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A Roman Fort Amidst the Dunes: The 2017 'Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project

Location: 'Ayn Gharandal, Jordan

June 18, 2017 to July 31, 2017

Application Deadline: 
Monday, February 13, 2017

Deadline Type: 
Exact date

Flyer: PDF icon agap2015travelitinerary-1.pdf

Program Type

Field school

RPA certified



University of Tennessee & University of Missouri-Columbia

Project Director:

Robert Darby, University of Tennessee, and Erin Darby, University of Tennessee

Project Description

A Roman Fort Amidst the Dunes: The 'Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project

'Ayn Gharandal lies ca. 70 km north of the Gulf of Aqaba, ca. 40 km SW of Petra, and ca. 200.0 m west of the mouth of Wadi Gharandal on the eastern edge of the Wadi Arabah. The ruins rest alongside the modern paved road running east from the nearby Dead Sea highway. The presence of an artesian spring in the mouth of the wadi presumably served as the reason for human occupation at the site.

Location of ‘Ayn GharandalAyn Gharandal and its surroundings were visited by many of the early twentieth century explorers to the region. Alois Musil was the first to record the ruins of a Roman castellum at ‘Ayn Gharandal in 1902. Musil’s description of the site also includes at least two additional structures near the fort, as well as miscellaneous walls, towers, and a basin in the vicinity of the spring. T.E. Lawrence also passed through ‘Ayn Gharandal in 1914 as part of the Palestine (Wilderness of Zin) Survey.

‘Ayn Gharandal has received moderate attention from archaeologists in recent years. The site, however, has not been the primary focus of their work. Rather, it has been included as part of larger regional surveys. While these recent projects have produced important results for the site’s regional context, little new information has emerged about the site and its structures.

It has sometimes been claimed that the name “Gharandal” is derived from the ancient name “Arieldela” listed in the Notitia Dignitatum (Or. 34.44) as the location of the Cohors II Galatarum. A similar name also appears in the Beer Sheva Edicts as Ariddela (frag.V, line 5), though this may, in fact, refer to a different site altogether. Until the AGAP 2013 season, a total lack of any evidence from ‘Ayn Gharandal confirming its identification left the ancient name of the place and the unit garrisoned there a matter of scholarly speculation. However, the monumental inscription unearthed during the 2013 season indicates that the site is the location of the Cohors II Galatarum, confirming the ancient identity of ‘Ayn Gharandal as Arieldela.

Period(s) of Occupation: Roman/Byzantine, Nabataean, Middle Islamic

Early Christian Church, Roman Fort and Bathhouse, Cohors II Galatarum, Arieldela, Byzantine, Nabataean Pottery, Notitia Dignitatum

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

You will spend much of your time near the city of Aqaba on the coast of the Red Sea, where faculty, staff, and students stay together in a local hostel. Food is facilitated onsite by local Aqaba chefs who prepare 4 meals per day that we eat as a group either in the field or in Aqaba. Two weekends will be spent outside of Aqaba camping at a Bedouin camp in Wadi Rum and staying at a hotel in Wadi Musa next to the ancient site of Petra.

Ask yourself, after spending the day in the hot desert sun, who wants to rough it?!? The AGAP team is housed in comfortable family-run hostel featuring air-conditioned rooms, a beautiful swimming pool and snorkeling/diving in the Red Sea just steps away.  Contact director for further information.


$4,500 US

Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
University of Tennessee
Number of credits offered 6
Contact for details


Contact Information
Robert Darby
School of Art
Recommended Bibliography: 
  • R. Darby and E. Darby. "The Late Roman fort at 'Ayn Gharandal, Jordan: interim report on the 2009-2014 field seasons." Journal of Roman Archaeology (2015): 461-70.
  • "Fort Found was Home of Roman Infantry Unit Used to Vanquish the Jews." Haaretz, May 30, 2014. 
  • "Inscription Identifies a Roman Fort in Jordan." Archaeology Magazine Online.
  • "UT Archaeologists Uncover Lost Roman Outpost in Southern Jordan." University of Tennessee Press Release.
  • "Words in the Sand: Discovering a New Monumental Latin Inscription at 'Ayn Gharandal, (Ancient Arieldela), Jordan." The Ancient Near East Today 5 (2013)
  • Robert Darby and Erin Darby. "'Ayn Gharandal." Pp. 671-672 in "Archaeology in
    Jordan, 2012 and 2013 Seasons." Edited by Glenn J. Corbett, Donald R. Keller, Barbara A. Porter, and Christopher A. Tuttle. American Journal of Archaeology 118/4 (2014): 627-676.
  • Erin Darby and Robert Darby. "'Re'-Covering the Past: How Do We Protect and Study
    Jordan's Threatened Ancient Sites? Approaches at 'Ayn Gharandal." Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan 11 (2013): 291-303
  • Robert Darby and Erin Darby with Tiffany Key and Pamela Koulianos. "The 'Ayn
    Gharandal Archaeological Project: A Preliminary Report on the 2010 and 2011 Seasons." Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 56 (2012): 405-422.
  • Robert Darby and Erin Darby. "'Ayn Gharandal." Pp. 742-743 in "Archaeology in Jordan, 2010 and 2011 Seasons." Edited by Donald R. Keller, Barbara A. Porter, and Christopher A. Tuttle. American Journal of Archaeology 116/4 (2012): 693-750.
  • Robert Darby, Erin Darby, and Andi Shelton. "The 2009 'Ayn Gharandal Survey and
    Preservation Project." Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 54 (2010): 189-201.
  • Robert Darby and Erin Darby. "'Ayn Gharandal Survey and Preservation Project." Pp. 534-535 in "Archaeology in Jordan, 2008 and 2009 Seasons." Edited by Donald R. Keller and Christopher A. Tuttle. American Journal of Archaeology 114/3 (2010): 505-545.