THE HISTORY AND GOALS OF THE HUMAYMA EXCAVATION PROJECT
1. Brief History of the Project, and Plans for the Future.
This presentation is written for the most part in the first person, by J.P. Oleson, but the information presented here is based on the hard work of my co-directors of various years (Dr. Khairieh 'Amr, Dr. Rebecca Foote, Dr. Robert Schick), assistant directors (Erik de Bruijn, Barbara Reeves, Dr. Andrew Sherwood), technical staff, North American volunteers, and Bedouin workers. I am very grateful to all of them for their involvement in the project over so many years. We are all grateful as well to the institutions, agencies, and foundations that have supported out work: in particular the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Taggart Family Foundation, the Van Berchem Foundation, the American Schools of Oriental Research, the American Center of Oriental Research, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the University of Victoria.
Ancient Hawara (locator map), modern Humayma (or "Humeima", the official Jordanian spelling has changed recently), was a small trading post and caravan way-station in Edom, the desert region of southern Jordan (aerial view). It was founded by the Nabataean King Aretas III in the 80s B.C. to serve as a centre for sedentarization of the local nomadic Nabataean pastoralists at a time when regional trade routes were shifting elsewhere, and as a strategy of state formation by a developing monarchy. Through careful management of the meager spring water and precipitation, the community was able to enjoy a settled existence based on agriculture, stock-raising, and passing caravans. Soon after the Roman conquest of the Nabataean kingdom in A.D. 106 and formation of the Provincia Arabia, Trajan's forces built a major fort at the site to administer this region and suppress any local resistance. A modest prosperity continued through the Byzantine, and early Islamic periods, until the site was abandoned around 750 A.C.
I surveyed and probed the water-supply system in the settlement centre and surrounding region between 1986 and 1989 as an exploration of cultural responses to a desert environment (regional survey map). The continuity of occupation at Humayma across several critical historical periods, the impressive architectural remains, and the absence of modern occupation at the site led me to undertake excavation of the settlement centre in seven field seasons between 1991 and 2000 (site plan). Over this period my team excavated a Nabataean campground and three Nabataean and Late Roman houses, began excavation of the Roman fort and excavated the bath completely, excavated and probed four Byzantine churches, excavated and consolidated a fifth church, and excavated two Umayyad-Abbasid farmhouses. We also excavated the large, early Abbasid qasr (fortified house) and mosque that served as the residence of the famous Abbasid family. Finally, we have probed miscellaneous structures within the settlement centre and sampled many of the partly plundered rock-cut tombs surrounding it. We also consolidated the bath building, one church, the mosque, portions of the fort, and generally cleaned up the site for tourism.
Although large areas of the site remain unexcavated, we now have an excellent understanding of the stratigraphic sequence, a detailed database and typology of the ceramics, and excellent documentation of occupation areas and structures from every period of Hawara's history. The results of the last two field seasons have been particularly fruitful, fulfilling the major planning goals. We have developed a basic plan of some of the major structures in the Roman fort, which yielded rich deposits of occupation debris, frescoes, and a Praetorium paved with colourful mosaics, the first mosaic found south of Petra. Nearby we have excavated several houses in the vicus (the civilian settlement associated with a fort), built of mud brick and stone, decorated with figured frescoes, and filled with a variety of well-preserved artifacts, and a shrine with inscribed altar that identifies the legionary detachment stationed at the fort. Excavation of the Abbasid qasr has been completed, and conservation of the remarkable frescoes and carved ivory furniture continues.
The continued investigation at Humayma will focus on the fort, which archaeologists now agree is one of the most important sites for understanding the character of the Roman occupation of Jordan and the nature of the eastern frontier. We will continue to sample enough areas of the large Roman fort to enable us to draw a complete plan of its interior blocks and major structures, and to define the functions assigned to the various quadrants and blocks. A geophysical survey will help to define the plan of the fort and to reveal the extent of the vicus, which will be probed as well. I also need to clarify the plan of the military bath by means of a trench at its south end and probe a pottery kiln found in 2000. I plan a study session in 2002 to allow completion of final reports on previous seasons and to carry out the geophysical survey, and excavation seasons in 2003 and 2004.
