History of the research

The southern Hawrān (part of Roman Provincia Arabia), currently divided between Southern Syria and Northern Jordan, is a highly homogeneous geographic region and, at the same time, a very culturally rich area, characterized in ancient times by numerous interactions between sedentary and nomadic populations. It is in fact a strategic transition zone of caravans and pilgrimage routes linking the Mediterranean coast to the Arabian Peninsula, passing through major urban centres such as Bosra and Damascus. Historical and social events, together with the use of an extremely durable building material like basalt, created the conditions for good preservation of the ancient habitat in the region, at least until the end of the 70’s of the 20th century. From that moment, the situation changed abruptly due to a strong demographic growth, linked to wider processes of urbanization of the area and intensive land-use. Since 1974 the Southern Syrian Hawrān has been the object of intensive research by the French Archaeological Mission, which has significantly increased our understanding of the ancient settlement dynamics and building systems, from the Bronze Age to modern times[1]. In 2011, the tragic events related to the Syrian war led to the interruption of one of the most important and long-lived international projects of archaeological research in the Near East.

Despite this large project in the Syrian area, the Jordanian Hawrān has been studied during the last forty years taking into account only specific sites as: Jawa, the Bronze Age site[2], Umm al – Jimāl with the relevant ongoing research and valorization project lead by Bert De Vries[3] and the village of Khirbet al-Samra[4]. Two surveys have been realized in the Hawrān region with two different objectives and results. The first one, carried out by G.R.D. King between 1980 and 1982[5], was focused on the analysis of the transformations of some sites situated between Samah and Umm al – Quttayn from the byzantine time to the Islamic period (fig. 2). The other survey conducted by D.L. Kennedy and P. Freeman[6], in different seasons spread between 1984 and 1992, interested an area between Sabha and Dayr al – Qinn using air photos, field survey and little excavations to verify the occupational trends, in particular in the roman time. Thus the local situation of ancient settlements and construction history in the Jordanian Hawrān needs to be more deeply investigated.

[1] DENTZER J.M., 1985-1986, (ed.) HAURAN I. Recherches archéologiques sur la Syrie du Sud a l’èpoque hellénistique et romaine, Première et Deuxième partie, Paris; DENTZER J.-M., DENTZER-FEYDY J., BLANC P.-M., et TONDON Ph. (eds.), 2003, HAURAN II. L’installation de Sî‘8, du sanctuaire à l’établissement viticole. BAH 164, 2 vol., Ifpo, Beyrouth; CLAUSS-BALTY P., 2008 (ed.), HAURAN III. L’Habitat dans les campagnes de Syrie du Sud aux époques classique et médiévale, Ifpo, Beyrouth; DENTZER J.M., WEBER T.M., 2009, HAURAN IV-2. Sahr al-Ledja. Recherches syro-européennes 1998-2008. Un sanctuaire du désert basaltique à l’époque romaine, Ifpo, Beyrouth. AL-MAQDISSI M., BRAEMER F., DENTZER J. M. (eds.),2010, HAURAN V. La Syrie du Sud du néolithique à l’Antiquité tardive. Recherches récentes. Actes du colloque de Damas 2007, Ifpo, Damas.

[2] HELMS S.W., 1981, Jawa. Lost city of the black desert, Methuen.

[3] DE VRIES B. (ed.), 1998, Umm el-Jimal. A Frontier Town and its Landscape in Northern Jordan, Portsmouth.

[4] HUMBERT J. B., DESREUMAUX A., 1998, Khirbet es-Samra, Jordanie. 1. La voie romaine, le cimetière, les documents épigraphiques, Paris.

[5] KING G.R.D., 1983a, Byzantine and islamic sites in northern and eastern Jordan, in Proceedings of the Sixteenth Seminar for Arabian Studies vol. 13, held at Oxford on 20th-22nd July 1982 (1983), pp. 79-91; KING G.R.D., 1983b, Two Byzantine Churches in Northern Jordan and their Re-Use in the Islamic Period, ≪DM≫, 1 (1984), pp.111-136; KING G.R.D., 1992, Settlement Patterns in Islamic Jordan: The Umayyads and their Use of the Land, in Tell S. (a cura di), ≪SHAJ≫, 4, Amman, pp. 369-375.

[6] KENNEDY D.L., FREEMAN P., 1995, Sourthern Hauran Survey, 1992, ≪Levant≫, XXVII, 1995, pp. 39-73.


Piero Gilento

Marie Skłodowska Curie Postdoctoral research fellow at Paris 1 - Panthéon Sorbonne

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