Printer Friendly

The Tafila-Busayra Archaeological Survey 1999-2001, West Central Jordan.

The Tafila-Busayra Archaeological Survey 1999-2001, West Central Jordan. By B.MACDONALD et al. American Schools of Oriental Research Archaeological Reports, vol. 9. Boston: American schools of oriental research, 2004. Pp. xvi + 435, illus. $99.95.

Burton MacDonald offers in this volume the third installment of his long-term project of surveying the archaeological remains of southern Jordan. His first survey in the region was of the southern slopes of the Wadi al-Hasa (The Wadi el Hasa Archaeological Survey 1979-1983, West-Central Jordan. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, 1988), followed by The Southern Ghors and Northeast Arabah Archaeological Survey (Sheffield: J. R. Collis Publications, 1992). His third major survey, the result of three seasons in the field from 1999 through 2001, covered approximately 480 square kilometers from the eastern rim of the Wadi Arabah to the Desert Highway. The survey teams collected artifacts, described, and plotted each site with remains from the Paleolithic through the early Modern Period. The Tafila-Busayra Archaeological Survey is the final publication of the site descriptions, research, and interpretations of MacDonald and his team.

After reviewing the purposes and geographical limits of the survey in his introductory chapter, MacDonald describes the methodology employed in the field. The team used two major survey methodologies. First, the survey area was divided into five topographical zones, and random squares were identified using Geographical Information Systems data. These random squares were surveyed, and artifacts were collected. The purpose of the random square survey is to avoid concentrating only on known sites and easily accessible areas; it ensures that every area of the survey region is visited and examined. The second method was a purposive survey of sites identified by previous surveys, especially those of Glueck, Hart, and Kennedy. The team collected artifacts, described, and plotted the remains at these sites, some of which were also diagrammed by the surveyors. MacDonald categorizes all of the sites identified during the survey into twenty-two archaeological types. He closes the introductory chapter with a brief discussion of the natural environment of the area (climate, soil types, water sources, and vegetation), as well as natural resources in regions adjacent to the Tafila-Busayra Archaeological Survey area (copper and magnesium in the Faynan area of the Wadi Arabah, bitumen and salt from the Dead Sea area).

The next two chapters deal with more specialized topics. Khaled Moumani analyzes the geology of the survey area in chapter two. He lists and briefly describes the numerous formations and outcroppings, aided by graphs, tables, and labeled photographs. Moumani also explains how the location of the survey area along the major Aqaba-Dead Sea Fault affected the current topography of southern Jordan. In chapter three, Michael P. Neeley examines the land use patterns in and near the survey area during prehistoric periods. Over seven thousand lithic artifacts were collected during the random square surveys and a pedestrian survey of two nearby Pleistocene lakes, the Wadi al-Juhiera Lake and the Jurf-Burma Lake, near Jurf ad-Darawish. Neeley demonstrates that during the Paleolithic periods land use was clustered in the eastern portion of the survey area along the ancient lake shores. During the subsequent Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods land use patterns shifted and were more widely dispersed in the survey area to the west of the ancient lakes, probably because resources became more readily available in those regions.

In MacDonald's major synthesis of the survey results (chapter four), he highlights the settlement patterns of the Neolithic through the Islamic periods. MacDonald presents the cultural-temporal periods, each with a map and a table of sites at which the period is represented. There was sparse habitation during the Neolithic through Early Bronze periods, with the remains concentrated along the Pleistocene lakes to the east. MacDonald concludes that most remains from this era represent seasonal camps and that the periods were characterized by pastoral subsistence patterns. For the Middle and Late Bronze Ages, the survey area was almost devoid of habitation. The survey team identified Late Bronze ceramics at only one random square. This changed during the subsequent Iron Age when habitation accelerated in the western portion of the survey area. While some Iron I and early Iron II ceramics were collected from sites and random squares, occupation increased rapidly during the Iron II period, especially around the Edomite capital, Busayra.

In contrast to the Iron Age, the Persian period is represented by only a few sherds, collected from two random squares near the Edomite capital. During the subsequent Hellenistic and Roman periods, occupation slowly increased until the late Roman and Byzantine periods when the western part of the survey area was densely populated. The Tafila-Busayra area was once again sparsely inhabited during the Early Islamic period, but there was a slight increase in the Middle and Late Islamic periods.

The final chapter of the interpretative section, by MacDonald and Marcy Rockman, uses the data from the random square survey, pottery counts, and known site locations to determine trends in settlement. A notable finding is that the northwestern section of the survey zone is virtually devoid of sites, although the rugged terrain and difficulties of team visitations could account for this situation.

The raw data and site descriptions are given in the next two chapters. Chapter six includes descriptions for each of the random squares visited by the survey team; chapter seven contains descriptions of all 290 sites located within the survey zones. For each of the 110 random squares the elevation of the site is provided, along with the UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator) coordinates, time periods represented, and a brief description of the location and artifacts collected. Many of the entries also include drawings of artifacts, like scrapers and hand axes, and pottery drawings with descriptions. The site descriptions in chapter seven are more detailed. While many of the sites are listed by their TBAS number, the names are provided for those that have them. This chapter also includes many site drawings that the team made while in the field. The locations where the team collected pottery samples are only occasionally noted in the site descriptions. The volume is concluded with a summary by MacDonald and two appendices, the first by Traianos Gagos on two Greek inscriptions found reused in later buildings. The second appendix is a short list of artifacts, like spindle whorls and beads, noted within the site descriptions.

The Tafila-Busayra Archaeological Survey will certainly be a standard reference tool for decades to come for archaeologists and historians working on southern Jordan. The size of the study area combined with the scientific and comprehensive nature of the survey make MacDonald's third survey a valuable study of this region. The many illustrations, tables, and site drawings will aid scholars researching the history of the Tafila-Busayra area.

One minor problem with the volume is that it is sometimes difficult to navigate, since all sites are ordered according to the TBAS site numbers and no index of the site names is provided. For example, if a scholar is interested in researching as-Sila, often associated with biblical Sela, there is no easy way to know that it is listed in the site catalog as TBAS 134. Since this site was also visited by Nelson Glueck and Stephen Hart, tables 1 and 2 compare the surveys. Yet for the many less famous sites that might be of interest to an investigator, there is no quick way to find the site in the catalogue. An alphabetic index of sites keyed to their TBAS number would have greatly improved the practical use of this volume. Regardless of this minor criticism, MacDonald and his colleagues have made a valuable and enduring contribution to the history and archaeology of southern Jordan.

COPYRIGHT 2006 American Oriental Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Crowell, Bradley L.
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book review
Date:Oct 1, 2006
Previous Article:Hosea.
Next Article:Das altagyptische "Zweiwegebuch": Studien zu den Sargtextspriichen 1029-1130.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters