Building capacity for prehistoric archaeology in Jordan

Jordan has archaeological sites that preserve evidence of some of the most profound changes in the human past. However, with rare exceptions, prehistoric archaeological research has been dominated by international researchers and research agendas and has been marginal to archaeology and cultural heritage presentation within Jordan. This has an impact on both cultural and economic values within Jordan.

This UK-Jordan collaboration is developing a new generation of Jordanian scholars and cultural resource managers working in prehistoric research. The project builds capacity in the field of prehistoric archaeology, supporting Jordanian led prehistoric research and ensures that international research collaborations take place on a peer to peer basis.

The project will engage the wider Jordanian public in prehistory, where a lack of local interest translates into a lack of protection for these sites. Raising the profile of prehistory and showing its relevance to modern life is all vital to modern Jordanian society.

The team has established a new centre to service as a location for this type of research based within the Department of Antiquities museum in Wadi Faynan. The centre will build long-term employment opportunities, encourage international researchers to undertake analysis within Jordan and employ Jordanian researchers, in addition to encouraging international collaborations and providing a facility for Jordanian research. Helping to ensure the sustainability of the museum, the research centre will support the employment of additional local staff.

The ambition is to develop the tourism potential of prehistory, locally and internationally, to provide direct economic benefits to rural communities and the Jordanian economy.

In Jordan, archaeology has been mostly dominated by men because of cultural perspectives, forgetting that the archaeology of the region has been established by prominant female archaeologists like Gertrude Bell and Kathleen Kenyon. In our initial project, we young female archaeologists were side by side with male archaeologists in the remote fields of southern Jordan.

Dr Sahar Al-Khasawneh, Yarmouk University

This project was shortlisted for the Newton Prize 2020.

Watch a short film about the project on YouTube.

Rewriting the prehistory of Jordan

Project leads: Professor William Finlayson, Oxford Brookes University, UK and Dr Sahar Al-Khasawneh, Yarmouk University, Jordan

Delivery partners: Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation and the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Jordan