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The Rural Landscape of Roman Philadelphia: A (Disappearing) 'World of Villages'

About the lecture

Between Biblical ‘Ammon’ and Islamic ‘Amman’ lie nine centuries of Graeco-Roman Philadelphia. During this period the population of city and hinterland reached a peak not seen again till the 20th century. In between, however, Amman was abandoned for centuries, an island of crumbling grandeur in an equally depopulated landscape known only to beduin, the skeleton of a once thriving network of roads, farms, monasteries, and fossilized field-systems clearly visible and – in particular, as Fergus Millar observed in 1993, there was a ‘World of Villages’. Starting with Seetzen in 1806, westerners began to explore ‘east of Jordan’. Many recorded their observations, mapped, painted and drew, and increasingly photographed. Explicitly scientific were the PEF surveys of Warren in 1867 and Conder in 1881, playing an outstanding part in introducing a scholarly and increasingly systematic approach. Even after re-settlement began in the 1870s, development throughout this region was relatively slow; until the 1940s population was thin and ruins remained abundant and well-preserved. Since 1948, population explosion and landscape development has devastated the archaeological record in the Belqa - the fertile hinterland of Amman. Destruction is accelerating and spreading, overwhelming the vital rural context of a great Classical city. Nevertheless, much can yet be salvaged as an examination of some case studies illustrates

About the speaker
Professor David Kennedy's principal research focuses on the Roman Near East where he has conducted fieldwork since 1976 ranging from survey in the Southern Hauran (Jordan) and the hinterland of Jarash to excavation at Zeugma (Turkey). Of particular interest to Professor Kennedy are the Roman army and military installations, landscape archaeology and Aerial Archaeology. The last of these has stimulated research on other periods from the Neolithic period through the Umayyad to the Ottoman and British, on the archaeology of Saudi Arabia and on 19th century western exploration ‘east of Jordan’.

Professor Kennedy founded, in 1978, the Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East (APAAME), co-director of the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan (AAJ) project since 1997 and Affiliate and Co-Founder of the Endangered Archaeology in the Middle East and North Africa (EAMENA) project since 2015.

His recent publications include Gerasa and the Decapolis (2007), Settlement and Soldiers in the Roman Near East (2013) and an eBook, Kites in ‘Arabia’ (with R. Banks and P. Houghton) (2014). In progress are books on the Hinterland of Roman Philadelphia, the Umayyad Palace at Muwaqqar and Travel and Travellers East of Jordan in the 19th Century.