Thursday, October 15, 2015

FL20151011 - Into the east

The longest day so far in this season’s reconnaissance flights.

We had a very ambitious trip planned to circumnavigate the Badia region, the Panhandle, or what I like to refer to as the “black basalt desert’. The furthest point of our flight is the air base at Ruweishid, some 116 nm from Amman; a place we have come to grudgingly love over the years.

The trip involved three re-fuellings and well over the 70 sites scheduled were photographed; the pilots were two of the best in that we flew higher than is normal (as most helicopter pilot like to fly low) and responded perfectly to our needs, orbiting the sites as directed.

We started the day photographing a site that we had been informed was targeted in what can only be described as a mindless act - a huge scoop taken out of the side of Qasr Mushash by heavy machinery. This is a site we have photographed many times, and seeing it so altered after surviving so many years at the mercy of the elements (it is directly alongside a wadi) is such a shame. We are informed that the Department of Antiquities has been informed of the damage and we hope the site is successfully stabilised.
Qasr Mushash, with the offending gouge clearly evident.
We have done many trips in this region but today we targeted areas in the northern sector as we had not flown so often here (but we had to stay at least 10 nm from the borders). What struck me was that there were a number of small rectangular features and collapsed stone piles in this area; there is of course a plethora of wheels and circular enclosures as well as our favourite “kite” sites, draping the basalt landscape. These rectangular and other structures, which we are told should be referred to as ghurra huts, are most likely to date from the Early Bronze Age.
A cluster of 'Ghurra Huts' in the landscape.
There were places which were particularly important or notable. One was what we loosely referred to as a hillfort; it looks to be fortified – there are clear double faced walls, and it is clearly in a defensible location on a hill top or ridge of basalt. But what is its history, or prehistory? We were accompanied on the flight by Bernd Müller-Neuhof, (of the DAI) who had supplied most of the targets for the day. He plans to visit this site next April and discover more about it.
The fortified 'hill fort'.
The other striking place was what looked to me like a remnant of a small volcano, with 70% of its caldera still intact, or possibly the edge of a basalt flow masquerading as such. Two kites use the outer edges of the caldera slopes at the point where the tails merge to form a narrow neck before the head. The sites obviously made the most of the hill and slope (presumably for hunting). Again this is not a place that has been explored but I am beginning to think a field trip out there next year would be very useful and rewarding.
Two kites flanking and using the geology of the basalt landscape.
The logistics of these longer trips means re-fuelling at numerous different places, the furthest away being Ruweishid; this always adds spice to our day with a variety of cups or glasses of tea or coffee with the local squadrons, and we have learnt to bring our own supply of food too. Starting at seven in the morning and finishing the flying at around two o’clock in the afternoon is a severe test of stamina if there isn’t some nourishment and liquid intake.

Even though our day was long, we had intended to photograph further sites in the south of the Panhandle for the Jebel Qurma Project, but sadly this could not be achieved. There is always next season, إن شاء الله (Insha'Allah).
The flight team for FL20151011.
Although tired after such a long day it is also very stimulating (and rewarding) to have seen such interesting and often unrecorded archaeological landscapes. We hope that future research can enlighten us as to the nature and origins of these sites in this most dramatic, and now barren, place.

No comments:

Post a Comment