This research will fill some important gaps in our knowledge of the administration of the province of Arabia during the early years of its formation and the character of the eastern frontier of the Roman empire, the frontier most critical to imperial administration from the second to the fifth century A.C. The typology and database of local and regional ceramics of the Roman and Byzantine periods will be further expanded, including the products of the local kiln serving the Roman fort.2. Project Objectives.
The ultimate objective of this stage of the project is to reach an understanding of the motives behind the Roman military occupation of Hawara (roughly the period between 110 to 400 A.C.), the character of "Roman" culture at the site, and the nature of the cultural interaction between natives and occupiers at a small desert settlement. These results will also elucidate the evolving nature of the fortified eastern frontier of the Roman empire (often referred to by the Latin term Limes) from its inception through the tumultuous third and fourth centuries. Previous seasons of excavation throughout the site have taught us a great deal about the water supply systems and other local resources (Oleson 1997; Forthcoming "Water-Supply"), local Nabataean culture and habitation patterns, domestic and sacred architecture and their cultural assemblages during the Byzantine period, and the private and palatial architecture of the Early Islamic period, along with the surprisingly rich and wide-ranging associated artistic traditions (Oleson et al. 1999). I can now sketch at least in outline the multi-cultural history of Hawara (Oleson 2001). The ultimate goal of the whole multi-year project, of course, is interpretation of the resulting archaeological data in combination with historical sources and data from comparable sites in Jordan and related areas to reconstruct the circumstances of Hawara's foundation, growth, and decline. This synthetic interpretation will in some cases allow extrapolation to higher level explanations of the process of sedentarization, of changes in settlement design and function, and of technological innovation (esp. construction and hydraulic technology) in this region in antiquity.
We have already excavated enough of the Roman fort in Field E116 to understand the chronology and plan of the fortification wall and the interior network of parade ground and streets, and to define the character of two major internal structures: the Principia (headquarters building and shrine), and Praetorium (commander's residence). Relatively small areas of the barracks, a workshop, and possible stables or granaries have also been probed. Although evidence for the history and development of this large military complex is still fragmentary, the spectacular results of my excavations have already had a marked effect on the very vigorous field of Roman military history in the Near East. D. Kennedy, the noted expert on Roman military architecture in Jordan, characterizes the fort as "outstanding"that rarity in the Middle East, an early Roman imperial fort" (Kennedy 2000: 182). The circuit walls with their projecting towers are "especially important for the study of military architecture in the East" (Kennedy 2000: 183). Gregory, an expert on Roman forts of the eastern frontier, concludes (1996: 196) that the fort is a "suggestive 'missing link'" and that it "caused a stir among those interested in such matters." The fort at Humayma clearly is critical to our understanding of Roman occupation along the eastern frontier. I would like to test through excavation my working hypotheses concerning the character of the Roman occupation. In summary, it seems that the local Nabataean culture had more influence on the fort and its material culture than the "Romans" in the fort had on the community (Oleson, Forthcoming, "Romanization"; Oleson, Reeves, Fisher, Forthcoming). Excavation of both fort and vicus structures will help evaluate this hypothesis. Geophysical survey will contribute to a complete plan of fort and vicus.3. Scholarly Context and Background of Project.
Ancient Hawara (in Greek, Auara; in Latin, Hauarra), now officially called Humayma (formerly, Humeima), was a small desert trading post and caravan way-station in Edom, the desert region of southern Jordan (Locator map). According to Ouranios's Arabika (FGrH 675 frag. A.1.b), Hawara was founded by the Nabataean King Aretas III in the 80s B.C. Although this date is not yet archaeologically attested, the settlement did exist by at least the later first century B.C. The location and historical context suggest it was intended to serve as a centre for sedentarization of the nomadic Nabataean pastoralists who occupied the region. Through careful management of the meager spring water and precipitation, the resulting community was able to enjoy a settled existence based on agriculture, stock-raising, and the servicing of caravans. A modest prosperity continued through the Roman, Byzantine, and early Islamic periods, based in part on the trade that continued to move along the N/S Via Nova Traiana, built by Trajan on the old Nabataean route. The Abbasid family purchased the town site late in the seventh century, built a qasr (fortified house) and family mosque (identified in 1993), and plotted the overthrow of the Umayyad caliphate there. After the success of their conspiracy in the mid-eighth century, and the shift of the caliphate to Baghdad, the site was essentially abandoned. The name and historical associations of the site survived among Arab historians and are still familiar to the local Bedouin.
