Monday 22 September 2014

Photographs: Deir Ain Abata Project

Dr. Konstantinos Dino Politis has made available to APAAME his collection of slides and negatives taken in the course of aerial reconnaissance in Jordan over a period from the early 1990s until the early 2000s. The collection includes informal photography taken from commercial flights flying in and out of Amman as well as professional aerial photography taken by Dr. Politis and his team from a helicopter in the course of their research. A starring feature of this collection is the site of Deir Ain Abata, a site found and excavated by Dr. Politis.
Deir Ain Abata. Photographer: Bill Lyons. APAAME_19990503_BL-0014.
Deir Ain Abata was discovered during an archaeological survey in 1986 near the modern town of Safi in Jordan, located just east of the southern Dead Sea basin. Under threat from erosion from its location on a steep slope and its vicinity to the expanding town of Safi, it was decided the site would be excavated and conserved. The site consists of a large reservoir, a triple apsed basilica church with mosaics, a cave on the north aisle of the basilica, a refectory, and a 'Pilgrim's Hostel' north of the refectory. 1991 excavations exposed the church, the western front of which was at peril of continuing to collapse down the face of the mountain. Conservation work was undertaken in 1994 to stabilise the structure. An inscription revealed that the basilica had been renovated in 691AD - during the Umayyad period. The cave was presumed by the Byzantine Christians to be associated with the Old Testament story of Lot, though why this cave was chosen over the many others in its vicinity is unknown to us. Evidence in the cave showed that it had been in use since the Middle Bronze Age II.
You can read more about the site in Dr. Politis' article The Monastery of Aghios Lot at Deir 'Ain 'Abata in Jordan here:

Other Dead Sea and Jordan Valley sites feature prominently in the collection- such as Bab edh-Drah, Khirbet Qazone, Tall Numeira, Bethany on-Jordan, Wadi Kharrar and Tell es-Sa'idiyeh. The collection compliments that of AAJ's aerial reconnaissance in that it contains photographs from before AAJ began its annual program in 1997, as well as photographing sites unknown to or visited at other times by AAJ.
Khirbet Qazone. Photographer: K. D. Politis. APAAME_19990503_KDP-0139.
The scanning was undertaken on an EPSON Perfection V700 Photo flatbed scanner at 3000 dpi. Due to the age and condition of the slides, results varied - especially in colour output, but unfortunately also in the sharpness of the image. Where possible colour was corrected, and site coordinates and identification, date and photographer identified and placed in the image metadata, but this was not always possible. We have retained any written information from the slides in the image description.

You can find the collection of photographs here: The Konstantinos D Politis Collection
If you have any additional information regarding one of the photographs please do not hesitate to leave a comment on the Flickr photo page. Image requests can be made by contacting Dr. Politis. Copyright is retained by the image photographers.

Friday 12 September 2014

Research: Qasr Ain el-Beidha

In c. 1981 David Kennedy visited Qasr Ain el-Beidha as part of his investigations into the archaeological traces of the Roman frontier in North-East Jordan. The site shows clearly on the Hunting Aerial Survey imagery of 1953 - a clear perimeter wall c.20m square with a collapsed square tower in the center.
HAS 11.008 overlaid in Google Earth - Qasr Ain el-Beidha is clearly visible on the basalt bottom right. Please click to enlarge image.
Their survey of the site confirmed this:
It consists of a tower, 5.14m square, set within a walled enclosure 21 x 16.18m with, apparently, rounded corners. The tower is built of large blocks of basalt laid in regular courses, 3 of which may be seen and two others inferred. The surviving height of the 3 courses is 1.12m and the wall is 1.2m thick made up of blocks laid as headers and stretchers. Both tower and enclosure wall are much decayed and overlaid with rubble. The latter seems to have been no more than dry-stone built wall and there was only one point, on the S. side, at which evidence of the rough slabs being laid in courses was clear (Kennedy 1982 Archaeological Explorations on the Roman Frontier in North-East Jordan: 186-7).
Qasr Ain el-Beidha general view c. 1981. Image © David Kennedy. Please click to enlarge image.
In addition, Kennedy notes the lines of site from the tower to Qasr Azraq and Qazr Aseikhim, major Roman sites in the area. He concludes that the site likely acted as "an outpost to control access to a water-point" as well as a watch-tower on the route to Qasr Burqu (Kennedy 1982: 187).

Qasr Ain el-Beidha Area
Qasr Ain el Beidha photographed in 2011 - the perimeter wall can just be seen to the left of the road in the picture. APAAME_20111027_MND-0079.  Please click to enlarge image.
Today, the site is lost except for a section of the perimeter wall. We were able to photograph what remains of the site in 2011. A bitumen road has been built since 1978 running east from Azraq straight through the site. Historical satellite imagery in Google Earth implies the road has been in existence since at least 2003. Photographs from the 1978 survey imply that the track had previously gone around the site.
Qasr Ain el Beidha general view c. 1981. The track can be seen running around to the right of the site in the photograph. Image © David Kennedy. Please click to enlarge image.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Video: Aerial photography of Kites

If you want to see Kites from the Jordanian harra like we do - from a helicopter, check out this short YouTube video showcasing some of the Kite footage taken by Matthew Dalton during the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan Project's 2012 season.

Video taken by Matthew Dalton of the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan project, edited by Rebecca Banks. All material is © APAAME.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Publications: Kites in 'Arabia' (iBook)

Apple iBooks has just published (1 September) a new book by Prof. David Kennedy with Rebecca Banks and Emergent Form's Paul Houghton on Kites in 'Arabia'.

Kites in 'Arabia'
David Kennedy with Rebecca Banks and Paul Houghton
September 1, 2014
iBooks for iPad or Mac OS X 10.9 or later
Emergent Form
225 pages
US$4.99/ AU$5.99/ £2.99
Edit 25/20/2016 - the iBook is free to Download.

The book offers an approachable survey and analysis of the stone built structures known as Kites  found throughout Arabia - the huge arid region extending from south-eastern Turkey through Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to Yemen.  The volume examines Kites from their first discovery by the RAF pilots who were the 'Pioneers' of aerial photography in the inter-war period in Transjordan to recent research and interpretation conducted by various professionals in the field. Distribution, form and function of the Kites is discussed and extensively illustrated with references provided throughout. The volume benefits from David Kennedy's long established interest and passion for aerial photography and archaeology in the Middle East, and draws on the extensive reconnaissance performed by the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan Project and historical imagery research of the APAAME Project. The book also includes extensive appendices illustrating types and locations of Kites across 'Arabia', and historical accounts of Kites by early explorers in the Middle East.

The medium of iBook was chosen for two primary reasons: accessibility and inclusion of illustrations. We have made the iBook available for just US$4.99/ AU$5.99/ £2.99 to make the publication affordable. Images have been profusely included to illustrate the features described, something that would have astronomically increased publication costs in a printed edition. Moreover the electronic format allows for interactive features which enhance the illustrative elements and for video interviews and footage taken from the helicopter.

Heavy on content, the iBook does come out at roughly 1GB to download, but fortunately will only ever be as heavy as carrying around your laptop or iPad.