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The following text is adapted from the field report submitted to Munjazat at the end of the 2011 field season, prepared by BUPAP directors, Susan E. Alcock and Chistopher A Tuttle.
The second season of the Brown University Petra Archaeological Project (BUPAP) was conducted in the Petra Archaeological Park for approximately a five-week period between June 16 and July 24, 2011. The BUPAP team was composed of some twenty-five archaeologists and other specialists. Nine workmen from the villages of Umm Sayhun and Bayda also assisted us. We would like to acknowledge from the outset our gratitude to the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, to Dr. Imad Hijazeen, Tahani al-Salhi, and Husain Askar, as well as to all the residents of the Petra region for their warm hospitality.
As with our first season in 2010, the Project carried out several distinct, but overlapping research initiatives (Figure 1). Chief among these were the continuation of the Petra Area and Wadi Silaysil Survey (PAWS) and the excavation at the BMV (Bayda Medieval Village), together with the inception of the Petra Routes Project (PRP). Specific aspects of these undertakings included:
1) Petra Area and Wadi Silaysil Survey (PAWS)
a. Intensive regional survey in the vicinity of Bayda (both prehistoric Bayda and the area of the Nabataean/Medieval occupation, defined as Area d), on the east side of the modern Umm Sayhun-Bayda road and south of the modern village of Bayda (defined as Area e), and in the eastern sector of Wadi Silaysil (defined as Area f);
b. Detailed feature mapping and recording in these three Areas
2) Bayda Medieval Village
a. Continued excavation in Trenches A and B, and the new opening of Trench C;
b. Soil sampling for projected palaeobotanical flotation, and phytolith analysis in all trenches;
c. Photogrammetric recording of all wall features in each trench
3) Petra Routes Project
a. General exploration of access routes in and out of the Petra city center, with a view to identifying both inter-regional road networks (e.g., the Via Nova Traiana) and more local systems of movement and communication;
b. Detailed reconnaissance, mapping and recording of features in the Wadi Mu’aysara East and Wadi Mu’aysara West
Other elements in the BUPAP 2011 field season included: a preliminary reconnaissance and assessment of the region’s geology and processes of soil erosion and deposition; a program of geophysical prospection in several locales; a pilot visit by a team from Cornell University to assess the possibilities of dendrochronological research in the area; a comprehensive study of all 2010 and 2011 BUPAP lithic finds, and an investigation of local toponyms and their history.
A brief description of each of these initiatives follows, together with acknowledgement of the individuals who principally carried them out. A full report will be submitted for publication to the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan for 2012.
Petra Area and Wadi Silaysil Survey (PAWS) (Alex Knodell, Chris Cloke, Linda Gosner)
A survey team, led by Knodell and Gosner, carried out a highly intensive survey in three areas (Areas d, e, and f) in 2011; 107 Survey Units (or SUs) were walked in Area d, 285 in Area e, and 144 in Area f (see Figure 1). The zones selected for Areas d and f were designed to link areas walked in 2010 (Areas a, b, and c); Area e expanded our coverage to the east side of the modern Umm Seyhun-Bayda road, to the vicinity of the boundary of the Petra Archaeology Park.
As in 2010, our methodology involved careful reconnaissance of the earth’s surface, observing and counting all artifacts (chiefly ceramics and lithics) and collecting all ceramic pieces judged to be diagnostic as to function or date, as well as all lithics. The team employed handheld GPS devices to map survey unit boundaries, allowing artifact densities and distributions to be mapped. Figure 2 represents the impressive ceramic densities in all areas (from the 2010 and 2011 season). Preliminary analysis, by Tali Erickson-Gini and Micaela Sinibaldi, report the presence of pottery ranging from the Early Bronze Age to the Modern period, with (as in 2010) notable concentrations in the Nabataean/Roman and Medieval (Middle to Late Islamic) periods. Early Bronze Age material was found for the first time in 2011, and there was a stronger presence noted of Iron Age and Hellenistic pottery.
