Saturday, 27 April 2013


We started a YouTube account for APAAME to share a few 123DCatch 3D reconstructions Mat Dalton had experimented with back in 2012: APAAMEvideo.

We have since started taking video footage along side still photography during our flights, and last week I uploaded a taster of footage of Qasr el-Uweinid, and most recently, one of Qasr Aseikhim. These are a test release of what shall be a channel for footage that has been taken by the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan Project. Due to issues with internet connection in Amman, we have not been able to upload the videos in as high a quality as we would like - please watch this space for new uploads!

Depending on how many hands are free, we use a GoPro borrowed from a colleague at the University of Western Australia, and a Canon XA10 Video Camera. Due to space and convenience in the helicopter, both are hand held. Fortunately, the vibrations of the helicopter do not come through into the footage too much. As we become more familiar with the editing tools available to us, we should be able to make the footage appear smoother. At the moment, the noise and vibrations should give you a real experience of what it is like in the Royal Jordanian Air Force's Hueys!

One of the advantages to video footage and 3D reconstructions in addition to still photography is having a vehicle to communicate depth and landscape, which is sometimes lost in the still photographs, especially when viewed in isolation. We hope you find the footage interesting and enjoyable.

Flight 20130418 - Modern traces in an ancient lanscape

Bedouin tents near Azraq. The outline left by a tent (centre) is a common site when flying over the Panhandle of Jordan ©APAAME_20130418_MND-0189.
Flying over the Basalt Desert in the Jordanian Panhandle with its profuse scattering of ancient stone structures of Kites, Pendants, Wheels and others it is often easy to forget that this stark landscape is still traversed and used by modern Bedouin. During our last flight, we saw some tangible evidence of this - with what appear to be modern structures built alongside the old.
Bedouin Mosque - the outline of a mosque is created using the basalt stones in a cleared area. It is identifiable as a mosque due to the addition of a 'mirhab' (centre of photo - click to enlarge) © APAAME_20130418_MND-0324.
Modern? 'graves' side by side located next to a wheel (see below). © APAAME_20130418_MND-0551.
Ausaji Wheel 231 with 'graves' visible to the right of picture © APAAME_20130418_MND-0552.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Field Trip 19 April 2013 - Flying follow up

Salvaged columns on display at Umm el-Qundun.
Friday again and after our two flights this week it was time for some terrestrial visits. The main purpose was to follow up on two sites recorded from the air last Sunday and to check on another which we have been monitoring (and will report on in the next Blog).

Umm el-Qundun lies on a hilltop 13 km SSE of the centre of Roman Philadelphia (Amman). The region all around is fertile red soils and intensely farmed today – all along the roadsides farmers have set up boxes of their freshly harvested tomatoes, beans, melons etc. When we flew over the site on Sunday Mat photographed a large house on the hilltop in which he had spotted what looked like parts of columns lined up along a verandah. Zooming in on the photos in the Institute later that day confirmed they seemed to be parts of ancient columns.

Qundum was our first port of call this morning and easily found. It is a delightful house, seemingly unattended except by some loud (and, happily) enclosed dogs in the courtyard. The walls are largely constructed from what look like re-used squared blocks of ancient stonework – presumably recycled from some nearby ancient site. What caught our attention, however, was first the row of broken columns we had come to see (columns rather than milestone drums as I had hoped might be the case) then all the other pieces of architectural decoration: a few column capitals, piece of architrave, some finely carved pieces. Round the corner was the covered mouth of an ancient cistern and a rebuilt second cistern with a plaque recording it had been done by ‘The Messengers of Peace NGO’ and financed by ‘OME World Organization for Education’ of Geneva.

Of course the place is ‘known’ – a German survey had recorded material there as had a later team of the Madaba Plains Project. They noted the architectural pieces (without illustrating any) but supplied the detail that the farm belonged to Mamdou Bisharat and the pieces had been collected from the vicinity. As it happens I had met Mamdou – a very courtly gentleman, some years ago at drinks in his Amman home then subsequently swum in his delightful natural hot springs farm beside the R. Yarmuk just north of Umm Qeis (Gadara) and near where the Roman thermal spring site lay (now in Israel across the river). Both his town and Umm Qeis houses are festooned with pieces of ancient architecture and sculpture (whose provenance he has reported to the DoA).
Roman road on the outskirts of Hanafish. © APAAME_20130414_DLK-0075.
While searching for a possible stretch of Roman road a few kilometres southwest on the southern outskirts of Hanafish we visited the remains of a (Roman?) farm on the hilltop south of the modern town and the extensive traces of monumental tombs, rock-cut graves and cisterns. The ‘road’ turned out to be a phantom, but on our flight the keen eye of Bob Bewley spotted a genuine Roman road cutting the phantom at right angles. It showed from the air as a stretch of apparent kerbing. On the ground it was even more convincing. If the alignment is extended it picks up stretches of modern road and track to the south-southwest which point very closely to the small Roman town of Ziza (modern Jiza), famous for its huge ancient reservoir and, now following excavation, a church. It also figures in the Roman document called the Notitia Dignitatum – a battle order for the entire army, empire-wide, c. AD 400, which records: Equites Dalmat[ae] Illyriciani, Ziza (The Dalmatian Illyrian Cavalry, at Ziza). Such a road is not unlikely but this seems to be the first hard evidence for it.

