Friday, November 21, 2014

Flying 2014 - New sites photographed

The 2014 AAJ flying season is well and truly behind us, the photograph cataloguing completed, and we can now start to really look and analyse what we have captured.

We have been asked “When will the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan project be finished?”. Despite flying annually in Jordan since 1997, AAJ is far from finished and each year we surprise ourselves with all of the sites we haven’t yet photographed as we learn of them, and how much sites and the landscape can change from year to year, revealing new sites and destroying others.

Our flights are usually predetermined by a list of sites that we have identified (partially thanks to the input of many colleagues working in Jordan) as needing new photography or which have not been photographed before. Flying between these sites we often catch glimpses of other sites, and occasionally these turn out to be something new too! We do an initial check of these ‘new’ sites against historical maps (such as the K737 series 1:50,000 maps) and the MEGA-Jordan database to try and identify the sites. Occasionally, a new site for us appears to be a new discovery, which is always exciting and is just the start of a process of investigation and research.

Here is a taste of what is new in our database from this year’s flying:

Two sites near Zarqa we couldn’t believe we hadn’t photographed before were Jneneh and Kh. al-Batrawy.
Khirbet al-Batrawy
Khirbet al-Batrawy - © APAAME_20141012_RHB-0034. Photographer: Robert Bewley.
Udhma, north of Amman, has half been destroyed by modern development.
Udhma - © APAAME_20141012_MND-0096. Photographer: Matthew Dalton.
Tells of the Jordan Valley – Tell el Qos, Ammata, Hammeh, and Tall Abu ez Zeighan, also, new excavations at Tell el-Hammam.
Tell el-Hammam; Kafrein Trenches 2
Tell el-Hammam - © APAAME_20141028_DLK-0365. Photographer: David Kennedy.
Nearby up the wadi from the Kafrein Dam is the site of Suwwan.
Suwwan - ©APAAME_20141028_DLK-0386. Photographer: David Kennedy.
Sometimes sites can be overlooked because of their vicinity to a ‘big name’ site, but we do not want to be guilty of this mistake. Sites in the vicinity of MachaerusAtaruz, Aruda, Khirbat ed Deir and El-Quraiyat, and Umm er-ResasUmm er-Resas Ruin 1 and 2, were additions this year.
Ataruz (Attarus)
Ataruz - © APAAME_20141013_REB-0051. Photographer: Rebecca Banks.
A rare foray to the Southern Dead Sea Basin captured many sites previously not photographed by us. A highlight included the Wadi Hamarash excavations suggested to us by Prof. Adamantios Sampson, not least because of what an interesting squeeze it was for the Helicopter in the Wadi valley.
Wadi Hamarash Neolithic Site (Site 1)
Wadi Hamarash Neolithic Site (Site 1) - © APAAME_20141013_REB-0286. Photographer: Rebecca Banks.
Mtakalash ar-Rababa, an interesting site which was snapped just in passing.
Mtakalash ar-Rababa
Mtakalash ar-Rababa - © APAAME_20141013_MND-0507. Photographer: Matthew Dalton.
We also photographed the shelter for Deir Ain Abata being erected over the site.
Deir Ain Abata
Deir Ain Abata - © APAAME_20141013_REB-0333. Photographer: Rebecca Banks.
Flying to and from Marka Airport in Amman over the fertile hinterland is always a busy time with sites numerous and close together- sites are often just photographed ‘in passing’. This year the keen eyes of Mat spied what appears to be a possible Tomb (Amman Tomb 5), and a large concentration of rubble underneath an olive plantation that is likely a settlement or village of some description (Amman Village? 1). Neither site is recorded in MEGA-Jordan or on the K737 maps, but the village is clearly visible on Hunting Aerial Survey photographs of 1953 taken before the olive grove existed. A revisit on the 6th and last flight has confirmed both sites are indeed of interest.
Amman Village? 1
Building rubble and cistern evident at site 'Amman Village? 1'. © APAAME_20141028_DLK-0282. Photographer: David Kennedy.
Our flight to Aqaba was a very productive two days as we rarely get to fly so far south. Despite delays and difficulties caused by the weather many sites were photographed for the first time, some highlights included:

