- From The Guest Editors
Unlike the research in Mesopotamia, and that in Palestine and Israel, the archaeology of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was late to start. It does not have the famous cities mentioned in the Bible or the rich depositories of cuneiform tablets that attracted nineteenth-century scholars to the lands between the Euphrates and the Tigris and to the area west of the river Jordan. And in spite of the fact that it is part of the "Holy Land," it did not play a major role in what was known as "biblical archaeology." Jordan, however, has its own treasures, the rose-red city of Petra and the majestic ruins of Jerash among them, which have drawn scholars over time, and its heritage and the scholars studying it have now a firm place in the archaeology of the region. Van der Steen's overview of the history of archaeological research in Jordan tells the story of how this came about.
From the many projects currently conducted in Jordan we have chosen a few to show the wide range of topics, periods, and regions that are under study.
Over the past years Suzanne Kerner, from Copenhagen University, has conducted surveys and excavations at a major site in central Jordan, at Murayghat, south of Madaba. The complex consists of a central knoll, surrounded by dolmen fields and standing stones, interspersed with domestic structures, all interrelated and together forming what may have been a ritual landscape. The site dates to the Early Bronze Age, with a reuse phase in the Middle Bronze Age. This is a very important project that throws light on the existence and functioning of ritual landscapes and burial practices in the Early Bronze Age in general.
Excavations in Jordan have brought to light large numbers of Iron Age figurines, many of which are now found distributed over various collections, depositories, and museums. The article by Regine Hunziker-Rodewald and Peter Fornaro describes a new project, using modern techniques of digital measurement, visualisation, and virtual reproduction of a collection of female figurines, starting with the female figurines from the site of Buṣayra in southern Jordan. This is a co-project of the universities of Strasbourg and Basel, and its aim is to develop the digital software and at the same time make accessible through virtual reproduction the scattered collections of female figurines from Jordanian sites, for further study, comparison, and reconstruction.
Nomads or Bedouin have for millennia been an important part of the population of Jordan. However, there is only one period before the present in which they were largely literate, and this resulted in a plethora of inscriptions and graffiti, on rocks and stones all over southern Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. These inscriptions, dated to the period between the first century BC and the fourth century AD, are a rich source of information about the lifestyle and society of these people as well as their relations to the other groups that peopled the area, the Romans and Nabataeans. Although many texts and fragments have been recorded over time, no systematic documentation has ever been attempted. Michael Macdonald and Ali Al-Manaser, of the Khalili Research Centre, University of Oxford, are working on a project to conduct a systematic documentation of these inscriptions, which are of major linguistic and ethnographic importance, but under threat of being lost forever.
The Sustainable Cultural Heritage through Engagement with Local Communities Project (USAID SCHEP) [End Page v] is a four-year USAID initiative, aimed at preserving, managing, and enhancing the cultural heritage of Jordan through the active engagement of the local community. It is implemented by the American Center for Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman. The SCHEP project is involving local communities on nine sites all over Jordan, covering different periods. One of these projects, described in the article by Suzanne Richard, of Gannon University, Pennsylvania, and her coauthors, is the Madaba Regional Archaeological Museum project. This is a collaboration of Jordanian, American, and Italian archaeologists, scholars, and experts. Its aim is to create and manage, together with the local community, a new archaeological museum complex in the center of Madaba, which...