Roman road near Hanafish at ground level.
All photographs taken by the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan Project are uploaded to the APAAME Flickr site after cataloging. Follow us on Twitter at @APAAME for updates.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Flight 20130414, Field Trip 20130416 - al-Muwaqqar

Cropped section of RAF Topographical photograph dated 14 September, 1948 showing Al-Muwaqqar before the modern village was built.
Looking at the site of Al-Muwaqqar on historical RAF photographs from the 1940s, we were puzzled by a rectangular dark shape that resembled the outline of a small reservoir, south east of the known desert castle and south-west of the known large reservoir. Overlaying the photograph in Google Earth allowed us to pin point a GPS coordinate to investigate from the air, which was done on our second flight of the season - 14 April, 2013.
Aerial photograph taken 14 April 2013 with features indicated. © APAAME_20130414_DLK-0013
During our flight we thought we did not find the site, suspecting it had since been built over or buried by time. We did see exposed walls and mosaics of a recently excavated site - possibly a mansion or bath building, which we did photograph (Mega-J 58371 'Mwaqer Mosaic House'). Upon a closer look at the photographs post flight, a large wall to the west of the 'mansion' was clearly evident. We had indeed found the site we were looking for - but was it a reservoir wall?
Exposed section of 'reservoir' wall. © APAAMEG_20130416_MND-0013.
'Mansion'? © APAAMEG_20130416_MND-0016.
A quick ride in the car east of Amman on the road towards Azraq enabled us to follow up what we had photographed. Indeed, the wall west of the 'mansion' was substantial, moreover, the possible evidence of waterproofing with cement was apparent - though ancient or modern we do not know. An associated double wall was just evident on the surface running off diagonally from the south-western corner of the structure to the north-west. The eastern extent of the reservoir was not readily apparent. The section of excavated 'mansion' next to it had a beautifully paved floor, at least three mosaics (one almost complete), and evidence of at least two building events - one with large square stone paving blocks, a later one of tile and mortar. The whole site unfortunately was being impacted by construction waste being dumped in the area, and was cut by a road, drain and the construction of a neighbouring house.
Aerial photographs taken by the AAJ in 1998 and 2008 (Click to enlarge).
We also visited Qasr al-Muwaqqar, an Umayyad Desert Castle now overlain by the modern town. This site had also been much impacted by modern use; new concrete houses have encroached on this site, and some of the vaulted rooms appear to have been converted into early modern houses (complete with traditional reed and mud roofs), much like what has occurred as Qasr Azraq. These houses are now used as livestock pens by local residents. Rubbish is also dumped on the site. Sandstone columns and a regularly paved floor attested to the Qasr's former glory. The numerous ornate column capitals from the site have long-since been removed, as has the stone water-gauge.
Goat pens at Qasr al-Muwaqqar.
© APAAMEG_20130416_DLK-0052.
Paving Qasr al-Muwaqqar.
© APAAMEG_20130416_REB-0026.

The large reservoir of el-Muwaqqar is visible from the road. The site has been restored and is functional - still half full from the season's rains.
Large reservoir at Al-Muwaqqar. © APAAMEG_20130416_DLK-0058.
All photographs from the flight and ground visit will be available on Flickr shortly. Follow us at @APAAME on twitter for updates.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Flight 20130414 - Finding El-Mushaggar

El-Mushaggar. © APAAME_20130414_DLK-0191.
We took pictures of this village because there were old reports it had once had archaeological remains. All we could see was this roofless relatively modern building in the middle of the current cemetery. But if you zoom in on the doorway you see it consists of two reused ancient columns with some column stumps in the wall nearby.
Close up of the re-used columns.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Field trip 20130412 - Towards Tuba

Qasr et-Tuba. © APAAMEG_20130412_REB-0061.
Our first field trip of the season! It was a short jaunt down the Desert HWY on a beautiful moderate day to visit the sites of Khan es-Zabib, Qasr et-Tuba and some World War One trenches located next to the Hijaz Railway.

