New videos on ACOR’s YouTube channel

13 December 2020

This fall, major annual conferences went online, witnessing unprecedented global participation, and we were pleased to catch up with current research and discoveries of our colleagues and fellows. We are further pleased to share with you today a sample array of their recorded presentations. With utmost gratitude to the individuals and organizations who ensured that such critical spaces of intellectual exchange would go on this year, below you will find links to recorded content originally prepared for the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR), Middle East Studies Association (MESA), and Middle East Librarians Association (MELA) annual meetings, which took place in October and November of this year. Congratulations to all presenters and event organizers for your successes! We hope this video collection will enable wide audiences to dive deeper into Jordan’s past and present.

Have a question about remote-access digital teaching and learning resources related to Jordan? Don’t hesitate to contact our team:

Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA)

“Organizing, Enduring, Empowering, and Sharing: Challenging Institutional Constructs in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey”
Moderated by Betty Anderson and Kimberly Katz, with presentations by Allison Anderson, Josephine Chaet, Julia Gettle, and Jennifer Olmsted (1:56:18)

Abstract: In a panel sponsored by the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman, Jordan, four scholars examine how vulnerable populations, women and refugees in particular, challenge the means by which state and institutional actors try to define and limit their activities. Two panelists emphasize the role of the Jordanian state as a long-standing host to refugees beginning in 1948, and two panelists frame their work in a comparative context, and include cases in Lebanon and Turkey, highlighting the shared experience of vulnerable populations across borders in the region. Paper 1 analyzes the strategies employed by national non-governmental women’s organizations to interact with international development institutions in the face of delimiting state regulations, in order to explore the enduring implications of such global machineries upon localized feminist activism. Paper 2 forefronts grassroots organizing in local cultural, sports and youth clubs in Palestinian refugee camps through analysis of the biographical writings of Arab National Movement activists in Jordan and Lebanon. This emphasis on popular politics provides an opportunity to explore the fact that otherwise region-wide ideologies, such as Pan-Arabism, are always imbricated in local and state-level politics. Papers 3 and 4 question the gender benchmarks set by international organizations to determine how to evaluate and provide opportunities for Syrian women living in refugee camps in Jordan and for women in Jordan seeking empowerment through work. Paper 3 analyzes how NGO’s aiding Syrian refugees have embraced gender as a window on to studying refugee issues. This framing, however, is complicated by the conflicting agendas of humanitarian and development agencies and the differing experience women face in their countries of refuge. Paper 4 examines the NGO claims that home-based ICT-enabled work can empower women in Jordan, pointing out that for such an endeavor to succeed, policy makers must take into account the complexity of women’s lived experiences. While these papers examine different populations throughout Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, these scholars hone in on the role that local actions and popular organizing play in challenging policies by state and international development officials. However well intended state and international efforts may be in trying to address the needs of vulnerable populations, grassroots efforts, such as those explored in this panel, may ultimately help lead the way in crafting more successful approaches to dealing with refugee populations and the place of women in state economies.

The Middle East Librarians Association (MELA)

“Lockdown and locked out of access to knowledge? One Jordan-based research center adopts radical collaboration to keep serving its user communities during the global pandemic.”
By Jessica Holland (15:13)

Abstract: Jordan has experienced one of the strictest lockdowns in the world in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, with driving banned, and leaving the house restricted. As such, the ACOR Library and Archive had to react fast in order to ensure that we were still able to serve our user communities. During this international crisis, with airports and borders closed until further notice, we were particularly seeking solutions to keep serving those who had planned to travel to Jordan for research or to lead educational tours, and who now found those opportunities for advancing knowledge postponed indefinitely. In recent years, ACOR has invested time and energy into digitizing a large proportion of its interdisciplinary archives which reflect the region during the past tumultuous 80 years, recording significant instances of cultural, and intangible, heritage. Due to the rapid adoption of the division of digitization labor, (into: slide scanning, photo editing, quality-control, and metadata description), the geographically-challenged team were able to process and publish 3,000 images through the ACOR Photo Archive; almost reaching our target of 30,000 images online. This was achieved through rapid-scanning in the 3 days’ notice before military curfew was enforced, and was sustained as one team member was living at ACOR. This experience lends a new importance to “disaster planning” and we seek to share lessons learned, and start conversations on how we as a community can provide support in planning for the unprecedented, and ensuring that the needs of our staff, and our user communities are met.

