Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
During the Early Islamic period (ca. 630-1000 AD), the town of Ayla (modern ‘Aqaba, Jordan) was a bustling port, the southern Levant’s key connection to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. Just over 50 km to the northeast, in the highlands at the edge of the Hisma Desert, the ‘Abbasid family lived at their estate at Humayma until 750 AD, when their revolution led to the family’s ascent to the Caliphate and they moved to Iraq. While this momentous political event looms large in the history of this period, archaeology provides a window into more subtle socioeconomic changes. Around the time of the revolution, in the mid-8th century, a network of short-lived mines, smelting sites, and quarries and longer-lived farms emerged in southern Wadi ‘Araba, Ayla’s arid lowland hinterland. The timing of the expansion and abandonment of these sites is important for understanding how Ayla’s economy worked and changed during the same period. This lecture will draw on recent archaeological work in southern Wadi ‘Araba and at Humayma to explain these shifts in the regional economy and the changing roles of Ayla and Humayma in its administration.
Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):