Fallahin and Nomads in the Southern Levant from Byzantium to the Crusades

CBRL-Affiliated Project

Co-Directors: Claudine Dauphin, Archaeologist and Byzantinist, (Hon. Prof., University of Wales, Trinity Saint David, Lampeter) and Mohamed Ben Jeddou, Geomatician - GIS (UMR 8167 of CNRS, Orient et Méditerranée - Monde byzantin, Paris). Team: Jean-Marie Castex, Geographer (Université Internationale de la Mer, Nice); Basema Hamarneh, Archaeologist, Byzantinist, Early Islam specialist (Bergamo State University and Milan State University); Mark Merrony, Byzantine Art Historian (Mougins Museum of Classical Art)

Between the Palestinian coast and the vast desert of southern Jordan stretches an enormous semi-arid buffer-zone. Bisected by the Rift, the Ghôr depression, this marginal arid zone between the sown and the desert, between the subtropical Mediterranean and the ''continental arid'' climates, was the setting for various modes of interaction between agriculturalists and nomads from the late Byzantine Empire (6th and early 7th centuries AD) to the Mamluk Sultanate (13th–15th centuries): sedentarism, nomadic infiltration, semi-sedentarization, sedentarization, reversal to nomadism, and temporary settling for the servicing of pilgrims on the road to Mecca, the Darb al-Hajj. Using new research tools - Geographical Information System (GIS) - in conjunction with traditional archaeo-historical interpretation of the past, an innovative geo-spatial approach applied to landscape archaeology was introduced in 2008 by archaeologist Claudine Dauphin and GIS expert Mohamed Ben Jeddou in an attempt to capture across ten centuries the diachronic, fluctuating population dynamics of southern Palestine and Jordan, to detect changes at play in the landscape of arable lands and desert, and trace the consequent adaptation of local populations of agriculturalists (fallahin) and nomads (bedu). Originally funded by the Mougins Museum of Classical Art (2010-2013), the Project ''Fallahin and Nomads in the Southern Levant from Byzantium to the Mamluks: Population Dynamics and Artistic Expression'' has enjoyed the support of the Augustus Foundation since 2014. It has been affiliated to the CBRL since 2011. Official permits from the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (DAoJ) have enabled field studies and access to its archaeological archives.

Initially, the region covered was the Province of Palaestina Tertia of Byzantine administration - an irregular polygon of some 700 sq km stretching eastwards from Dayr al-Balah on the Mediterranean coast of Palestine to al-Karak, south of the latter to Ma'an, and down to Aqaba (Byzantine Ayla) on the Red Sea with the desert as hinterland. In 2011, the region was extended northwards and eastwards to encompass the "golden triangle" of Mount Nebo, Madaba and Umm ar-Rasas in Provincia Arabia, thus coinciding with southern Bilad ash-Sham.

For the area west of the Jordan Rift Valley, the Ghôr, a database of 1,099 Byzantine and Arab sites was created on the basis of the Catalogue of Dauphin's Palestine Byzantine (1998, III), updated thanks to the data published by the Negev Emergency Survey and the results of recent excavations augmented by Arab sites listed in the Archaeological Archives of the British Mandatory Government of Palestine (1919-1948) and of the State of Israel.

For the area east of the Ghôr in Southern Jordan, the corpus of 1,170 Byzantine, Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Crusader and Mamluk archaeological sites is based on JADIS (Jordanian Archaeological Database and Information System) and MEGA (Middle Eastern Geodatabase for Antiquities.

Our archaeological database is associated with an environmental database, which comprises several layers: relief (Digital Elevation Model or DEM) with its derivative layers (slope and orientation, geology, pedology and land-use, hydrography, springs, and road networks). Statistical analyses (density calculations, directional distribution, standard distance, and linear directional mean) and spatial analyses (expressing distribution of sites in relation to altitudes, to agrological potential, visibility, distance to hydrographic network, to springs and ancient roads) have been conducted on the data. Three factors had a direct impact on site distribution: agrological potential, water sources and road networks.

Two sub-projects developed out of this observation: the reconstruction of the Byzantine and Umayyad landscape of wadi agriculture and vineyards on the lands of Kastron Mefaa (modern Umm ar-Rasas), and the detailed tracing of the Mediaeval and Ottoman pilgrimage roads across Jordan to Mecca (Darb al-Hajj), as well as the discovery and mapping of the six Mediaeval and 12 Ottoman pilgrim camps.  

It is estimated that the completion and final publication of the Project will take another four years.

Featured in the CBRL Bulletin 8 (2013). Subject of the Crystal Bennett Memorial Lecture in London 2013.


Published

Dauphin, C. and Ben Jeddou, M., ‘D’une provincia byzantine à un jund abbasside: la dynamique du peuplement de la Palestine à la lumière de nouveaux outils de recherche (Système d’Information Géographique).’ Proche-Orient Chrétien 59, Fasc. 1-2 (2009), 7-51.