Something we found quite amusing was that for the more major sites of Khan es-Zabib and Qasr et-Tuba there were signs, but only at the preliminary turn off from the Desert HWY, and only if you were traveling north to Amman. In the case of Qasr et-Tuba, the sign was of little help as you have to turn off the road to a dirt track and drive a further 2 km or so - none of which is conveniently sign posted or easy to spot from the road.
A gouge taken out of the outer rooms of Khan es-Zabib. © APAAMEG_20130412_RHB-0005
Nonetheless, we made it to all sites. Khan es-Zabib is a Caravanserai located along the Hajj route to Mecca. Today, it is conveniently located right next to a road and well visible, some walls still standing well over a metre high. The Department of Antiquities have excavated the site and the clean backfilling of the surface of the site is evident by the lack of sherds of pottery lying around. There has been some interesting incursions into the site however with two gouging scoop marks clearly evident in the north and west outer rows of rooms, and numerous excavated holes over the site, one of which revealed sections of crude wall plastering. Walk further to the east, past the excavated church (only foundations) and the amount of surface pottery markedly increases, and some traces of walls are just evident on the surface. There is also a cistern in use. The site clearly is larger than the excavated Khan and Church areas and may warrant further investigation.
Cistern? near Khan es-Zabib. © APAAMEG_20130412_MND-0029.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Flight 20130409 – “The Longest day”

Bronze Age city of Jawa. © APAAME_20130409_DLK-0022.
Our first flying day of the 2013 season started well, with the No 8 Squadron Hueys back in action. We began our day with take off at 0710, headed east and successfully located the ancient (Bronze Age) city of Jawa, to record some recent activity there. Then it was on to a number of stunning locations in the black basalt desert.

However the story of the day was not what we achieved in the air, but what we didn’t achieve, as we were grounded for so long. Flying in the far east of the country requires re-fuelling at Ruweishid airbase, where the RJAF arrange for a fuel bowser to be there for us.

Dr Bernd Mueller-Neuhof relaxing before the day's flying.
After the first two-hour flight we re-fuelled without incident, and had another great flight recording a landscape of prehistoric flint mines. We were accompanied by Dr Bernd Müller-Neuhof, who has been surveying these on the ground. He pointed out the mines' exact locations– very useful as the outcrops looked rather geological to our untrained eyes. They are in fact one (of only two) very important sources of flint in the 4th millennium BC for the entire region.

On our return to Ruweishid to re-fuel again, a transport plane was on the runway (a C130, or Hercules). On disembarking there was more than the usual greeting party - how many people does it take to re-fuel an aircraft? On the first re-fuelling I counted 9; by now there was a dozen or more. There was animated discussion, all in Arabic, slightly away from the Huey, so I knew that something had changed. I wandered off to find a toilet and on returning found that the ‘animated party’ had departed, along with the pilot and David Kennedy. We were taken to the base commander’s office, where the animated party’s discussion continued. Coffee (strong local brew) and then some tea was served.

C130 at Ruweishid AFB.
Eventually it was explained to us that “our” bowser had taken on some contaminated fuel. The C-130 had been going to re-fuel (using “our” bowser) but to do so the bowser would have had to take on more fuel; this was available in a storage tank (which it transpired had not been used before), and the transfer began. However, upon inspection before re-fuelling the C-130 they discovered it was contaminated and so no one could use it.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Works of the Old Men at British Institute, Amman

What a successful evening!

The last member of our team has arrived - we now number five with our fearless leaders David Kennedy and Robert (Bob) Bewley, assistants Mat Dalton and Rebecca Banks, and also our colleague and PhD candidate Don Boyer.
David begins his lecture at BIA, 7 April 2013.
Our evening was engagingly filled by a lecture hosted by the British Institute at Amman and conducted by David titled 'The Works of the Old Men', taken from Flight-Liutenant Maitland's 1927 Antiquity article of the same name. It is always fantastic to see friends' and colleagues' reactions to the photographs we take of the curious structures that span the Basalt Desert of the Harrat al-Shaam, knowing that we also are transfixed by them each time we fly.

Thank you to everyone that attended the evening and made it a huge success, not least to the British Institute, Amman - Carol, Firas, Nadja and staff who helped organise and run the evening, and for their continual support of the project. The supper put on afterwards was filling in both food and conversation.

Our first flight is tomorrow (Insha'Allah)! Look forward to sharing some photos with you.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Back in Amman

Laying out the equipment ready for action.
The first of the team is starting to roll into Amman and setting up at the fantastic British Institute. The weather is a bit of a shock - from 33 degrees Celsius in Perth to a comparatively chilling 19 in Amman when we landed.
Having only visited Amman in the late Autumn before, when the landscape is drying out, the change in colour palate at this time of year is quite obvious as soon as you drop beneath the clouds coming into land with the tracks of wadis striking green against sandy soil.
Visibility was not too clear for the landing unfortunately. I thumping westerly wind has stirred up quite a bit of dust, but there has been a few spots of rain that has helped settle things to a relatively clear afternoon. Here is hoping the weather improves for us quick smart.

David Kennedy will be presenting at the BI Amman on Sunday 7 April at 6pm - for more information please visit the BI Amman website: