Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
The Faynan region in southern Jordan today is largely an arid desert-steppic environment that hardly resembles a lush forested paradise. Yet, the region supported large-scale copper mining and production over the course of two millennia from the Iron Age (12th century BC) into the Middle Islamic Period (mid-13th century AD). Faynan’s inhabitants needed large quantities of wood to fuel the copper industry, so how did they manage to do it? This lecture examines different strategies that Faynan’s inhabitants used over time to collect fuel and manage the landscape, using new data from archaeological excavation and survey, and especially wood charcoal data collected and analyzed as part of the Edom Lowlands Regional Archaeological Project (ELRAP). These results reveal that effective use of Faynan’s local vegetation, hydrology, and geology could not only provide sufficient fuel for copper production, but even allowed cultivation of fruit trees like pomegranates, olives, and grapes. I also discuss how copper mining and production, and accompanying landscape use and management–which had varying levels of sustainability–impacted Faynan’s environment over the long term, and their lasting ecological legacy.
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