The International conference on the History and Archaeology of Jordan (ICHAJ) held every three years, has long been a ‘must’ for anyone involved in the archaeology and heritage of Jordan. At the 2019 conference which took place between 21st and 25th January, CBRL’s Amman Director, Dr Carol Palmer attended and gave a paper. Here she tells us more about the conference:

“It is difficult to think of a better location for a conference than Florence (even in January!), and once it was announced as the venue for the 14th ICHAJ, this conference took on an even more firmly ‘save the date’ status.

Passing the Duomo, Florence's Cathedral, on the walk to the conference 

The opening and plenary session of ICHAJ14 held in the Palazzo Vecchio, Salone dei Cinquecento, with HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal 

The ICHAJ conference series began in Oxford in 1980 under the patronage of HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, who also attends. Over the years the conference has travelled between Jordan, across European cities and as far as Washington D.C. and Sydney in Australia.

It was a fantastic opportunity to meet with so many colleagues and familiar faces who I’ve had the pleasure to know and work with through CBRL's activities as well as my own research in Jordan. The paper I presented was with Dr Sarah Elliott on the results of our research project with Dr Emma Jenkins at Bournemouth University. Unfortunately, Dr Andrea Zerbini, CBRL Amman's Assistant Director, was unable to attend ICHAJ14 but his colleague Dr Michael Fradley from the EAMENA team presented their joint research paper at the conference.

       CBRL's Dr Carol Palmer speaking at the ICHAJ14

The EAMENA team at ICHAJ14. Left to right: Bijan Rouhani, Pascal Flohr, John Winterburn, Michael Fradley, Dana Salameen, and Robert Bewley

Running over five days with parallel sessions, the 2019 ICHAJ brought together nearly 300 scholars of which some 70 were Jordanian from the Department of Antiquities, Jordanian University and a range of cultural heritage organisations. The conference is not only of interest to those working in Jordan, but also the Middle East, the Mediterranean and long-term Euro-Mediterranean cultural relations more broadly. 

The conference programme was a long and rich one with sessions around the latest research on the history and archaeology of Jordan under traditional time frameworks: including, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age, the Nabateans and Petra, and Islamic periods. There were sessions on the broad and important themes of ‘Science, Methods and Technology in Archaeology’, Landscape Studies, ‘Public Archaeology’, ‘Social-Economic Development’, and ‘Awareness and Education’ reflecting many contemporary concerns and new activities.

The closing session in the splendid hall, Aula Magna del Rettorato, at the University of Florence 

While an important outcome of the conference is to update the archaeological community and build connections on all things archaeological and relating to cultural heritage and history broadly in Jordan, it also had a timely thought-provoking theme. This years’ theme was ‘Culture in Crisis: Flow of People, Artefacts and Ideas’. The plenary opening sessions and a full day of conference activities were devoted to discussing this topic with an interview with experts speaking on the theme, as well as an in-depth interview with HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal.

Thursday morning's special event on 'Culture in Crisis Affected Countries' in the Cinema-Teatro della Compagnia

A point that the various speakers were acutely aware of was that post-conflict reconstruction can do more damage that war to heritage. HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal started the conference calling for a minute’s silence for all people affected by and enduring the consequences of war, noting that 80% of the world’s refugees are Muslim.

The opening and closing session speeches are available on YouTube.

The organisers and scientific committee are to be congratulated for the excellent organisation and fine Florentine hospitality. It was a splendid venue offering much food for thought on every level."

Read other news