The American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR)

A Preliminary Report on Iron Age Ceramic and Chronological Evidence from Khirbat al-Jariya, Jordan
by Matthew D. Howland with co-authors Brady Liss, Mohammad Najjar, and Thomas E. Levy for the session “Archaeology of Jordan II” (20:47)

Abstract: Khirbat al-Jariya (KAJ) is a medium-sized copper production site in southern Jordan’s Faynan region. KAJ features an estimated 15-20,000 tonnes of copper slag (Hauptmann 2007), evidencing the scale of production at the site. Recent excavations at the site have clarified the chronology and use of the site, situating the site’s occupation from the mid-11th to mid-to-late-10th centuries BCE. These investigations have shown that the site should be interpreted as an organized expansion of the regional copper industry centered at the larger production site of Khirbat en-Nahas, 3km down the Wadi al-Jariya from KAJ. This paper presents a preliminary report on KAJ’s ceramic evidence and situates the assemblage within the larger Iron Age Faynan and Wadi Arabah assemblages.

“The Documentation of Amman Heritage Houses Using EAMENA Methodology”
by Dana Salameen, for the session “Cultural Heritage: Preservation, Presentation, and Management I” (13:32)

Abstract: The modern history of Amman began at the end of the 19th century whereas settlements started in the valley and later expanded towards the mountains; the seven hills of Amman. In the mid-20th century, the city architecture and typo-morphology flourished significantly as it was influenced by the builders and architects who came from neighboring countries in terms of architectural language and materials. The houses built during this era have distinct architectural, historical and socio-economic values. Nevertheless, the rapid urbanization, population growth, and the lack of documentation, had led to the need of a proper mapping and documentation of these houses. Amman Heritage Houses (AHH) is a project funded by the Global Heritage Fund and was be implemented by Jordanian experts during 2019. The project aims to conduct a documentation research using EAMENA recording and condition assessment methodology to record and assess a number of heritage houses in Jabal Amman and Jabal Al-Weibdeh. This project is the start for a comprehensive record of Amman heritage houses that consists of condition and threat assessment, and mapping for the location, type, dating, and history. Though the project duration is only 6 months, but the team managed to successfully record 108 houses on EAMENA database with the support of the local community through social media platforms and from other resources, conduct a workshop for architecture students to understand the architectural and artistic values of those houses in addition to lectures at Jordanian Universities to raise the awareness among students and professionals.

The Economy of the Nabataean and Roman Port of Aila (Aqaba): A Diachronic Perspective
by S. Thomas Parker, for the session “Archaeology of Petra and Nabataea” (23:22)

Abstract: The Roman Aqaba Project aimed to reconstruct diachronically the economy of this international port from its foundation by the Nabataeans in the late 1st century B.C. up to the Early Islamic period (early 7th century A.D.). Methodology included study of the regional environment, the regional survey and extensive excavations. Results of the first two components appeared in 2014 (Parker and Smith 2014). Analysis of results from excavation are nearing final form and thus offer many insights into Aila’s economic history. Excavations revealed several domestic areas, two cemeteries, city wall, and possible early church. Analysis of artifacts and organic remains also open new windows into Aila’s economy. The project has completed analysis of most categories of such evidence, such as structures, ceramics, coins, small finds, glass, paleobotanical, human and faunal remains. As expected based on literary sources, Aila was a major nexus of trade throughout its history, including far-flung connections with both Mediterranean and Red Sea littorals. However, diachronic analysis suggests significant changes in sources and quantities of many traded goods. Further, Aila also hosted several industries (a fact absent from documentary sources), such as ceramics, metal-working, and bone-working. Nevertheless, given its hyper-arid climate, Aila was largely dependent on imported resources (especially food) for local consumption.

“Investigating rural complexity after urban collapse: new excavations of an EB IV olive oil ‘factory’ at Khirbet Ghozlan, Jordan”
by James Fraser with co-author Caroline Cartwright, for the session “Archaeology of Jordan I” (24:40)

Abstract: The late 3rd millennium BCE (EB IV) in the southern Levant has traditionally been described as a rural interlude between the collapse of the region’s first proto-urban centres in the EB II-II and their rejuvenation as a network of city-states at the beginning of the MBA. During this period, populations are thought to have dispersed into village communities that practiced simple forms of agro-pastoral farming. However, these approaches have failed to recognize the significance of several small but well-defended “enclosure” sites. These sites were new foundations on the well-drained slopes of the Jordan Rift Valley escarpment, which are better suited to the cultivation of upland tree crops than the flood-prone Jordan Valley floor. The Khirbet Ghozlan Excavation Project proposes a model of horticultural specialisation that interprets enclosure sites as processing centres for upland fruit crops such as olive and grape, and suggests that they were enclosed to defend seasonal caches of cash-crop commodities such as oil and wine. This model explores how high-value liquid products helped promote a complex rural economy that reconfigured aspects of earlier urban production within smaller-scale exploitation of niche environmental zones. Ultimately, such forms of economic resilience may have underlain the rejuvenation of urban systems in the early 2nd millennium BCE. This paper presents the results of the 2017 and 2019 excavations at the 0.4 ha enclosure site of Khirbet Ghozlan, partly funded as an ASOR Harris Grant. It includes the architectural, ceramic, lithic and botanical evidence for late prehistoric olive oil production and storage. Learn more at