Dauphin, C. and Ben Jeddou, M., ‘Fallahin and Nomads in the Southern Levant from Byzantium to the Crusades: Population Dynamics and Artistic Expression,’ CBRL 2012 - Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant 7 (2012), 84-86.

Dauphin, C. and Ben Jeddou, M., ‘Twixt Sand and Sown: the Population Dynamics of Southern Jordan between Byzantium and the Mamluks – A New GIS Project,’ Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 56 (2012), 207-229.

Dauphin, C. and Ben Jeddou, M., ‘Fallahin and Bedu between the Desert and the Sown: the Population Dynamics of a buffer-zone from Byzantium to the Mamluks,’ Feature article in The Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant 8 (2013), 18-29.

Dauphin, C., Ben Jeddou, M. and Castex, J.-M., ‘Paysans et pasteurs sur les marches du Levant Sud. Dynamique du peuplement et exploitation du sol de Byzance aux Mamelouks (VIe-XVIe siècles),’ SIG 2013, Conférence francophone ESRI, 2 and 3 October 2013, Versailles:

Summary ; powerpoint presentation here and here.

Dauphin, C., Ben Jeddou, M. and Castex, J.-M., ‘Paysans et pasteurs sur les marches du Levant Sud. Dynamique du peuplement et exploitation du sol de Byzance aux Mamelouks (VIe-XVIe siècles),’ Géomatique Expert No. 95 (Novembre-Décembre 2013), 30-53.

Dauphin, C., Ben Jeddou, M. and Castex, J.-M., ‘Le mouvement codifié: pèlerins et bédouins sur le Chemin du Hajj de Damas à La Mecque (VIIe - déb. XXe siècles). Première Partie,’ Géomatique Expert No. 103 (Mars-Avril 2015), 39-57.

Dauphin, C., Ben Jeddou, M. and Castex, J.-M., ‘Le mouvement codifié: pèlerins et bédouins sur le Chemin du Hajj de Damas à La Mecque (VIIe - déb. XXe siècles) - Deuxième Partie,’ Géomatique Expert No. 104 ( Mai-Juin 2015), 28-47.

Dauphin, C., Ben Jeddou, M. and Castex, J.-M., ‘To Mecca on Pilgrimage on foot and camel-back: The Jordanian Darb al-Hajj,CBRL Bulletin 10 (2015), 1-14.

Dauphin, C., ‘Pilgrim Camps on the Hajj Roads to Mecca’, contribution to the Palestine Exploration Fund Blog ‘Adventures in the Archives and in the Field.’

Hamarneh, B., Dauphin, C., Ben Jeddou, M. and Castex, J.-M., ‘Population Dynamics in the al-Karak Region in the Byzantine and Islamic Periods,’ Studies on the History and Archaeology of Jordan (SHAJ), Actae of the 12th International Conference on the History and Archaeology of Jordan (ICHAJ) ‘Transparent Borders’, Berlin, 5-11 May 2013, Amman (2016), 683-702.

Dauphin, C., ‘The Garden of the Lord: Works and Days in the Byzantine Agricultural Landscape of Mefaa (Umm ar-Rasas),’ Summary of lecture on 19th March 2018 at the SBF, Jerusalem, Notizario Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Jerusalem, Anno Academico 2018-2018,Jerusalem, 2019, 24-25.

Dauphin, C., Ben Jeddou, M. and Castex, J.-M., ‘All Roads Lead to Mecca: on foot, on camel-back and on steam, the Syro-Jordanian Darb al-Hajj al-Shami (7th-20th centuries) through the prism of the new technologies - Part I (The Early Islamic and Mediaeval Road),’ Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 58 (2017), 85-112 (in Arabic).

Dauphin, C., Ben Jeddou, M. and Castex, J.-M., ‘All Roads Lead to Mecca: on foot, on camel-back and on steam, the Syro-Jordanian Darb al-Hajj al-Shami (7th-20th centuries) through the prism of the new technologies - Part II (The Ottoman Road),’ Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 59 (2018), 49-73 (in Arabic).

In Press

Dauphin, C., Ben Jeddou, M. and Castex, J.-M., ‘Dynamique du parcellaire byzantin d’Umm ar-Rasas (Jordanie). Essai de restitution d’un espace rural anthropisé (4e-9e siècles ap. J.-C.),’ Géomatique Expert, Paris, 2019.

Dauphin, C., ‘The Garden of the Lord: Works and Days in the Byzantine Agricultural Landscape of Mefaa (Umm ar-Rasas), Jordan,’ in Festschrift in Honour of the 70th Birthday of Fr Eugenio Alliata, OFM, Studium Biblicum Franciscanum, Jerusalem, 2020.

Newspaper articles on Project

Saeb Rawashdeh, ‘Researchers explore development of Hajj pilgrimage routes in Jordan,’ The Jordan Times, 15th April 2019.

Saeb Rawashdeh, ‘Project digs into ancient agricultural practices in Umm Al Rassas,’ The Jordan Times, 19th August 2019.


(c) Camel marching through a field of flowers: Back skirt panel from a Beduin dress, Negev desert (Collection Widad Kawar)

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