Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
Faynan is an arid region in the lowlands of southern Jordan, famous today for its desert landscapes and ecotourism, with much of the region belonging to the Dana Biosphere Reserve. In antiquity, the region’s importance stemmed from its copper ore resources, which provided its economic foundations during several peaks of production. This lecture will focus on the period between the 3rd and 19th centuries AD, drawing primarily on data collected by the UC San Diego Edom Lowlands Regional Archaeology Project (ELRAP), directed by Thomas E. Levy and Mohammad Najjar. It begins by exploring the peak of Roman copper production at the metallum of Phaino (Khirbat Faynan) in the 3rd and 4th centuries and the decline of this industry in the late 5th–early 6th century AD. Although copper production ceased at this point, Phaino maintained religious importance as a site of martyrdom of Christians condemned to the mines, and the region continued to be settled into the 9th century. The next and final peak of production occurred during the Ayyubid period, or the late 12th and early 13th centuries AD. This was a much smaller industry than the earlier Roman one, and this lecture will explore the differing political and economic motivations underlying the establishment of these industries. Following the end of this industry in the mid-13th century, the economy of the region shifted to pastoralism and agropastoralism. We will consider the archaeological evidence for these economic shifts and how they fit within larger socioeconomic trends in the Levant and Eastern Mediterranean.
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