Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Early Turkish Aviation – and Disaster

Following the successful French-organized staged flights from Paris to Cairo in late 1913 (see posts on this Blog of 31 July and 12 and 13 August 2015), the Turkish military planned their own display of aviation prowess. Military aircraft were to fly from Constantinople to Cairo, across Anatolia, Syria and Palestine. They set off on 8 February 1914. One aircraft crashed on the Golan Heights killing both the crew. The second crashed into the sea off Jaffa killing one of the crew. All were buried in Damascus and a monument was erected near the Sea of Galilee. In Constantinople a second monument was set up - inaugurated in 1916, dedicated to these ‘martyrs’ as they were designated. It is in a park in front of the former City Hall.
Aviators' Monument Istanbul. Photographer: David L. Kennedy. APAAMEG_20160609_DLK-0083.
The broken marble column has two brass plates attached, one with the names of the dead. The second plate depicts an aircraft, a mosque (Suleymaniye?), the monumental entrance to Istanbul University, the nearby Beyazit Tower (then part of the Ministry of War) and the two pyramids in Egypt.

Aviators' Monument Istanbul. Photographer: David L. Kennedy. APAAMEG_20160611_DLK-0066 (Cropped)
- DLK

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

AAJ May 2016 - Highs, Lows, and Goodbyes to the Hueys

When we are in Jordan we will squeeze in any opportunity to fly, but this year it was particularly important to do a few flights as we have sadly lost the use of the wonderful beast of helicoptering - the Huey, and we had to test our new machines and pilots of the Eurocopters.
Jafr AFB
One of the RJAF Hueys in flight during the 2010 season. Photographer: Don Boyer. APAAME_20101016_DDB-0045.
The Huey has been our principal form of aerial reconnaissance since the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan project started in 1997. The advantages of the Huey were its spacious interior, large opening (once the door was open) and outward facing seats that allowed four photographers to operate together. Given these machines had been in operation during the Vietnam War (see our blog 'I Love the Smell of Nabataea in the Morning'), and one had a bullet hole to prove it, we knew we would have to move on eventually. They had their quirks, like the communication systems being flakey, shaking you about so that you could feel the movement for several hours after landing, and the noise! We felt a pang of grief for the loss of a trusted friend that had transported us over the varied sites and landscapes of Jordan. If anyone has a few million pounds to service a small fleet of Hueys for us, I am sure we could make good use of it!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

FL20160529 - Low clouds over the Kerak Plateau

Aiming for a 7 o’clock take off we left CBRL at 0630, Andrea and I, with the sun rising and some clouds in the west. As we crossed the Hejaz railway en route to Marka we were overtaken by the Squadron Commander, who waved and we followed him; I was wondering which gate to the air base he’d use (as there is more than one). Every year we have gone through a ritual at the gate where the guards don’t have a clue who we are, despite assurances the previous day that the guards have been informed. Today we followed him through a gate we knew existed but have never used; this is the gate where we have been supposed to enter - the gate where the guards have been forewarned each day (by the squadron commanders) prior to arrival. As it was our last day of the season we will not know if we will have “cracked” the gate until September, when we hope to return.

The Madaba Martyrs Church, section of Roman Road and the 'Burnt Palace'. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160529_RHB-0017.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Flight 20160526 - East into the Badia

The second flight of the 2016 season saw Becc and I heading east to the Azraq area, taking in Qasr Aseikhim, a wonderful and significant multi period hilltop site but which is suffering badly from the bulldozer as access roads make it more accessible.
Qasr Aseikhim showing signs of damage from bulldozing. Photographer: Rebecca Banks. APAAME_20160526_REB-0132.
We then headed to assess the impact of the construction of the Azraq by-pass on the stone built structures on the Harrat al-‘Uwaynid. It was truly depressing seeing what had been destroyed without thorough investigations (a presentation at ICHAJ13 by Romel Garib said a survey had been conducted with the help of Prof. Gary Rollefson, but no excavation); truly a missed opportunity as the area is rich in kite-sites, wheels, and pendants (one of which we have been monitoring and has had its tail smashed through – seemingly unnecessarily). These sites are representative of this part of the basalt plateau, and we know so little about them.

Friday, May 27, 2016

FL20160523 - Clouds in the North

The Aerial Archaeology in Jordan project has just begun its 20th season (after David’s flight in 1997) and it coincides with ICHAJ13- a conference to celebrate and be informed of recent archaeological work in Jordan. Balancing the commitments of the conference with trying to fly was always going to be tricky but the opportunity to undertake aerial surveys should never be missed, especially in this region.

Jordan Valley; Tabaqat Fahl
Jordan Valley near Pella. Low cloud made visibility and photography not ideal. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160523_RHB-0219.

Jordan never ceases to surprise, and this year has seen the demise of the Air Force’s Huey helicopters, which we had come to love – despite their the noise, and discomfort too, but also great space and views with the door open, and relatively slow speed. So, this first fight (Andrea Zerbini and I) was also experimental in learning the art of aerial photography in a new machine – the Eurocopter (or EC 635).

Monday, May 23, 2016

Kh. el-Musheirfeh and MEGA-Jordan

The Jordanian village of Kh. el-Musheirfeh lies about 4 km southwest of the major Nabataean/ Roman/ Early Islamic village/ fort/ town of Umm er-Resas. A further 4 km south is the major archaeological site of Lehun on the rim of the great trough of the Wadi Mujib.

The published literature on the site is limited and the two entries in JADIS and now in MEGA-Jordan are confused, confusing and incomplete.

‘MEGA-J 12338 Musheirifa (sic)’ locates a ‘site’ on the south side of the modern village but that turns out to be only the modern village itself.

‘MEGA-J 12349 Musheirfeh (sic)’ is located 2.5 km to the northeast of the village but in an open area with no traces of any archaeological features.

Surprisingly, therefore, the record reports material of several periods - Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine, Islamic, Modern, and lists eight ‘Site Elements’ including a village, cistern, a bas relief and sherd scatters of the periods noted. The source of the information is given in two published references from the 1930s (Glueck and Savignac, below). A brief glance at these two publications confirms the obvious – there is just one site and it lies under and around the modern village. The second MEGA-J entry (12349) should be deleted and the information there should be transferred to the first entry (12338) under that spelling (as on the 1:50,000 map).

Musheirfeh is in fact an important site as the two published reports show. Glueck was there on 2 June 1933; Savignac in late April 1935. The latter knows of Glueck’s first major report on his survey which included this site but – inexplicably, does not refer to what he had published. i.e. the two reports are effectively independent of one another. Putting the two reports together allows a composite picture which can be considerably enhanced and developed by analysis of the satellite imagery on Google Earth and Bing, by interpretation of the survey aerial photographs of 1953 and the recent low-level aerial photographs taken by the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan project, all of which are in the APAAME archive.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Preflight work flow – AAJ May 2016

Our bags are packed, flights booked and we’ll be landing in Amman soon for this our 20th year of flying in Jordan (the first season was way back in 1997)!

This May will see a short series of flights, hopefully three in total – one to the north and along the Jordan Valley, one to the East into the Badia, and one to the south concentrating on the fertile Kerak Plateau.

We will also be attending the International Conference of the History and Archaeology of Jordan and look forward to seeing excellent presentations on the projects and research occurring. You can find the program on the conference website http://ichaj.org/

See you in the air!