Kh. Titn sites recommended to us by Kristoffer Damgaard.
Kh. Titn 2 (Large Cluster)
Kh. Titn 2 (Large Cluster) - © APAAME_20141020_RHB-0069. Photographer: Robert Bewley.
The keen eyes of Don Boyer through poor visibility alerted us to the existence of Mlehleb.
Mlehleb - © APAAME_20141019_DDB-0006. Photographer: Don Boyer.
The amazing, unidentified, fort ‘Aina Fort 1’, and a smaller fort ‘Tafila Fortlet 1’.
Tafila Fortlet? 1
'Tafila Fortlet? 1' - © APAAME_20141019_DDB-0244. Photographer: Don Boyer.
The ancient site underneath the modern town of Buseira (Busayra) suggested to us by a University of California, Berkeley, team.
Buseira (Busayra) - © APAAME_20141019_RHB-0256. Photographer: Robert Bewley.
Railway enthusiasts should enjoy this year's flying along the southern portion of the Hedjaz Railway in Jordan.
Mahattat er-Ramla
Mahattat er-Ramla on the Hedjaz Railway. © APAAME_20141020_DLK-0221. Photographer: David Kennedy.
Particularly striking were the Ottoman defensive structures positioned at strategic points along its length.
Mudawwara Northern Redoubt
Mudawwarra Northern Redoubt - © APAAME_20141020_DDB-0164. Photographer: Don Boyer.
A treat for Romanist David Kennedy was the Roman Fort at Gharandal, and the long stretch of the Via Nova Traiana investigated (see blog - The Via Nova Traiana in Central Jordan), but also the unexpected traces of Roman Roads photographed in passing.
Umm er-Resas Roman Road 1
A stretch of possible Roman Road near Umm er-Resas. © APAAME_20141013_MND-0244. Photographer: Matthew Dalton.
Research into the site of Muwaqqar by David Kennedy led us to investigate possible sites ‘Sahab Ruin 9 and 10’ located nearby which were identified from satellite imagery. Neither site is recorded in MEGA-Jordan or on older maps to our knowledge, but the photographs show they are possibly substantive sites.
Sahab Ruin 10
'Sahab Ruin 10' - © APAAME_20141028_TPH-0125. Photographer: Travis Hearn.
These photographs are a record of these sites, but also a starting point or addition to the research into the many periods of history, heritage and archaeology in Jordan. Please feel free to leave comments on the Flickr image pages regarding site identification and information.

Our thanks go out to everyone that helped toward making this season a success: The Packard Humanities Institute, British Institute Amman, Palestine Exploration Fund, Royal Jordanian Air Force, colleagues, friends and the fantastic APAAME/AAJ team.

You can find all of the 2014 Flying Season photographs on our Flickr '2014 Flights' collection page:

Monday, November 10, 2014

Research: Pioneers - On a further personal note …

In a recent post on Insall, one of the three RAF pioneers in aerial reconnaissance over the Airmail Route and one of the first to publish an aerial photo of a Kite, I noted that a decade later he was the Station Commander of RAF Abu Sueir in Egypt where my father completed his flying training in 1936. I had long regretted that my father’s training at a Middle East base which was explicitly intended to produce pilots for service in the East, saw him posted to India for several years. Three of the other new pilots were posted to Iraq and one to No. 14(B) Squadron at Amman (killed shortly after in an accident).

In is now clear that although my father was never stationed in Iraq and Transjordan, he twice flew along the Airmail Route in those two Mandates. Putting together a few brief entries in his logbook, a handful of small photos and a postcard he sent to his brother-in-law back on the Northwest Frontier of British India, the episode is definable.
The 'Flying Boat' 'AWARUA'
About 17 July 1939 he was sent to Heliopolis in Egypt to collect and ferry back to India, one of the new Blenheim light bombers with which the RAF was being re-equipped. He recorded the flight on an Imperial Airways flying boat from Karachi via the Gulf and Habbaniya in Iraq to Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee and finally Alexandria – a two day journey. A few photos of the flying boat and a postcard from Tiberias:

Postcard from Tiberius.
I am having a marvellous time on board this flying boat ‘AWARUA’. We have just had Tiffin at Tiberias on Sea of Galilee.

By chance, that same flying boat was transferred the very next month to service in Australasia with Tasman Empire Airways Ltd (TEAL) on its NZ to Sydney route. As it happens there is a contemporary account now online of that delivery flight including:
Rapid refuel and then off towards Palestine where we land on the Sea of Galilee at Tiberius (sic), and here the skipper fills a special bottle with Galilee water to take to New Zealand for the christening of his new baby.
From Tiberius (sic) until we pass down into the Persian Gulf this next stretch is invariably hot and bumpy and the pipe line desert below never looks inviting especially when in a flying boat, …

My father’s logbook records his own flight back to India in August 1939, piloting his Blenheim:
5 August: Heliopolis – Habbaniya
5 August: Habbaniya – Shaibah
6 August: Shaibah – Sharjah
6 August: Sharjah – Karachi

That first stretch of 4 hours on 5th August would have largely retraced the Imperial Airways route across the Jordanian panhandle following the track alongside the oil pipeline which seems to have replaced the initial RAF track around the southern edge of the Harret ash-Shaam lavafield. Sadly he took no photos – almost 60 years before my own first flights in the same area.