Lithic finds were again numerous (Figure 3, and see below on Lithic Analysis). Later prehistory (Chalcolithic and Bronze Age) was best represented across the entire survey region, but notable earlier finds were made, including several pieces from the Lower Paleolithic era. Finally, the survey team continued the observation and counting of the modern debris (plastic, glass, metal) widely distributed across the landscape (Figure 4). Both local and touristic activity seems responsible for these often very high densities of modern garbage.
A second ‘features’ team, led by Cloke, mapped and recorded all anthropogenic features in the survey landscape; these included such elements as walls, cisterns, water channels, rock reliefs, and quarries (Figure 5). Several of these features are very complex in nature, with numerous individual rock-cut or built components. 91 features were recorded for Area d, 209 for Area e and 72 for Area f. Such densities, combined with the 227 features discovered last year, indicate the massive degree of human modification this landscape has experienced over the millennia.
Bayda Medieval Village (Christopher Tuttle, Micaela Sinibaldi, Katherine Harrington)
Advancing understanding of the later (Islamic era) periods of the Petra region has been a major goal of BUPAP as a whole, best represented by our work in and around the Bayda Medieval Village. We produced an architectural map of the village last season, and also opened two trenches (A and B), not least with the aim of improving our grasp of Islamic ceramic chronologies in southern Jordan. Both trenches were continued in 2011, and a third one (Trench C) opened.
Trench A explored a courtyard and part of a house with numerous phases, principally of later Islamic date (14th to 16th century centuries CE; Figure 6). A particularly interesting feature of this trench was the repetition of certain types of activity in the same locations over time. The discovery of material which can be closely dated, including a complete lamp and an Islamic coin, will help tighten up the chronologies of these structures. Trench A was dug to the level of its original foundations, and has now been completely backfilled. Trench B revealed material ranging from an in situ Nabataean floor (dated by a well-preserved coin) to later walls of various periods, including the Ottoman era. This trench too has been backfilled. Finally, Trench C, lying farther to the north of the village than the other two, was begun. Walls visible on the surface here were of a different, finer construction style, which provoked our interest. Trench C revealed a building, which abutted other nearby structures (previously explored by Patricia Bikai), with a short occupation life in late medieval/early modern times.
Petra Roads Project (Michele Berenfeld, Felipe Rojas)
Berenfeld and Rojas did archival research and personal reconnaissance of the major known route ways connecting Petra with the wider world, and are currently creating maps which represent a synthesis of what is known of these inter-regional routes. They also are concerned to understand more local patterns of movement in and out of the city center, especially those connecting Petra with the settlements (Shamasa, Ras as-Silaysil) and agricultural territory explored by PAWS to the north. They have meticulously documented Wadi Mu’aysara East and Wadi Mu’aysara West, noting and mapping features such as agricultural installations and terraces, cisterns, ritual features, tombs and stairs. Most impressive are the remains of roads, which extend up to 300m in length and are still used by people (and goats) today (Figure 7).
Geological Reconnaissance (Fuad Hourani)
For approximately a week, Hourani carried out extensive walking and exploration of the PAWS survey area. His research focused to a great extent on wadi formation and the numerous dam/terracing systems visible in the area (and documented as PAWS features). The geomorphological history of the area is clearly very dynamic, and much additional work will be required to provide the necessary solid pedological foundation for our survey results; the dating of dams and terraces will also be key to our understanding of water management and agricultural activity in the region.
Geophysical Prospection (Thomas U. Urban, Project Geophysicist)
Urban, with the assistance of Susan Herringer and Alex Smith, employed the techniques of both magnetometry and ground penetrating radar (GPR) in the 2011 season. Work in the city center was continued as part of BUPAP’s Petra Upper Market Archaeology (PUMA) project, confirming — through detailed gridded GPR collection — the presence of a well-defined anomaly of substantial size observed in 2010 through electromagnetic induction survey and magnetometry. A full report on the PUMA research (excavation and geophysics) will be submitted to the 2012 edition of ADAJ, authored by Megan Perry and Urban). Additional geophysical testing in Petra city center was done at the Temple of the Winged Lions, at the Turkmanniyya Tomb and at the Petra North Church. Preliminary results from the Turkmanniyya Tomb and the Petra North Church have been provided to both Petra Archaeological Park and UNESCO representatives concerned with the conservation and preservation of these two major structures.
