Research

This team utilizes a material culture perspective to investigate the dialectics of empire in ancient local communities inhabiting the imperial fringes, and to provide a sustainable future for this heritage through local engagement.

Regional archaeological study

Team 3 will conduct a regional archaeological study in southern Transjordan along stretches of the King’s Highway to the north and south of Petra (in modern Jordan). This ancient overland route connected Egypt with the Euphrates, and it had continuous strategic significance during the first millennium BCE. Changes in political power and socio-economic circumstances were quickly reflected in changes in material evidence along the route. As with most regions on the imperial fringes, however, very little is known of the occupation history in the southern Transjordan in general, and along the King's Highway in particular. This holds even more true regarding small sedentary settlements and mobile communities, due to the limits of most survey methodologies. Although often a romantic picture is painted of these groups as “stateless societies,” we know little about how they reacted to imperial powers.

This study will be carried out in three stages. (1) we will locate archaeological ‘hotspots’ along the ancient road using GIS analysis and high-resolution satellite imagery (through, e.g., remote sensing and pattern recognition software). (2) we will conduct three seasons of targeted fieldwork on key areas, using a high-resolution, systematic field survey and geophysical prospecting. These are the only methods capable of locating small rural settlements and ephemeral sites related to mobile populations. (3) we will use on-site analytical methods such as portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (pXRF) to generate detailed information about artefacts and building materials that were manufactured, exploited, and transported along the King’s Highway in changing socio-political contexts. These on-site methods will be complemented in the post-fieldwork phase by a range of analyses of field samples in UH-based laboratories. Material analysis can reveal changes in the extent and direction of cultural contacts, trade patterns, inter-communal liaisons and material traditions, which are often employed to establish political power or reflect changing cultural identities and socio-economic preferences.

Team 3’s fieldwork will built upon the notion of "born-open data," which means that all its field and laboratory data will be made available quickly through an online database. This stimulates immediate collaboration and discussion with other researchers.

providing a sustainable future

Team 3's fieldwork also engages local Jordanian communities and scholars in the study and preservation of archaeological sites, thereby supporting their sense of ownership and stewardship. In collaboration with local communities, we will reciprocate with educational opportunities (e.g., local lectures, translation of research articles in Arabic for distribution). Further, on-site material analysis will provide opportunities to raise awareness about ancient materials as treasure-hordes of archaeological information rather than as objects of merely monetary value.

To enhance societal impact, an interactive multi-lingual website developed around our archaeological study will engage both the Finnish and Jordanian publics, and be available in conjunction with a touring museum exhibition hosted by selected venues in Finland (planned for 2022). We will acvtively study this public engagement (e.g., through visitor interviews, digital impact surveys, and exhibition exit surveys), in order to examine its impact and to further improve educational activities.

Finally, in collaboration with mebers of the "Working with Cultural Object and Manuscripts" project, Team 3 will assist in developing policy recommendations: firstly, to create a code of ethics to inform scholarly interaction with cultural material, and secondly, for decision-makers concerning import and export policies for cultural objects entering and leaving Finland.

Summing it all up

Team 3 will specifically:

  • Carry out satellite imagery analysis, field surveys, and materials analysis with an emphasis on ancient mobile or itinerant communities in the southern Transjordan.
  • Collaborate with local Jordanian communities and scholars before, during and after fieldwork.
  • Spearhead the preparation of a touring museum exhibition in order to bring ANEE research to the attention of the Finnish public.

Relationship with work packages

Work package 2 concentrates on marginal and marginalizing regions. Empires cannot exist without marginal regions, therefore understanding them is essential for imperial dynamics. This work package will compare marginal areas and former centres that became marginal, to explore how these local elites interacted with imperial systems differently from those in more central regions (WP1). Team 3 supplies previously overlooked archaeological evidence for changing local conditions on the imperial fringes in southern Transjordan. Materials analysis of artefacts and structures provides important information on local subsistence and adaptation, but also may reveal patterns of trade and contact with imperial heartlands and elsewhere.

Work pacakge 3 focuses on changes in the essential matters of livelihood (e.g., subsistence practices, access to water, change and continuity in religious practices) in rural fringe areas of these empires. The three-stage archaeological investigation focused on rural settlements and mobile populations carried out by Team 3 explores in detail the aspects of rural life in an imperial fringe zone and the impact of changing empires. Considering the cross-regional significance of the King’s Highway in Team 3’s study region, the material analysis offers high potential for revealing long-distance contact and trade, as well as evidence regarding lifeways of local, rural communities.

Work package 4 synthesises the results of the previous three WPs into a holistic view more useful to ANEE’s stakeholders. WPs 1–3 establish aspects of social group identities and lifeways in the urban centre and in rural margins. Yet, properly assessing the meaning of studies done in WPs 1-3 requires additional analysis that can explicitly interrelate the multiple methodologies employed. Aside from traditional post-fieldwork analysis, Team 3 will study its collected material data using network approaches and computer-aided tools, in close collaboration with the digital expertise of Team 1 members, and also integrate ANEE’s textual and social scientific results in its study of social group identities and lifeways. The aim of this study is to understand the dynamic interplay between imperial heartlands and fringe zones in the construction of local material identities over the course of several empires.