Friday, October 31, 2014

Research - Jordan 'Big Circles' Publicity

We are receiving a lot of hits and publicity from the Owen Jarus 'Ancient Stone Circles in Mideast Baffle Archaeologists' article published on LiveScience yesterday (30 Oct. 2014). 

DailyMail Online have also followed up with their article 'Mystery of Jordan's Big Circles: Ancient Stone Rings in the Desert have left archaeologists baffled' (Victoria Woollaston, 30 Oct. 2014).

If you are interested in accessing the original article by Prof. David Kennedy in Zeitschrift für Orient-Archäologie 6 please see our blog for publication details: Publications: Remote Sensing and ‘Big Circles’ A New Type of Prehistoric Site in Jordan and Syria 

The Syrian 'Big Circle' was discovered and investigated by Graham Phillip and Jennie Bradbury and published in the journal Levant, you can access their article through Maney Online: 'Pre-Classical Activity in the Basalt Landscape of the Homs Region, Syria: Implications for the Development of 'Sub-Optimal' Zones in the Levant During the Chalcolithic-Early Bronze Age'.

If you are interested in seeing more photographs taken in the course of our investigation of the structures on the ground and from the air, please visit our Flickr page and search for 'Big Circle'.

Circle 6
Jordan Big Circle 6. © APAAME_20090930_DLK-0263.

Fortnight of Firsts - Flight 20141028

I was very fortunate to be invited to join the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan 2014 flying programme this year. It has been a fortnight of ‘firsts’ for me. My first visit to Jordan, first visit to a Roman site, and a my first time in a helicopter – something I am particularly proud of as one who is terrified of flying, even on commercial aeroplanes. Taking photos from the open-door side of a Huey was not something I imagined I would be able to do.

As the helicopter rose up out of Marka Air Force Base, and the view of Amman began to unfold before our eyes, my fear turned to fascination and excitement. The bird’s eye view, whether of a modern city or an archaeological site, gives a unique perspective on the connexion between the various different elements that together make up those larger networks we usually only ever see from ground level.

View of Amman © APAAME_20141028_TPH-0004

Trying to espy a site from above and then photograph it was a very rewarding experience. Undertaking the flight only increased the respect I have for the dedication David Kennedy and Robert Bewley have for recording as much of Jordan’s immense and varied archaeological treasures as they have thus far been able. No doubt this respect and gratitude is a sentiment that future generations, especially Jordanians, will share.

Of the sites we photographed two were particularly memorable for me – the recently spotted, possibly Roman, quarry with columns, under threat of being consumed by the adjacent modern quarry and Qasr el-Maduna, an imposing desert castle.

Sahab Quarry © APAAME_20141028_TPH-0010

Qasr el-Maduna © APAAME_20141028_TPH-0069

While much work goes on behind the scenes, including cataloguing photos and making them available through our Flickr page, I have also had time for a visit to Gerasa (Jerash), Azraq Oasis, and, this morning, a ground visit to an endangered Roman town, Yajuz, just outside of Amman – this is one example, yet certainly much of Jordan’s heritage is under threat. 

I have thoroughly enjoyed joining the team in Jordan, my time in Amman has been made pleasurable and stress-free thanks to the support of APAAME, the BIA (British Institute in Amman) and the Jordanians I have had the pleasure to meet with, all of whom are wonderful ambassadors for their country – much good could come of tourism to Jordan’s remarkable historical sites. As Jordan faces various challenges, hopefully the opportunities to preserve (and market) its heritage are not lost.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Flight 20141028: Endangered Archaeology – Yajuz

Yajuz in 1998. © APAAME_19980517_DLK-0031.
Yajuz is a small town of the Roman period lying about 10 km (sld) from the centre of Roman Philadelphia (Amman). Excavation has revealed three churches with mosaic pavements, several major residential buildings, an area with major wine presses and a large tomb nearby. The full extent is unclear but is probably 15-20 hectares. A major settlement in the hinterland of Philadelphia, probably one of several but unusual in that it has not been overlain by the expansion of Amman.

The Roman highway from Philadelphia to Gerasa (Jarash) passes by its eastern fringe (Blue). The road has been well-known for over a century and numerous milestones have been recorded. The first stage of about 10 Roman miles is now hard to trace amongst the rapid recent sprawl of Amman and many of the milestones have been broken up, buried or pushed away by development. Yajuz itself seemed safe, protected by its status as a site excavated extensively over many years and marked by boards set up by the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.
Google Earth screen capture of Yajuz site with areas of interest indicated.
In the last decade that status has come under threat as massive new housing projects have sprung up all around, major highways have sliced past making it an attractive commuter suburb and the price of land has continued to soar. APAAME’s flying programme – Aerial Archaeology in Jordan, has regularly monitored the site, a task made easier by its proximity to a regular route for us returning to the airfield at Marka. In 2010 we singled the site out as a place that deserved special protection and development as a tourist destination (Kennedy and Bewley 2010: 199-201).
New Apartment blocks at 'A'. © APAAME_20141029_DLK-0503.
Houses at SE corner of Yajuz at 'B'. © APAAME_20130414_RHB-0468.

