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!

Our old squadron, 8 Squadron (السرب الثامن) which flew the Hueys and with whom we have shared many fantastic years of flying has moved on too. We now are the passengers of 14 Squadron (السرب الرابع عشر) and their Eurocopter 635. The Eurocopter is a smaller but twin-engined aircraft but only two photographers can now attend any flight. This limits the ability to have a person acting purely in the role of 'spotter' as the others handle the navigation and communication with the pilots. The aircraft is primarily for transport, so the large and comfortable backward facing seats are removed. This gives room to allow us to sit on the floor facing out the door, legs braced against the landing skid, while our trusty crew member makes sure our body harnesses keep us safe and strapped into the aircraft. The speed, comfort, stability and quiet however are far superior to the Huey. The crewmen may beg to differ I am sure as on two occasions they have suffered airsickness from the constant circling required for us to photograph our target sites! I am sure you are all wondering why we do not upgrade to a Blackhawk, but it is probably too much of a beast for our aerial reconnaissance and burns through the fuel to match!
Photograph distribution of Aerial Archaeology in Jordan May 2016 flights. Imagery: Google Earth.
The other challenge for us this season was the unseasonably late spring that saw cloud interrupting two of our three flights. Cloud can be a problem for two main reasons - the first is visibility, both in terms of sites but also safety of navigation, and the second is the quality of the resulting images for analysis. Our first flight to the north suffered from very 'flat' light at first, then the last leg of the scheduled flight was abandoned altogether as the cloud lifted but did not clear causing harsh contrasts between sun and shade, and making photographing sites well all but impossible. The third flight had the majority of scheduled sites abandoned due to low cloud that made reconnaissance simply unsafe. These were over the Kerak plateau and into the Dead Sea valley where we were hoping to fly sites that had been requested and under current investigation by colleagues, but these will have to be left for September when we hope the skies will be clearer.
Tell Khirbet Um al-Ghozlan
Poor light at Khirbet Um al-Ghozlan obscures the site. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160523_RHB-0417. 

This season was once again, however, successful as the archaeology of Jordan never ceases to amaze. We completed 13.34 hours of flying, over three separate days, taking just over 2700 photographs of 487 features. We covered areas in the north, east and central areas of Jordan. Our reconnaissance team included Robert Bewley, Andrea Zerbini and Rebecca Banks. You can find the 2016 photographs on our Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/apaame/collections/72157666359145684/Some choice examples from each of the flights are below.

Khirbat al-Dawayr
The excavated site of Khirbat al-Dawayr. Photographer: Andrea Zerbini. APAAME_20160523_AZ-0105. 

Deir Abu Said Ruin 13
As yet unidentified (by us) site near Pella. Photographer: Andrea Zerbini. APAAME_20160523_AZ-0170.
Azraq Enclosure 6; Azraq Wheel 290; Azraq Wheel 291; Azraq Wheel 292; Azraq Wheel 293
A linear arrangement of enclosures, or wheels, near Azraq. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160526_RHB-0065

Rajil Pendant 42
A pendant partially excavated. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160526_RHB-0254.

Ausaji Enclosures 6; Ausaji Enclosures 7; Ausaji Enclosures 8; Ausaji Wheel? 311; Ausaji Wall 31
Clusters of sites along a wadi in the Badia. Photographer: Rebecca Banks. APAAME_20160526_REB-0466

Aina Ruin 23
A well-preserved possibly Nabataean site. Photographer: Andrea Zerbini. APAAME_20160529_AZ-0082.
Ruweihi (= WHS 674); Aina Cemetery 1 (WHS 580))
The site of Ruweihi along the Wadi el-Hasa. Unfortunately looting is occurring in the vicinity of the site. Photographer: Andrea Zerbini. APAAME_20160529_AZ-0111.

Mutarammil Cave 2 (Limes Arabicus 315?); Mutarammil Temporary Camp 2 (Limes Arabicus 316); Quarry/Reservoir (W. Muqta'a (Limes Arabicus 315-316)
A quarry, first surveyed in the Limes Arabicus Project (LA-315-316), that was possibly used as a reservoir. Photographer: Andrea Zerbini. APAAME_20160529_AZ-0172.

