Nomadism and Sedentism as Equal Co-Directional Subsistence Options in Arid Landscapes: A unique study opportunity in the "Black Desert" of north-eastern Jordan

01 October 2020 → 06 September 2021
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Archaeology of Europe, the Mediterranean and the Levant
    • Landscape archaeology
    • Prehistoric archaeology
  • Natural sciences
    • Quaternary environments
  • Social sciences
    • Ecological anthropology
nomadism sedentism human subsistence strategies Jordan Black Desert pastoralism arid landscapes temporary shelters
Project description

The prevalence of nomadism or sedentism in the past and the difficulty of identifying the former in the archaeological record are globally applicable research topics. The challenges that these issues pose have led to the unfortunate effect of nomadism being sidelined in archaeological investigations, often viewed as an evidently "earlier" stage in the development of human civilisation rather than a cultural choice in its own right. This view is slowly being challenged, and one region that provides a unique opportunity to do so is the Harra, or "Black Desert", of north-eastern Jordan. The arid and seasonally fluctuating environmental conditions of this region which lend themselves to mobile pastoralism, combined with the geological properties of a landscape strewn with basalt blocks so that even temporary shelters are constructed from durable material still standing today, create a rare chance to investigate the ratio of sedentism to nomadism. This project aims to do so with regard to periods of human occupation and morphological forms of sites. In particular, one site type of the Harra, known as a "wheel", will be investigated in detail, including the excavation of several examples, to study these potential associations. Identified correlations between levels of nomadism and time period or site type will indicate whether this subsistence method was a response to environmental challenges, a cultural artefact that precipitated specific structure forms, or both.