I surveyed the regional water-supply systems in 1986-89 (Oleson 1986-92) and excavated probes along the aqueduct and at a number of cisterns and reservoirs in the settlement centre (Regional survey map). A Roman/Byzantine bath associated with the fort was completely excavated. The continuity of occupation in the settlement centre at Humayma across several critical historical periods, the impressive architectural remains, and the absence of modern occupation or serious disturbance at the site led me to undertake the probing and excavation of other structures in the habitation centre and the preparation of an overall site map in seven field seasons between 1991 and 2000 (Oleson et al. 1993-97, 1999). The field work has been carefully focused on critical structures and areas of the large site in order to elucidate every stage of its history, from first settlement to abandonment. The strategy of using both exploratory probes and focused excavation has succeeded admirably.
Several major clusters of research questions have guided our past excavations.
1) What were the chronology, architectural character, and economic structures of the earliest settlement, and can the example of Hawara cast any light on the process of sedentarization that Nabataean society as a whole was going through in the first century B.C.?
2) What role did the water-supply system play in the location and design of the settlement?
3) When did the Roman occupation of the site begin, and how did Roman administration and influence affect the water-supply system, settlement design, structures, and the local culture? What role did the fort play as part of the eastern imperial frontier?
4) What was the chronology and what was the nature of the Christianization of Hawara, and how deeply did Christianity and Byzantine culture affect the local people?
5) What effect did the arrival of Islam have on the settlement and its inhabitants, and where did the Abbasid family build their historically attested qasr and mosque?
After summarizing the data we have recovered that help to answer each of these research foci, I will relate these accomplishments to our plans for three more seasons of study and excavation focused on question 3.
1) Nabataean Hawara.
In 1991-93 I hoped to find evidence for the earliest, presumably early first century B.C., occupation of the site in the centre of the settlement, near some reservoirs of typical Nabataean design (site plan, nos. 67-68). Because of the presence of deep silt deposits laid down during the Byzantine period and of unexpectedly rich Islamic occupation strata, only traces of early first-century A.C. Nabataean structures and"surprisingly"tombs were recovered there by 1993. Survey and spot excavation in the plundered rock-cut tombs surrounding the town, however, yielded coins and ceramics that provided ample evidence for the Nabataean occupation of Hawara, at some point in the first century B.C.
In 1996 we finally identified and excavated two Nabataean occupation areas. Area C124, an open field adjacent to a Nabataean type cistern on the south edge of the settlement, yielded enormous amounts of first-century A.C. Nabataean pottery and many contemporary coins. The character of the deposits suggests a campground for caravans or seasonal inhabitants of Hawara, located adjacent to a handy source of water. While this campground did not date to the earliest historically attested phase of the site, it corresponds with the usual model for Nabataean urbanism, in which nomadic behaviour helps create settlements and continues alongside permanent architecture (Köhler-Rollefson 1987; Rosen & Avni 1993; Haiman 1995). This model has been documented at Petra (Stucky et al. 1996; Pflüger 1995: 283).