Urban also carried out geophysical profiles at the settlement of Shamasa (surveyed and documented in our 2010 season) and near Bayda, both in the Siq al-Amti (surveyed as part of Area c in 2010) and in a 2011 survey unit (PAWS_d71) with extremely high densities amid the impressive rock-cut Nabataean features documented by Bikai. Complete results from all this research, however, will not be available until fall 2011.
Dendrochronological Studies (Sturt Manning, Brita Lorentzen, Linah Ababneh)
Sturt Manning and Brita Lorentzen, of Cornell University’s Wiener Laboratory for Aegean and Near Eastern Dendroarchaeology visited the project for approximately four days, after travelling. In that time, with the help of Ababneh and Ameen Al-Duqs of the Ministry of Agriculture (and with the kind permission of the Ministry and the Al-Sharah Forestry Department), they located and took cores of living juniper trees in the area, including samples from a rock massif immediately to the north of Paws Area_a. They also conducted reconnaissance in the Petra city center, and in local deserted early modern villages, for appropriate ancient wood to sample in future. Manning and Lorentzen were extremely pleased with their findings, and highly optimistic about the potential of the area (and Jordan more generally) to contribute to the growing body of dendrochronological information from the Mediterranean and Near East. BUPAP and the Cornell team plan future cooperation, including the seeking of grant support, to facilitate this research.
Lithic Analysis (Gary Rollefson, Clive Vella)
In May 2011, Rollefson and Vella studied all the lithics (PAWS and BMV) found in the 2010 season; 2011 artifacts were initially processed by Vella and identifications and datings subsequently refined by Rollefson. Significant pieces have been drawn and inked for both seasons. Our observation in 2010 of activity from the Lower Paleolithic onwards, with a predominance of later prehistoric (Chalcolithic to Bronze Age) material, was confirmed in 2011. As noted, this season also saw the discovery of several artifacts of Lower Paleolithic date, in more than one part of the study region.
Petra Region Toponym Study (Nancy Khalek)
Khalek, a fluent Arabic speaker, spent approximately a week with the Project, during which she walked extensively with the Petra Routes Project team and interviewed local inhabitants of various generations. She was able to generate a preliminary list of local toponyms which, contrary to some expectations, seem to be very stable over time. Khalek kindly created a list of names for our use, from these interviews and from consultation of Jordanian maps; we have also taken up her recommendation to follow the transliteration style guidelines of the International Journal of Middle East Studies (IJMES). She also made some preliminary, very welcome suggestions about possible avenues for ethnographic research in the region in future BUPAP seasons.
Figure 1: Overall map of the BUPAP Study Area, 2010-2011 (image courtesy Alex R. Knodell).
Figure 2: Overall ceramic density by survey unit, Petra Area and Wadi Silaysil Survey 2010-2011 (image courtesy Alex R. Knodell).
Figure 3: Overall lithic density by survey unit, Petra Area and Wadi Silaysil Survey 2010-2011 (image courtesy Alex R. Knodell).
Figure 4: Overall modern density by survey unit, Petra Area and Wadi Silaysil Survey 2010-2011 (image courtesy Alex R. Knodell).
Figure 5: View of feature complex in survey unit PAWS_e15 (includes features e65, e66: collapsed structure and agricultural installations) (photo courtesy Chris Cloke).
Figure 6: View over Bayda Medieval Village, Trench A, with house in foreground and courtyard beyond (photo courtesy Clive Vella).
Figure 7: Goats on a stretch of ancient road, Wadi Mu’aysara East (photo courtesy Alex R. Knodell).