Rabba Cisterns? 1 (and basalt element)
If you look closely in this image, you can see a large basalt stone, possibly used once in an olive press or for another agricultural process. Photographer: Andrea Zerbini. APAAME_20160529_AZ-0066.

Unfortunately each flight also captured damage to archaeology. This is something the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa project, with whom we work, is particularly interested in documenting. Some examples of site damage from this season are below.

Hammeh Cemetery
Old looting at the cemetery of Hammeh. Photographer: Andrea Zerbini. APAAME_20160523_AZ-0160.
Deir el-Asal; Deir Abu Said Trenches 5
The site of Deir el-Asal surrounded by later military trenches. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160523_RHB-0257.
Beit Eedis (Duweir)
Olive grove over the site of Beit Eedis (Duweir). Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160523_RHB-0245

Rujm Mudawar
Possible stone robbing, looting and impact from tracks on the road tower Rujm Mudawar. Photographer: Rebecca Banks. APAAME_20160526_REB-0083.
Harrah Uweinid Azraq Bypass; Amra Wheel 65; Amra Camp 15 (Destroyed); Amra Camp 16
The Azraq by-pass cutting through the Harrah Uweinid. Photographer: Rebecca Banks. APAAME_20160526_REB-0159. 
Qasr el-Bint and Reservoir, Jurf ed-Darawish
The almost erased site of Qasr el-Bint (faint rectangular feature in lower right of photograph) at Jurf ed-Darawish. The site has most probably suffered from stone robbing, possibly in the building of the nearby village. Photographer: Andrea Zerbini. Reference: APAAME_20160529_AZ-0092.
During this visit we had an amazing response from many teams working in Jordan, both in person at the International Conference on the History and Archaeology of Jordan (ICHAJ) and through personal communication. These colleagues alert us to the sites we do not know about or that have changed and need revisiting. This season, both short and interrupted by the weather, was not able to fulfil all the requests for imagery, but we look forward to returning in September. This will enable us to continue to contribute to the many investigations occurring in Jordan by international and local teams. It is a pleasure to be involved in helping to record the varied archaeology and heritage of Jordan. As always, thanks to the Royal Jordanian Air Force for their hospitality and superior skill in the sky that allows us to continue.

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.
A different crew, our third, and we were airborne by 0705 but the clouds were not looking promising; we did targets around Madaba recording a section of the ancient city about to be sheltered as part of the Archaeological Park and pressed on – with occasional glimpses and one or two superb hilltop sites. However as the land rose there was no distance between it, us and the clouds – so we headed out of the clouds to the east. We had scheduled several sites on the Kerak Plateau and in the Jordan Valley, but these had to be left for September.
Hill top site of Jabal er-Ras. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160529_RHB-0088.
Hoping for a quick refuel, we reviewed the potential targets and decided to stay east where visibility was good, but there was a problem with the fuel bowser, so we decided a comfort break was a good idea – even went up the control tower, another first. The delay ended up being short and we managed to do all the scheduled sites in the Al-Hasa and Qatrana area looking at sites reported in the Limes Arabicus Survey.
Qasr Bshir. The inscription is located above the gate. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160529_RHB-0323
We also flew over Qasr Bshir – a first for Andrea and always a pleasure to see, especially when the light is good. I mentioned taking a view of the site in its landscape and the pilot said “you want to land?” and before waiting for answer we were down at tower height, and almost able to read the inscription above the main gate. Great site, though there are serious concerns about the stability of the walls and towers from cracking and masonry tumbles. If ever there is “endangered archaeology” this is it – not from any particular force or agent – just age and lack of maintenance. This is a site of very special importance in terms of its preservation, one of very few in the Roman Empire with such unique upstanding preservation. A tower to the north of the fort, Limes Arabicus Survey site 102, has been completely obliterated by stone robbing and possibly looting.
Ariha Tower 23
The tower (Ariha Tower 23/Limes Arabicus site 102) in 2009. Photographer: Michael Neville. APAAME_20090930_MJN-458.
The tower, now obliterated, in 2016. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160529_RHB-0325.
Our last site of the day was Rujm esh-Shid, a site photographed in Sir Aurel Stein’s 'Limes' Survey and located and flown just last year. Since then, however, the area has been heavily sampled for Uranium (see article: http://www.mdpi.com/2075-163X/5/2/133), and so it was important to photograph the site again to monitor impact. Unfortunately, this site is in an ever-worsening state and without intervention or proper investigation it will surely be lost.
The site of Rujm esh-Shid in foreground with the pits from Uranium sampling in the background. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160529_RHB-0358.
After seeing this site we headed back to Amman, unfortunately leaving the remaining scheduled sites in the west for another day with better flying conditions.