In another open field, south of the Roman fort and above the settlement centre, we uncovered the remains of several Nabataean structures in 1995-96 and 1998-2000 beneath later buildings that belonged to the vicus, the civilian settlement serving the fort. The Nabataean house at E122 was rebuilt on more or less its original plan in the early second century A.C. The other structure, beneath the south end of E125 may have been a shrine or temple. Structure E125 (plan) is a multi-room occupation area (possibly several separate homes) constructed in the late second century of mud brick walls reinforced with beautifully carved stone door sills and jambs, with stone arches to support the roof. Large fragments of painted frescoes were found, including mythological, human, and animal figures, and a rich array of artifacts. A shrine built over the Nabataean structure contained a column representing the Nabataean god Dushara, dedications to Jupiter Ammon and to Serapis, and unique geometric frescoes. The Latin inscription on the altar to Jupiter Ammon indicates that the soldiers stationed at the fort belonged to the Third Legion Cyrenaica, one of the two legions involved in the conquest of the Nabataean kingdom (Oleson, Reeves, Fisher, Forthcoming). Geophysical survey with ground-penetrating radar (GPR), resistivity, and magnetometry methods, proposed for the study season in 2002 with some follow-up in 2003, will allow us to clarify the extent and arrangement of the vicus without time-consuming and expensive excavation. A few probes will be executed in 2003 on the basis of the plan generated by the survey, to answer questions of chronology and design.
2) Nature of the Water-Supply System.
The water-supply system of Hawara was regional in scale and integrated with the settlement design, and the settlement location seems to have been selected with this critical consideration in mind (Oleson 1992b, 1997a). The settlement is located at the conflux of several run-off fields that provide a reliable supply and manageable amount of water to two public reservoirs and numerous private, domestic cisterns. Furthermore, it sits at the southernmost point that could conveniently be reached by a gravity flow aqueduct fed by springs on the escarpment 15 km to the north, and it is near good agricultural soil and a route to the Wadi Arabah. The scale of the first-century B.C. or A.C. public reservoirs and aqueduct indicate central, probably royal, planning and sponsorship. Drainage was more casual, but it also involved some site planning and construction (Oleson 1996). The final report on the water system will be submitted for publication in Dec. 2001 (Oleson, Forthcoming, "Water-Supply").
3) Roman Hauarra.
Excavation of portions of the walls and interior structures of the large (148 x 207 m) Roman fort (E116) in 1993, 1995-96, and 2000 revealed that the structure was very well preserved and that it was built several centuries earlier than expected (plan of fort). It was traditionally assumed that the fort was part of Diocletian's reworking of the frontier in the late third century, but we recovered ceramics and coins proving that the structure was built very soon after Trajan's annexation of the Nabataean kingdom in 106. This is the earliest large Roman fort known in Jordan (see Parker 1986, 1992, Kennedy 2001: 182-83), and the use of a rectangular plan with projecting towers at such an early date has derailed theories concerning the development of Roman forts in the East (Gregory 1995, 1996). We have documented a decline in activity at the fort in the later third century, rebuilding of some interior structures in the fourth"possibly for non-military occupation"and abandonment early in the fifth century (Oleson et al. 1995-97, 1999). Our knowledge of the interior structures is outlined above in "Objectives," and below in "Proposed."
4) Christianity at Hauarra.
There were probably Christians resident at Hawara from at least the third century A.C. onward, given the early and enthusiastic interest of Arab groups in the new religion, particularly in the Provincia Arabia (Shahîd 1984: 36-37, 65-94, 154-56). The first physical evidence, however, are the churches, which begin to appear around A.D. 400 (Schick 1995a-b, 2001). We have excavated and consolidated the largest and best preserved of these (plan of C101), a three apse basilica with chancel, fine marble chancel screen, five undisturbed burials, sacristy and side entrance hall. A small, single-apse chapel (C119)"but with painted plaster walls, marble fittings, and glass lamps"was partly excavated on the western slope overlooking the site in 1993. Subsequently, we recognized that two sprawling early Islamic habitations under excavation (B100 and F102) had been built into and on top of two more, large, single apse churches, and that a late Ottoman house near the centre of the site concealed the remains of yet another large, single-apse church (B126)(for preliminary reports, see Oleson et al. 1993, 1995, 1999).