“New Evidence for Post-Destruction Recovery and Resilience at Khirbat Iskandar, the EB III/IV Transition, and International Interconnectivity”
By Suzanne Richard, for the session “Interdisciplinary Approaches to Collapse, Resilience, and Resistance in the Ancient Near East” (18:48)

Abstract: This paper provides a new perspective on the long-debated issue of the mechanisms surrounding the urban/rural (EB III/IV) transition ca. 2500 BC. What did occur at the nexus between the EB III destruction and the EB IV reoccupation, particularly in Transjordan, where evidence for EB III/IV strata on tells is notable for the southern Levant. Recovery and growth at Khirbat Iskandar in EB IV has always implied a resilience of the population in the aftermath of the crisis of “collapse” (EB III destruction). The 2019 excavations offer a new perspective on the dynamics of resilience, recovery, and new identities at the EB III/IV transition, all attending the deurbanization process. It now appears that EB III survivors chose, in the aftermath of destruction/collapse, to remain on site, rebuild, and maintain long-held EBA traditions at the ancestral site, a recovery evolving without break into the EB IV period, where it gained new momentum. A three-phase stratified sequence sandwiched between an EB IV layer and an EB III destruction layer witnesses to this remarkable example of resilience. This paper will argue that new social forms and international interconnectivity drove this momentum, resulting in a new hybrid identity so emblematic of EB IV materiality. This re-evaluation of collapse, resilience, recovery, and of the distinctive last phase of EBA civilization at Khirbat Iskandar, finds explanation when contextualized in the new higher EBA chronology and the attendant political realignments with neighboring polities.

“Petroglyphs and Desert Kites at Wisad Pools, Jordan”
By Austin Chad Hill with co-authors Yorke Rowan, Alex Wasse, and Gary Rollefson, for the session “Prehistoric Archaeology” (26:02)

Abstract: Intensive documentation of hundreds of petroglyphs at the site of Wisad Pools in the Black Desert of eastern Jordan records animals, humans, hunting traps, and geometric designs, connecting people and places to the larger landscape. These were recorded at the landscape scale with drones, and the local scale through the construction of a database combined with GPS recording and terrestrial photogrammetry. Petroglyphs of animals and hunting traps are significant because the site is located within a landscape that includes enormous and enigmatic hunting traps (desert kites). This paper presents the typological distribution of petroglyphs at the site and their relationship to nearby landscape features. The depictions of animals and hunting traps provide clues about the use of desert kites and the social role of hunting, communal gatherings, and feasting in the region.

The Temple of the Winged Lions: A Reassessment Based on the AEP Archives
by Pauline Piraud-Fournet and Jack Green, for the session “Archaeology of Petra and Nabataea” (22:59)

Abstract: In 1974, Philip C. Hammond from the University of Utah launched the excavations of the Temple of the Winged Lions (TWL), a major ritual complex in the ancient city centre of the Nabataean capital, Petra. Hammond excavated this sanctuary until 2005 as director of the American Expedition to Petra (AEP). The temple contains a cultic platform surrounded by columns, and decorated with painted plaster panels and stucco ornaments. The AEP uncovered and published many remarkable architectural elements, statuettes, objects of worship, and ancillary facilities including workshops and residential spaces. ACOR, in cooperation with the Department of Antiquities and the Petra Archaeological Park, launched the TWLCRM Initiative in 2009, which is dedicated to working with local communities in efforts towards site conservation, presentation, interpretation, and education. The TWLCRM Initiative implemented works in the field and is making preparations towards a final publication of the TWL through an evaluation of unpublished material. As part of publication preparations, many activities have been undertaken, including an assessment and description of AEP archives and the processing of material found during sieving of the former AEP archaeological dumps. Likewise, a review of Hammond’s publications and bibliographical references related to the TWL, other Nabataean sanctuaries, architecture, and worship practices, enable us to highlight key research issues that may constitute the outlines of future study and final publication. The present paper aims at presenting the outcomes of these preliminary activities, the wealth of archival resources, and importance of this study to our understanding of the Nabataean world.