Overall, this short season has had three fascinating flights over a ten day period, 13.2 hours and a few thousand photographs, recording new material and a fast changing landscape. It is a privilege to be allowed to undertake such work and in the knowledge and expectation it will, one day, make a difference.

Bob Bewley

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.

A pendant showing damage from tracks associated with the building of the Azraq by-pass over the Harrat al-'Uwaynid. Photographer: Rebecca Banks. APAAME_20160526_REB-0176.
There are archaeological teams from America, Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Jordan and Italy working in the basalt region in cooperation with the Department of Antiquities. These numerous teams are giving us a better insight into the date and function of many of the sites, and the migrating patterns of important species such as the gazelle. Results from all of these were being presented and discussed at the ICHAJ13, some of which we had to miss because of the flying. It is a pity more were not approached for a one-off collective “rescue archaeology” project, but unfortunately it sounds like the Department of Antiquities were brought into survey the site after the ink had dried on the plans. Better integration between infrastructure development planning and archaeological survey and the respective responsible departments is a must if this is not to be repeated in the future, which is something we are trying to achieve with the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa Project.

However our reconnaissance is part of the investigations. We assist a number of projects and it is only by the use of the helicopter that we can cover so much ground – from Azraq to Ruweishid and then back to the Wisad and Qattafi areas. Fortunately we have surveyed Harrat al-Uwaynid in the past and those photographs of sites provide somewhat of a legacy for future knowledge.

One of the excavated sites of the Jebel Qurma Project. Photographer: Rebecca Banks. APAAME_20160526_REB-0301.
From Harrat al-Uwaynid we progressed to the Jebel Qurma where Professor Akkermans’ team have been investigating the numerous sites, then onto the main section of the Harret al-Shaam where two projects, the Northern Badia Project under Bernd Müller-Neuhof and the Eastern Badia Project with Prof. Gary Rollefson are working. It was a long day, and much warmer than the first flight, with many targets close together and much orbiting – which all contributed to the demise of the “crew man” who was not well, on three separate occasions during the flight. I wondered about curtailing the mission but every time we landed and re-fuelled he seemed fine and happy to continue.

The green bed of a wadi system near the Bakhita area. Photograph: Rebecca Banks. APAAME_20160526_REB-0584.
The black basalt desert is one of the most striking and unique landscapes anywhere in the world and never ceases to impress; this year it was the light greenery in the some of the wadis providing a context for the archaeological sites and a welcome relief from the blackness.

Bakhita enclosures site around a water catchment area. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160526_RHB-0635. 
Highlights included dense structure activity grouped around water catchment areas – still holding water with the late Spring weather Jordan has been experiencing. One such area we had named as “Bakhita enclosures” – a natural depression (still with some water in it) surrounded by a variety of stone enclosures –of an unusual form, and with stone walls leading into the pool, perhaps part of a water catchment system? The enclosures may be remains of settlements or occupation evidence of the people, many thousands of years ago, who had found a perfect location for seasonal living.

Chain Wall site. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160526_RHB-0479.
Not all the sites are untouched and we saw many instances of the random use of the bulldozer, dissecting sites for no apparent reason, as not all the bulldozed tracks become roads. We did see good examples of the “chain-walls”, small stone built structures all linked together and forming an enclosed area, but for what purpose and by whom we have, as yet no idea.

Stein's site 'al-Qseir Ghadir'. Photographer: Rebecca Banks. APAAME_20160526_REB-0485.
One of the places we flew was originally photographed by Sir Aurel Stein in his reconnaissance of Transjordan in 1939. Becc has digitized these images (in cooperation with the British Academy) and this site, Al Qseir Ghadir, she was able to locate and schedule into our reconnaissance. Stein had visited on the ground but found no surface material to date it, likewise a more recent visit by colleague Bernd Müller-Neuhof, who considers it could be Early Bronze Age. It is interesting to see the change – some 77 years later. Becc presented the site along with other ‘forgotten’ sites from Stein’s aerial survey at the ICHAJ conference. It is evident stone robbing has occurred to build a corral nearby, and the built structures seem to have been damaged and reduced to incoherent rubble, but the outline of the water catchment area is still intact.

