The central goal of the pioneering ‘Landscapes of Survival’ project is to develop a far-reaching understanding of the desert cultural landscape and to explain the prominent achievements of the indigenous pastoralist peoples between c. 200 BCE and 800 CE. What were the fundamental social, political, economic and ideological strategies which allowed the populations of Jordan’s Black Desert to successfully exploit this difficult-to-inhabit region? How did people cope with the marginal environment in which they were living? And how were the local communities embedded in the supra-regional political and trade networks of their time?
Until recently the nature of the pastoral societies in the desert was mainly reconstructed on the basis of generalized epigraphic evidence from the desert at large and from external literary sources from the Roman world and beyond. The Landscapes of Survival project, however, seeks to obtain a more directly informed understanding of the pastoral communities, by studying archaeological and epigraphic data from a local landscape that was frequented by nomadic communities in the past.
The project elaborates on new fieldwork in the Jebel Qurma region, an area of roughly 300 km² in the midst of Jordan’s Black Desert, about 30 km east of the modern oasis town of Azraq, close to the Saudi border. New archaeological and epigraphic data are being gathered through intensive field surveys and excavations in the Jebel Qurma region (as part of the Jebel Qurma Archaeological Landscape Project).
The new data sets are used in three PhD research projects, which together aim at a detailed understanding of pastoralist ways of life and death in Jordan’s Black Desert and the role of both literacy and iconography (rock-art) in the shaping of these pastoralist lifeways.