It is clear the site is being slowly but steadily eaten away by development. The blue-roofed building which had already intruded into the site over a decade ago has now – since April 2013, been joined by a two large blocks of apartments (A). At the southeast corner two houses were cut into the site several years ago (B). Now another house is being constructed cutting into the north edge (C).

House in North of site at 'C'. © APAAME_20141029_DLK-0512.
Unless steps are taken immediately, Yajuz will join the catalogue of other small towns around Philadelphia, still notable ruins in the 19th and early 20th century which are now largely lost. 

- David Kennedy

Kennedy & Bewley (2010) 'Archives and Aerial Imagery in Jordan', in Cowley, Standring and Abicht (Eds) Landscapes through the Lens, Oxford: 193-206.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Filming in Azraq

Friday 24th October. Up before sunrise, left Amman with a film crew and headed east to Azraq.

David Kennedy on the Umayyad reservoir wall - Azraq Wetland Reserve.
The day began with some shooting at Azraq Wetland Reserve. While there we took the opportunity to photograph the Umayyad reservoir wall. Sadly the oasis has greatly diminished in size in the last twenty years. Despite the Water authority pumping 1.5 to 2.5 million cubic metres of water into the wetlands each year, it is not enough to replenish the excessive pumping of water out of the oasis and, sadly, it is still shrinking in size.

Filming at Azraq Wheel 82
From there we headed out into the basalt desert to visit a Wheel and a Kite. We drove as far as the 4WD could take us across the mudflats, from there a somewhat arduous trek across the volcanic rocks to the site of interest. Even in this rather remote location we saw signs of recent looting – a bucket and pick axe inside the Wheel!

Looter's tools - Azraq Wheel 82
As one can see from the ground photo above, these stone structures don’t look very impressive, if they are noticed at all, when on foot. However, when seen from above, through aerial photography or satellite imagery, a very different picture emerges.
Azraq Wheel Group B. © APAAME_19970527_DLK-0157
Azraq Kite 81, Wheels 191, 192, 193. ©APAAME_20120522_DLK-0589
Returning to the Azraq Lodge (converted former British military hospital) in the evening for some final recording before heading back to Amman for a well earned dinner. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Flights 20141012-13 - Blink and you will miss it

One of the main aims of the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan Project is to photographically record archaeology in Jordan – a record through which it can be monitored.

This year has provided some highs and lows.

Reconstruction work has occurred at Qasr el-Mshatta near Queen Alia International Airport.
Qasr el-Mshatta
Qasr el-Mshatta in 1998. © APAAME_19980513_RHB-0054.
Qasr el-Mshatta
Qasr el-Mshatta in 2014. © APAAME_20141013_RHB-0012.

A possible Roman column quarry has somehow survived (so far) amongst a massive modern limestone quarry – and a ground visit found another quarry site on an adjacent hill. But how long will they survive the expanding modern quarry?

Sahab Quarry 1
Quarry. © APAAME_20141013_RHB-0467.
Two of the original columns of Machaerus have been restored and inaccurate representations removed.
Machaerus in 2006. © APAAME_20060910_DLK-0005.
Machaerus in 2014. © APAAME_20141013_MND-0086.
The building of a pilgrim hotel has destroyed one of the Roman siege camps (Roman Camp P) surrounding the site of Machaerus. The location no doubt was chosen for its excellent view over the ancient site. It is likely that very reason had once made it the ideal location from which the commander of the Roman siege forces possibly directed his assault.

 Machaerus in 1998. The faint trace of Roman Camp P can be seen on the peak in middle ground right. © APAAME_19980517_RHB-0071.
Pilgrim Hotel in foreground of Machaerus in 2014. © APAAME_20141013_RHB-0032.
Necropoli have been the target of looters since Antiquity, but modern looting is also evident – individual shafts at Khirbet Ain, honeycombing of hillsides at Pella and the systematic looting of Dead Sea sites Fifi, Al-Nage’a and Bab edh-Dhra.

Kh Ain Cemetery
Looting shafts at Khirbet Ain. © APAAME_20141012_REB-0235.
Looting shafts in the hillsides around Pella. © APAAME_20141012_MND-0384.
Fifi Cemetery
Systematic looting of Fifi. © APAAME_20141013_REB-0277.