The inhabitants of Hawara built at least five substantial churches, the same number as at the larger mining centre of Feinan, and one more than the number so far identified at the regional capital of Petra. This total seems to be excessive for a settlement with a population of no more than 650 persons, many of them probably resident at the site only part of the year and living in tents (Oleson 1997: 181-82). It is possible that the doctrinal disputes endemic to this era fostered separate congregations, or that some of the churches were derelict when others were built. Although Hawara must have been thoroughly christianized by A.D. 400, the fort has not yet yielded any evidence for Christian practices, raising interesting questions about the character of Romanization at the site and the intensity of interaction between the soldiers and the civilians.
5) Early Islamic Humayma and the Abbasid Family.
Christianity withered away quickly after the arrival of Islam in the mid-seventh century. At least two of the churches (C101 and B100) were abandoned for a time, then destroyed by fire. Three of them (B100, B126, and F102) were divided up by party walls and reoccupied as habitations in the early Islamic period, prior to final abandonment in the first half of the eighth century. The initial occupation of the region by Islamic forces was largely peaceful, but by the late seventh century the Christian population of Hawara"now called Humayma"had converted or departed (Schick 1995a-b; Fiema 1992). According to early Arabic historians, around 687/8, "Ali ibn "Abd Allah ibn al-"Abbas purchased the town and built a qasr (fortified house) and mosque. Here, the Abbasids plotted their revolt against the Umayyad dynasty, which was carried out in 749 (Oleson et al. 1996c; Schick, Forthcoming). The family then left for Persia, and the site of Humayma was abandoned.
We identified the Abbasid qasr in 1993. It is a rectangular structure (ca. 61 x 50 m) consisting of a large trapezoidal courtyard surrounded by rooms fronting the court (plan of qasr) There was a wide, recessed entrance on the east, and a small mosque (ca. 5.7 m sq.) outside the southwest corner. Ceramics and coins provide rich and precise documentation of the date, and the remains of frescoes and carved ivory furniture indicate a taste for luxury and wide commercial connections appropriate to this politically active family (Foote 1999; Oleson et al. 1999: 436-43).
The excavation and interpretation of the remains of an ancient settlement centre such as Humayma requires expertise in a wide variety of fields. I remains the Project Director, with final say on the intellectual and practical direction of the project. Since beginning excavation of the habitation centre in 1991, however, I have worked with several co-directors, each of whom made his or her own special contribution: Dr. Khairieh "Amr (1991-96), an archaeologist with the Jordanian Department of Antiquities (ceramics and Early Islamic archaeology), Dr. Robert Schick (1991-97) Byzantine period architecture), and Dr. Rebecca Foote of the Islamic Art Institute in London (1993-present; early Islamic commercial and domestic structures). Together, we reinforce each other's professional competence, and we are all contributors to the interim and final publications. In 1998 and 2000, I asked two of my former students working with me at Humayma, M. Barbara Reeves (PhD candidate, SUNY Buffalo) and Erik de Bruijn (PhD candidate, University of British Columbia) to serve as Assistant Directors and share some of the responsibilities for field direction, communication, and publication. They will continue to function in this capacity during the next three years. In 2002 Dr. Andrew Sherwood of Guelph University, who participated in the surveys in 1986-87, will rejoin the project as Assistant Director. Dr. Gregory Baker of SUNY-Buffalo will also join the project in 2002-3, to direct the geophysical survey of the Roman fort and vicus.
Our ceramics expert is Yvonne Gerber (University of Basel), who has taken over that role from Dr. 'Amr. Our conservator since 1993 has been Judy Logan (Canadian Conservation Institute). Sean Fraser is the project architect. I am the project photographer. Other individuals contribute to the project but do not take part in the field work: M. Finnegan (Kansas State University), mammal bones; D. Reese (Peabody Museum, Yale Univ.), mollusks; J. Studer (Muséum d"histoire naturelle, Geneva), fish bones; P. Warnock (Univ. of Missouri), botanical remains; Dr. J. Jones (Bucknell Univ.), glass; B. Seymour (Royal B.C. Museum), non-ceramic draughtsman.6. Bibliography Relevant to the Project
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