Preserving the Cultural Heritage of the Madaba Region of Jordan (Workshop)
chaired by Douglas Clark, Suzanne Richard, Andrea Polcaro, Marta D’Andrea, and Basem Mahamid, with contributions by Elizabeth Lee, Jehad Haron, Debra Foran, Nizar Al-Adarbeh, Øystein LaBianca, and Bruce Routledge (2:00:17)

General Workshop Description: This workshop seeks to encourage collaborative presentations, panel discussions, and structured conversations focused on issues in the Madaba Region of central Jordan, as defined by the Department of Antiquities: the area between southern Amman, the eastern desert, the Wadi Mujib, and the Dead Sea. Archaeological issues—whether generically archaeological, geo-political, architectural, anthropological, ethnographic, conceptual and theoretical, cultural heritage- or community-related, or technological—are enlarged, enriched, and enhanced when approached collaboratively in a regional context. Theme for 2020: Collaborative presentations/conversations among Madaba Region archaeological excavation projects, centered on the current Madaba Archaeological Museum where regional finds are stored, studied, and displayed. Given the success with our application for a US Ambassador’s grant (AFCP/CATF—Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Protection/Cultural Antiquities Task Force, funded by the US Department of State) for 2019-2021 and building on the introductory presentation in 2019, the workshop will focus on progress in plans for this totally upgraded and repurposed storage and research facility for our collective artifacts, as well as updates on new virtual technologies designed to preserve and present the Madaba region’s extensive cultural heritage.

Online Photo Archives as Tools for Archaeological Heritage Preservation and Engagement (Workshop)
chaired by Jack Green, with contributions by Gabriel Rodriguez, Zainab Bahrani, Foy Scalf, Anne Flannery, Claudia Bührig, Benjamin Ducke, Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis, Sean Leatherbury, and Miranda Williams (1:56:44)

Description: Online photo archives provide access to thousands of recent and historic images of archaeological and cultural heritage collections, sites, and landscapes across the MENA region. These range from aerial to ground-based photographs, crowd-sourced images, institutional or project-based archives, and digitized private archives. A recent increase in such online archives can partly be traced to recent responses to damage and destruction of cultural heritage across the Middle East. Such images may be used to aid reconstructions of damaged structures or objects, as research tools for monitoring changes and threats to collections, sites, and monuments in the region, as well as resources for preserving cultural memory among local and diaspora communities. Despite multiple resources and platforms available online, there is limited dialog between such projects about shared values, roles, and objectives. This workshop provides a forum to discuss opportunities and challenges for online photo archives focused on heritage preservation in the MENA region, asking questions such as: Who are their intended audiences? How might these archives be used in scholarly and public education settings? How effective are they in documenting, monitoring, and preserving heritage? Finally, the workshop attendees will consider the importance of collaboration, sharing, and building greater awareness of such archives.

ACOR’s Photo Archive as a Tool for Research and Engagement in Archaeological Heritage
by John (Jack) Green, for the session “Online Photo Archives as Tools for Archaeological Heritage Preservation and Engagement” (12:28)

Abstract: ACOR in Amman, Jordan, has carried out a major digitization effort thanks to grant funding from the US Department of Education (Title VI) between 2016 and 2020. This presentation will present some of the current and future directions of the ACOR Photo Archive Project, which has uploaded over 30,000 images and associated metadata (English and Arabic) from Jordan and the wider MENA region with a strong focus on archaeology and cultural heritage. Photographs in the ACOR collection were taken by individuals including Jane Taylor, Rami Khouri, George Bass, Linda K. Jacobs, Bert de Vries, and Paul and Nancy Lapp, each forming discrete collections related to their personal and professional trajectories. Visits to archaeological sites, landscapes and environments, engagements with local communities, as well as events and academic activities, are among the topics covered, ranging from the late 1940s to the early 2000s. The archive is particularly strong from the perspectives of conservation, preservation, urban development, and history of archaeology. ACOR raises awareness of its archive among a diverse community of specialist researchers and educators within the US, Jordan, and further afield. Archival workshops and conference participation with educators and librarians is also enabling ACOR to share knowledge beyond archaeologists and heritage specialists. Through social media, interviews, and photo essays, the ACOR Photo Archive is engaging with researchers, professionals, and the general public, particularly in the US and Jordan, while also considering new ways in which this resource can be used more actively in teaching and learning.

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