Rebecca Banks in action in the Eurocopter. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160526_RHB-0543.
It is always fun to take a “few “action shots” showing what it is like undertaking the photography and we were able to do so, too on this flight. We certainly had put the pilots through their paces (and the poor crew man), and after almost 6 hours we were ready for a break, so we finished the day with a quick final re-fuel at Azraq before the final leg to Marka in the relative comfort of a seat in the Eurocopter.

- Rebecca Banks and Robert Bewley.

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).

With 3 of its seats taken out the two of us were able to sit side-by-side at the open door, with similar panoramas as the Huey, but a quieter, smoother ride. Sadly the weather was not great; cloudy and cold and we were heading north, so less likely for a clearance in the weather. However we photographed most of the targets, only missing the last sector because of the cloud. We were with a new squadron, so the pilots were also new to our work, but they (as ever) provided us with top-notch flying. The internal communication system also is an improvement on the intermittent service we used to get; this makes the “strike rate” of targets photographed per hour much better as we can communicate the move to every new location clearly (and the EC is also faster, having two engines – so safer too).

The flight started in the region of Jarash photographing structures identified by PhD candidate Don Boyer for the Jarash Water Project, and also to catch a glimpse of the East Baths that are currently being excavated by a French-German Mission with the Department of Antiquities and recently yielded this magnificent statue. The flight then progressed over the Ajlun highlands to focus on wadi systems that empty west into the Jordan Valley. This fertile region saw settlement over millennia and the concentration of sites, such as tells and low level ruins, was vast. Many sites were previously unphotographed, while others we monitored to assess change over time, such as at Pella/Tabaqat Fahl. Unfortunately, a few sites showed evidence of looting.

Hammeh Cemetery
The looted cemetery at Hammeh. Photographer: Robert Bewley. APAAME_20160523_RHB-0216.
The discovery of sites which have not been previously recorded also gives us the desire to carry on; we spotted a site in passing and photographed it. Becc tells us it is not in MEGA-J, and a reasonably substantial site, rectilinear stone structures, in a prominent location. One for further investigation and adding to the EAMENA and MEGA-J databases.

Deir Abu Said Ruin 13
Unidentified site near Pella. Photographer: Andrea Zerbini. APAAME_20160523_AZ-0170.
We were in time to return to the conference, where the (royal) opening ceremony had just taken place and everyone was milling about having coffee. This gave the opportunity for many of the participants to thank us for the use of the aerial images from the APAAME website, and responding to their specific request for new imagery. Knowing the material is being used and is making a contribution to archaeological research gives us the stimulus and motivation to continue. One colleague said our images were able to “stop traffic”, a reference to people seeing an aerial photo on his screen as they were passing by his office, and would stop to ask what they were looking at.

Bob Bewley

You can find the images from Flight 1 on our Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/apaame/albums/72157668878686805

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.

As may be seen on Google Earth (https://goo.gl/maps/EtATHBHTrdN2) and the superior imagery on Bing (http://binged.it/1DKqghT), amidst the houses the site consists of an area of high ground with traces of:
  • buried structures,
  • the openings of cisterns,
  • the foundations of a large masonry building extending eastwards
  • a further significant structure to the west.
The remains cover an area of about 10 ha though much of it was probably open ground between a scatter of structures and occupied by cisterns. Several recent cemeteries are scattered around the village. The major modern structure recorded by Glueck and Savignac is on the south side, marked as ‘Summit’ (Fig. 2).

This modern building (Summit) seen by Savignac and Glueck was built from re-used masonry and included a significant fragment of anthropomorphic sculpture and a substantial architectural piece (Fig. 1). As it was on a ‘sommet’, it may well be overlying an earlier structure (Fig. 3). More significant is the substantial building on the eastern end of the site (B) not reported by either early traveller (Figs 2 and 3). It is c. 25 x 15 m and oriented east-west. As seen from the air in 2010 and 2015, it has been robbed to a low level but the form is clear. There are at least two other places where traces of walls can be seen in this East Range (Fig. 7). West of the ‘Summit’ a further structure seems hinted at by a rectangular outline (C) (Fig. 6).

