieval Islamic household and the activities of daily life. Our integrated environmental research continues, as well, and our archaeobotanist, Annette Hansen, who helped us teach our Spring School on environmental methods, has joined us again this season. The mapping of the village this year is aided by multiple methods of low altitude photography, including boom shots, panorama photography, and 3-D modelling, combined with previous drone photography and GIS. We are also attempting to correlate the complex subterranean structures with the standing buildings on the same maps. This year we launch the newly developed, full-scale Filemaker template for our field recording on IPads, which was demoed last season.

 

Noteworthy finds of this week were the discovery of a subterranean vaulted passageway on the northern slope, apparently leading into the Citadel; some very fine fragments of luster-painted and enameled glass from one of the farmhouses (and NOT the Citadel); more ceramic evidence of the elusive 16th century; and imported pottery of the Ayyubid and early Mamluk eras, a period that is not well known or documented archaeologically in the region.

 

Last weekend’s excursion included walking, hiking, and bus tours of Byzantine sites and other sites on the Madaba Plains (the town of Madaba, Mt. Nebo, Umm al-Rasas, Dhiban, Machaerus fortress, and Khirbat Ataruz). This weekend we visit the Decapolis cities and other sites in northern Jordan (the city and Citadel of Amman, the Baq’ah Valley, ʿAjlun Castle, Gadara/Umm Qeis, Pella, Tell Deir ʿAllah, and the Jordan Valley.

 

Our academic schedule this week consisted of a joint evening lecture by myself and Sten LaBianca on the scientific goals of the season and our ongoing community outreach and heritage management efforts, as well as a workshop on technical drawing of objects. Two hours each afternoon are spent working with pottery, with my giving impromptu lessons on Mamluk ceramics at the pottery reading table.

 

We were visited in the field by three tour groups (one from Canada), numerous governmental officials, and colleagues from the Department of Antiquities, who have been extremely supportive of our research focus on the Mamluk period.

 

Submitted by Bethany Walker, Director of Excavations

22 May 2016

 

 Aufstellung der Siebe vor Arbeitsbeginn

 Aufstellung der Siebe vor Arbeitsbeginn

 

Besichtigung von Umm Ar-Rasas

 Besichtigung von Umm Ar-Rasas

 

Blick von Tall Hisban zu den Lichtern von Jerusalem

Blick von Tall Hisban zu den Lichtern von Jerusalem

 

Entnahme von Bodenproben zur archaeobotanischen Analyse

Entnahme von Bodenproben zur archaeobotanischen Analyse

 

Inspektion von Tall Hisban in der Morgendaemmerung

Inspektion von Tall Hisban in der Morgendämmerung

 

Kamera in luftiger Hoehe fuer Uebersichtsbilder

Kamera in luftiger Höhe für Übersichtsbilder

 

Photomast fuer Uebersichtsbilder

Photomast für Übersichtsbilder

 

Prof. Bethany Walker mit den Teilnehmern auf der Spitze von Tall Hisban

Prof. Bethany Walker mit den Teilnehmern auf der Spitze von Tall Hisban

 

Prof. Bethany Walker zeigt den Teilnehmern Tall Hisban

Prof. Bethany Walker zeigt den Teilnehmern Tall Hisban

 

Sonnenuntergang am Mount Nebo

Sonnenuntergang am Mount Nebo

 

Vollmond ueber Tall Hisban

Vollmond ueber Tall Hisban

 



Week Two

Reports from the Field – Tall Hisban 2016 excavation season, Jordan

22-28 May 2016

 

Life is unpredictable. In twenty years of working in Jordan, only once have I seen rain during our late spring/early summer field seasons, and never anything like this. Monday and Tuesday were unseasonable cold, and Tuesday we were actually “rained out”, forcing us to close an hour and a half early and return to camp. The dark skies made for some incredible photography opportunities, though, which are featured here.

