National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Ian W. N. Jones

Affiliation: Independent Scholar

Ian W. N. Jones (PH.D., University of California San Diego) is an archaeologist working at the intersection of anthropological archaeology and Islamic archaeology. Dr. Jones’ main research and teaching interests are labor and daily life; political economy; the archaeology of the Southern Levant; ceramics; systems of production, distribution and consumption (with a particular focus on the copper and sugar industries); human-environment interactions; and digital archaeology. Dr. Jones is an AIA Kershaw Lecturer for 2022/2023.


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):

In the late 12th century AD, sugar cane supplanted several other agricultural products to become the key cash crop of the southern Levant. Virtually every archaeological survey of regions where sugar can be grown has found the remains of sugar factories, most of them dating to the industry’s heyday in the 13th-14th century. This industry is critical for understanding the administration of the southern Levant during this period and was a key economic interest for the Frankish, Ayyubid, and Mamluk rulers of the region. Moreover, the Eastern Mediterranean industry represents a crucial and interesting middle point between the origins of sugar cane in New Guinea and its spread westward to the infamous colonial sugar plantations in the Americas, and simultaneously its transition from a luxury food to a ubiquitous commodity. This lecture will explore the southern Levantine industry’s place in this long historical trajectory and illustrate some of its key features based on my reanalysis of finds from the early 1980s excavations of the medieval sugar factory at Yesud HaMa‘ala in the Hula Valley in modern northern Israel.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

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.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

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