The sculpture was identified as Nabataean and there was Nabataean pottery on the site. Such an object implies a religious structure of some kind and more than a simple shrine. Glueck thought the architectural lintel he illustrated might be Byzantine – though he compared it to one he had seen at Umm el-Walid which is largely Umayyad.

Figure 1: Relief sculpture and lintel seen on the site in the 1930s by both Savignac and Glueck (1934: 38 Fig. 16)
The 1953 vertical survey aerial photographs show just one modern building there at that date and otherwise allow the broad outline of disturbance to be defined but without specific detail.

The satellite imagery indicates where structures lie but are recent (since the modern village expanded), are inadequate for detail but offer a useful photomap (cf. Fig.2).

Figure 2: Kh. el-Musheirfeh on Google Earth. Red outlines the overall area within which structures are located. Blue is a range of buildings, traces of building and probable cisterns. Other features noted are treated in subsequent figures (below) (Click to enlarge figure).

More importantly, there are 54 low-level oblique aerial photographs of the site in the APAAME collection from April 2010 and October 2015. Between them they reveal the presence of two substantial masonry buildings (A and C) which can be located and their form established, at least one more possible building (B), structures with re-used masonry (e.g. ‘Enclosure’) and the location of several cisterns (‘East Range’).

Summit’ and Enclosure (Fig. 3). This area of high ground is the probable location of what Savignac called the ‘sommet’ and where he and Glueck saw the architectural piece and the statue fragment. Today it is used as a small cemetery and the eastern half appears to have been quarried away. The enclosure on the west (bottom) seems to be formed from re-used masonry and arranged as a double face all of it surrounding a significant depression. The latter may be a dry reservoir, the ‘Bir Akial Awad’ recorded there on the 1:50,000 map.

Figure 3: Kh. el-Musheirfeh Summit and Enclosure (APAAME_20151005_REB-0008).
Building A (Fig. 4). A rectangular building located on the west side of the modern village. Approximate dimensions: 30 x 20 m. A square room is visible in the northeast corner (bottom left).

Figure 4: Kh. el-Musheirfeh Building A (APAAME_20151005_REB-0012(Cropped).
Building C (Fig. 5). Located at the eastern end of the East Range. It is the best-preserved of the various structures, with substantial walls with faced masonry inside and out and several rooms visible. The curving wall on the left may be part of an apse but the internal arrangements of the walls do not seem suited to a church. Overall dimensions are c. 35 x 20 m. Stones used in the modern graves are probably taken from this building.

Figure 5: Kh. el-Musheirfeh Building C (APAAME_20151005_MND-0031(Cropped).
Building B (Fig. 6). Located just west of Building C. It appears as an almost square structure incorporating a cavern on the right (north). It is c. 20 x 20 m.

Figure 6: Kh. el-Musheirfeh Building C (APAAME_20151005_REB-0014 (Cropped)).
East Range (Fig. 7). In addition to Buildings B (right) and C (centre), there are traces of other foundations including in the courtyards of the modern houses at the west end of the range. Depressions and caverns may be collapsed cisterns.

Figure 7: Kh. el-Musheirfeh East Range (APAAME_20151005_DLK-0013(Cropped)).

Conclusion
The MEGA-J entries for Musheirfeh are defective and limited in usefulness. At an elementary level – as with all MEGA-J entries, it would be immensely useful if references provided precise page numbers rather than just – for example, Savignac 1936. Many entries are taken over unchecked from JADIS and contain errors or errors are introduced in the transfer. Many entries would benefit from a reminder - and a specific link, that there may be aerial photographs available in the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East (APAAME).

– David Kennedy

APAAME (https://www.flickr.com/photos/apaame/collections).
Glueck, N. (1934) Explorations in Eastern Palestine, I, New Haven (AASOR XIV [1933-1934]: 1-113 at 37-8 (Site 95) and Fig. 16.
Savignac, R. (1936) “Chronique: Sur les pistes de Transjordanie méridionale”, RB45: 235-263 + Plates VII –XII at 242-3 and Pl. VIII.1.

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!