2016 marked the twentieth year of the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan (AAJ) Project, initiated in 1997 by Professor David Kennedy (University of Western Australia) and – since 1998, jointly directed with Dr. Robert Bewley (University of Oxford). This is the only programme of aerial reconnaissance for archaeology in the Middle East – indeed, anywhere outside Europe. Over this time the team has flown over 400 hours and taken some 100,000 photographs. Sites photographed are of all periods from prehistoric to the present day and of all types. The extent and density of archaeology in this region, and the continual investigation and discovery by local and international teams of archaeologists, has meant that we are not only recording known sites but continually adding previously unknown sites to our catalogue. The resulting record is made freely available for searching online through our Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East (APAAME) website www.apaame.org.

Qasr el-Hallabat

The site of Qasr el-Hallabat in Jordan’s north – a region known as the Southern Hauran. The site underwent development from a (probable) Nabataean fortlet, to a Roman fort then even grander Ghassanid one with church and possibly monastic implant. After the Islamic conquest it became a rural mansion for a Muslim aristocrat and received a mosque and – two kilometres away, – an elaborate bath building. The photos show the changes brought about by clearance and reconstruction in the qasr and the reconstruction of the mosque (top right). Restoration occurred alongside the development of a visitor discovery center. Images by David Kennedy and Andrea Zerbini, courtesy of APAAME.

During this twenty-year period we have witnessed many changes to the archaeology and the landscape of Jordan. Developments in the region, both positive and negative, have meant irreversible transformation, and often our photographs and/or the documentation of international and local teams are the only record of what once existed. Our project therefore is highly collaborative – working and sharing information with many current projects within Jordan. The inevitable impact of development means that the necessity for a remote programme of assessment for the region’s heritage remains, and the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan project will continue to contribute to documenting and understanding this heritage. One way in which we are doing this is through collaboration with the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project.

Adir Parker

An unnamed site in central Jordan, possibly a Caravansarai. The dense cluster of structures has been surveyed but not excavated. The development of the track in the vicinity has directly impacted several of the structures. Images by David Kennedy and Rebecca Repper, courtesy of APAAME.

The EAMENA project (based at the University of Oxford in collaboration with the Universities of Leicester and Durham, supported by the Arcadia Fund and the Cultural Protection Fund) has developed a dynamic online record for the archaeology and heritage of the MENA region in cooperation with local partners (see eamena.arch.ox.ac.uk). The database (using the ARCHES platform) records the presence of archaeology and heritage in the landscape, but also the diverse impacts to, and the current state of, those sites. The aerial photography of AAJ and its record of sites are being made available to the EAMENA project. Moreover, historical aerial imagery continues to be digitized and actively analyzed as a resource for this project, and made available through both APAAME and the EAMENA platforms. Through collaboration and the responsible sharing of knowledge, our projects contribute to building awareness, skills and resources with the amazing people and projects in the MENA region that document and preserve their rich heritage.

Deir Alla

The archaeological tell of Deir Alla in the Jordan Valley. The excavated area of the tell has undergone significant erosion, but development has thankfully not increased at the site. Images by David Kennedy and Andrea Zerbini, courtesy of APAAME.

All imagery by the AAJ project can be requested for research and/or publications: please contact us using the details on the APAAME website. The EAMENA database was launched this year and is available through the EAMENA website. Feedback is most welcome.