 

It was an eventful and productive week, weather aside. Excavations in our medieval farmhouses on the west slope produced evidence of a rather affluent village community, as well as a complicated history of demolition, in some cases, and reuse and refurbishing, in others, of Early Islamic structures in the Mamluk period. One farmhouse yielded rich information about daily life, including diet (an entire assemblage of vessels used for cooking and storage of food) and entertainment (the playing of chess, possible smoking device), all recovered from household garbage. It also, quite surprisingly, yielded a very fine flagstone floor, with parallels in Mamluk Cairo, and more beautiful imported lustered and enameled vessels from one room (beakers, perfume bottles), bearing witness to a relatively high standard of living and economic connections with larger urban markets. A large number of potential storage rooms were identified throughout the site, which will be the focus of investigations this coming week.

 

Archaeologists love floors and trash pits. Palaeobotanists are particularly fond of them, as they are rich contexts for the retrieval of seeds, pollen, phytoliths, and seeds for the study of diet, climate, and agriculture. This week our archaeobotanist was heavily occupied with sampling from these contexts – which have been numerous this season - and processing of the soils back at camp. We eagerly await the post-season results of her analysis and of our other environmental scientists.

 

Our team members from the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg participated in the large, tri-annual International Conference on the History and Archaeology of Jordan, held in Amman this week (http://www.ichaj.org/). Gül Şen gave a paper on one of her post-doc projects on Ottoman Jordan (with a focus on Hisban), Reem al-Shqour’s paper focused on her research on Mamluk khans in Jordan and their economic role, and I spoke on the emerging picture of rural society in Mamluk Jordan (putting Hisban into a regional context). Zakariya Na’imat, a doctoral student at the University of Bonn and friend of the Kolleg, also gave a paper on his PhD project on the economy of Early Islamic Syria as reflected in the so-called “desert castles” (and the site of Shuqayra al-Gharbiyya). Uni-Bonn and the Kolleg were featured quite prominently at this conference.

 

This weekend took participants of the field school to the Dead Sea and the Early Islamic “desert castles” of Mshatta (the façade of which is at the Islamic Museum in Berlin), Qusayr Amra (a UNESCO World Heritage site), and Kharana, as well as the Ayyubid-era basalt fort at Azraq.

 

As for this week’s academic program, we had hands-on workshops on zooarchaeology and archaeobotany by Sten LaBianca and Annette Hansen, respectively, and I lectured on Mamluk culture, comparing the frontier material culture of Tall Hisban with the urban culture of the sultanate’s capital in Cairo in the 14th century.

 

We had many visitors to the site this week, largely the result of the influx into the country of scholars and our colleagues for the ICHAJ conference, including members of the Norwegian Embassy, the University of Florence team excavating at Shobak Castle, and my doctoral students from Uni-Bonn Zakariya Na’imat and Hussein al-Sababha.

 

This week was also a special one for Jordan, with the 70th anniversary of Independence Day, which we celebrated by raising Jordanian flags throughout our site and the sharing of sweets. This coming week is the important 100-year celebration of the launch of the Arab Revolt, which features so prominently in the country’s history.

 

We have only one more week remaining in this year’s excavation season. It will be intense, and we are excited to see the results!

 

Submitted by Bethany Walker, Director of Excavations

29 May 2016

 

Excavation team of Mamluk Houses 

Excavation team of Mamluk Houses

 

Harana

Harana

 

Jordan Independence Day at Tall Hisban 1

Jordan Independence Day at Tall Hisban 1

 

Jordan Independence Day at Tall Hisban 2

Jordan Independence Day at Tall Hisban 2

 

Lunch at Harana

Lunch at Harana

 

On the way to the Dead Sea

On the way to the Dead Sea

 

Second Breakfast at the site

Second Breakfast at the site

 

Sunrise at Tall Hisban 1

Sunrise at Tall Hisban 1

 

Sunrise at Tall Hisban 1

Sunrise at Tall Hisban 2

 

Visiting Mushata 1

Visiting Mushata 1

 

Visiting Mushata 2

Visiting Mushata 2

 

Visiting Mushata 3

Visiting Mushata 3

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