The ‘Black Desert’ begins just south of Damascus and comprises some 40,000 km2 of dark and desolate basalt fields, which stretch from southern Syria across north-eastern Jordan and reach the sand sea of the Nefud in Saudi Arabia. The rough and highly arid terrain is often difficult to access and travel through. Despite these uninviting conditions, recent fieldwork has revealed the immense archaeological and epigraphic record of the Black Desert. This material testifies to the prominent successes achieved by indigenous nomadic peoples in exploiting the basalt range through hunting and herding across centuries and millennia.
To date, there is an ever-increasing interest in the archaeology of the Black Desert. In particular, Jordan is home to a range of international research projects, and exciting new discoveries convincingly demonstrate the archaeological affluence of Jordan’s desert landscape. The present volume provides a wide-ranging and up-to-date examination of the archaeology and epigraphy of the immense basalt expanse as well as comparative perspectives from other parts of the Levant and the Arabian Peninsula. This collection of papers offers detailed insights and analyses on topics ranging from mobility and landscape to developments in settlement and burial practices, as well as the role of rock art and literacy in ancient desert environments. This richly illustrated book is a significant point of reference for what is rapidly becoming a most vibrant and dynamic field of research in the Levant and Arabia.
List of contributors
Foreword Aktham Oweidi
Introduction: landscapes of survival Peter M.M.G. Akkermans
First inhabitants: the early prehistory of north-east Jordan Tobias Richter
New techniques for tracing ephemeral occupation in arid, dynamic environments: case studies from Wadi Faynan and Wadi al-Jilat, Jordan Daniella Vos
Populating the Black Desert: the Late Neolithic presence Yorke M. Rowan, Gary O. Rollefson and Alexander Wasse
Flamingos in the desert: how a chance encounter shed light on the ‘Burin Neolithic’ of eastern Jordan Alexander Wasse, Gary Rollefson and Yorke Rowan
Pastoralists of the southern Nefud desert: inter-regional contact and local identity Maria Guagnin
The works of the old men in Arabia: a comparative analysis David Kennedy
Defending the ‘land of the devil’: prehistoric hillforts in the Jawa hinterland Bernd Müller-Neuhof
The Late Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age of the badia and beyond: implications of the results of the first season of the Western Harra Survey Stefan L. Smith
East of Azraq: settlement, burial and chronology from the Chalcolithic to the Bronze Age and Iron Age in the Jebel Qurma region, Black Desert, north-east Jordan Peter M.M.G. Akkermans and Merel L. Brüning
Identifying nomadic camp sites from the Classical and Late Antique periods in the Jebel Qurma region, north-eastern Jordan Harmen O. Huigens
The Nabataeans as travellers between the desert and the sown Will M. Kennedy
The desert and the sown: Safaitic outsiders in Palmyrene territory Jørgen Christian Meyer
The north-eastern badia in Early Islamic times Karin Bartl
Depicting the camel: representations of the dromedary camel in the Black Desert rock art of Jordan Nathalie Ø. Brusgaard
Bows on basalt boulders: weaponry in Safaitic rock art from Jebel Qurma, Black Desert, Jordan Keshia A.N. Akkermans
‘Your own mark for all time’: on wusūm marking practices in the Near East (c. 1800-1960 AD) Koen Berghuijs
Rock art in Saudi Arabia: a window into the past? First insights of a comparative study of rock art sites in the Riyadh and Najrān regions Charly Poliakoff
Graffiti and complexity: ways-of-life and languages in the Hellenistic and Roman harrah Michael C.A. Macdonald
Gaius the Roman and the Kawnites: inscriptional evidence for Roman auxiliary units raised from the nomads of the harrah Ahmad Al-Jallad, Zeyad Al-Salameen, Yunus Shdeifat and Rafe Harahsheh
Remarks on some recently published inscriptions from the harrah referring to the Nabataeans and the ‘revolt of Damași’ Jérôme Norris
Two new Safaitic inscriptions and the Arabic and Semitic plural demonstrative base Philip W. Stokes
Peter M.M.G. Akkermans is Full Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at Leiden University, The Netherlands. He studied Prehistory and Archaeology of Western Asia at the University of Amsterdam, where he also completed (cum laude) his PhD on Neolithic settlement in Syria. From 1990 until 2009 he was Curator of the Dept. of the Ancient Near East in the Netherlands National Museum of Antiquities, in combination with an Extraordinary Professorship of Near Eastern Prehistory at Leiden University. Since 2010 Akkermans is Full Professor of Near Eastern Archaeology at Leiden University.
Akkermans has been intensively involved in archaeological field projects in Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria and Jordan for over 30 years. He is director of the Tell Sabi Abyad Archaeological Project in Syria and the Jebel Qurma Archaeological Landscape Project in Jordan. For several years he was Chair of both the Near Eastern and Classical-Mediterranean sections and he served as Vice-Dean and Chair of Education of the Faculty of Archaeology from 2012 until 2016.
Together with G.M. Schwartz, Akkermans published The Archaeology of Syria (Cambridge University Press, 2003). He (co-)edited a series of volumes, including Excavations at Late Neolithic Tell Sabi Abyad (Brepols, 2015) and Interpreting the Late Neolithic of Upper Mesopotamia (Brepols, 2013).
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