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Tweets from the Desert: Social Networks & Jordan's Ancient Nomads

You can view the accompanying slides to this lecture here:…669862948&type=1

The British Institute in Amman presents a public lecture by Michael Macdonald (Oxford University)

Roughly between the first century BC and the fourth century AD, the nomads in the deserts of what is now Jordan, southern Syria, and northern Saudi Arabia, were literate for the only time in their history, before the present day.
However, since the only surfaces they had to write on were rocks, they used writing simply to carve graffiti while watching over the herds while they pastured or looking out for game or enemies. They produced tens of thousands of graffiti on the desert rocks and these contain often very personal statements, as well as rude remarks, information about what they were doing, feeling, etc. In the same way as we use twitter. As a result, we have far more information about the way-of-life of these nomads than we do about any other section of the population at that time.

Michael Macdonald lived in Jordan for 8 years in the 1970s and 1980s and has been associated with British Institute at Amman and later the CBRL since its foundation. He has been leading surveys to record inscriptions in Jordan, Syria,and in Saudi Arabia, for the last 40 years and now directs the Online Corpus of the Inscriptions of Ancient North Arabia at the University of Oxford which aims to make all known inscriptions from the region available in an online database.