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The Roman Aqaba Project
Final Report, Volume 1: The Regional Environment and the Regional Survey

By S. T. Parker and Andrew M. Smith II

The Roman Aqaba Project
Hardback, 400 pages £15.00
Published: 2014
ISBN: 9780897570428
Format: 281mm x 220mm
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Subjects: American Schools of Oriental Research, Ancient Near East, Archaeology
Series: ASOR Archaeological Reports

Includes 114 illustrations, some in colour.

Recent scholarship on the Roman Empire has focused on the nature of its economy, including sites that served as nodules of commercial exchange. Aila was such a port city on the Red Sea on the southeastern frontier of the Empire, now within modern Aqaba in Jordan. The city of Aila emerged in the late 1st century BC within the Nabataean kingdom, a client state of the Roman Empire. The port continued to flourish into the early Islamic period, handling trade between the Empire and south Arabia, east Africa, and India.

The Roman Aqaba Project aimed to reconstruct Aila’s economy diachronically. The project research design included a regional archaeological and environmental survey, excavation of the ancient city, and analysis of material remains relevant to Aila's economy. Six field seasons were conducted between 1994 and 2002, providing a detailed picture of the economic history of the city. Excavation revealed major elements of the city, such as domestic quarters, industrial facilities, fortifications, and a monumental building interpreted as an early Christian church.

This first of three projected volumes of the project’s final report focuses on the regional environment and the regional survey. Analysis of the environment employs a wide range of evidence to analyse the physiography, geology, soils, seismic history, climate and natural resources. Various lines of evidence are employed to reconstruct the paleoclimate, which seems to have remained essentially hyperarid since early historical times. The report also includes results of an intensive archaeological survey of Wadi Araba, the shallow valley extending north from Aqaba to the Dead Sea. The project surveyed the southeastern the valley, recording 334 archaeological sites, most previously unrecorded. These of these were small and unobtrusive and ranged in date from Paleolithic to Late Islamic, but especially common were sites of the Chalcolithic/Early Bronze Age and the Early Roman/Nabataean periods, suggesting more intensive occupation in these periods. The volume also includes chapters on artifacts collected by the survey, including chipped stone tools, pottery, and Nabataean inscriptions. Aila apparently lacked any significant agricultural hinterland. The city was largely dependent on imports from more distant sources.

List of Illustrations

List of Tables


Chapter 1: Introduction, S. Thomas Parker

Chapter 2: The Regional Environment, Tina M. Niemi

Chapter 3: Fish, Dates, and Flying Machines: Ethno-History and Aerial Photography in the Investigation of Aqaba, Jordan, John D. Rucker & Tina M. Niemi

Chapter 4: The Southeast ‘Araba Archaeological Survey SAAS Catalogue of Sites, Andrew M. Smith II

Chapter 5: Analysis and Interpretation of Lithic Assemblages Recovered from Sites in the Southeast ‘Araba Archaeological Survey, Donald O. Henry, Marni Cochrane, Cassandra Burns & Travis Taverna

Chapter 6: The Pottery from the Survey, S. Thomas Parker

Chapter 7: Semitic Inscriptions, David F. Graf

Chapter 8: The Hinterland of Roman Aila, S. Thomas Parker & Andrew M. Smith II



S. Thomas Parker is Professor of History at North Carolina State University. He directed the Roman Aqaba Project in 1994-2002. Since 2012 he has been a co-director of the Petra North Ridge Project. He is the author of Romans and Saracens: A History of the Arabian Frontier (1986) and, as editor, The Roman Frontier in Central Jordan: Final Report on the Limes Arabicus Project, 1980-1989 (2006).

Andrew M. Smith II is Assistant Professor of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at George Washington University and has served on archaeological projects in the Middle East since 1989. He directed the survey of the Roman Aqaba Project in 1994-1998 and is currently director of the Bir Madhkur Project in Jordan. He is the author of Roman Palmyra: Identity, Community, and State Formation (2012).

Publication Details:

 Hardback , 400 pages
 281mm x 220mm

BIC Code:
  HIS002000, SOC003000
 American Schools of Oriental Research


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