History of Research

Barqa Landscape Project History of Research

The focus of the initial two seasons of the Barqa Landscape Project (2009, 2010) were to assess the scale and spread of copper production through quantitative analysis of environmental pollution of heavy metals contained in the landscape in a small (5 km2), and as yet lightly disturbed section of the Faynan district at Barqa. Using a combination of satellite remote-sensing, pedestrian survey and small-scale excavation, the project mapped the spread of pollution both geographically and temporally using a Portable X-Ray Florescence analyzer (P-XRF) to examine sediments preserved in the landscape and at archaeological sites. We perfected the use of the remote-sensing data and the technology of P-XRF sampling and have been able to analyze the pollution at the Barqa smelting site, and the immediate landscape. 

During the 2013 season, this pollution analysis was extended throughout the Faynan Basin as we continued to build up our understanding of the ancient and long-term pollution and the very complex geomorphology and landscape changes at Faynan during the Holocene. As planned, we undertook pollution sampling at previously excavated and dated sites within the Jabal Hamrat Fidan region and the Wadi Faynan. A secondary objective of the 2013 season was to undertake a detailed surface survey and small-scale excavations at a large Epipalaeolithic site identified during the 2009 Barqa Survey. This site, located amongst sand dunes in the Barqa region is potentially one of the largest Epipalaeolithic sites in Jordan (c. 13 hectares). During that season, a brief investigation of the site through surface survey and small test pits to begin work to determine the depth of occupation of the site in various locations, as well as the key phases of occupation (early Epipalaeolithic – Natufian) through analysis of the very extensive chipped stone from the site. This work is also part of the larger work being carried out to understand the late Pleistocene changes in the Faynan landscape, climate and environment, which is key to understanding much of the Holocene occupations during the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age. 

During the 2014 season we continued our pollution sampling strategy, analyzing sediments and residues from older excavation areas, and from a variety of landforms and geographic settings. The intention of the wider sampling of non-sites (i.e. the wider landscape), allowed us to begin to undertake a comparative analysis with the pollution from archaeological and metal production sites, and also inform us about possible movement of this ancient pollution by erosional processes. During 2013, a brief site visit to the end of the Wadi Fidan found one of the previously record sites, Wadi Fidan 51, (first identified during the 1998 survey) was under severe threat of destruction from vandalism and erosion. As a result of this, during the 2014 season we undertook small scale excavations at the site, the only known example of the Chalcolithic period in the Faynan Basin. This initial investigation allowed us to gain a better understanding of the material culture and dating of the site through the ceramics, to collect radiocarbon samples, as well as to conduct pollution sampling of the site. Upon completion of our work at the site all excavations were backfilled to ensure site preservation. We also began the more detailed analysis of the Barqa Epi-Palaeolithic sites through limited excavation. Continuing work begun in 2013, we completed the mapping of the sites and excavated several small test pits to explore the depth occupation at the sites and collect sufficient chipped stone for further analysis of the dating of the sites. Although much of the geographical contexts of these sites requires further analysis, we now have a better understanding of the site as part of the late Pleistocene changes in the landscape of the Faynan Basin. Investigations suggest this large group of sites was located next to a marsh wetland and provides context for the continuous occupation on the edge of these wetlands through a substantial period of time. Investigations included collection of a number of optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) samples to date the sites and their context.