Back in early 2017 we started trying to develop access to historic aerial photographs for the MENA region to support the work of the EAMENA project. This work was primarily driven by the need to access high-resolution imagery for The Occupied Palestinian Territories, where U.S. legislation known as the Kyl-Bingaman Amendment limited the resolution of contemporary commercial satellite imagery for this area. It also built on the earlier work of Professor David Kennedy’s work on our sister project, APAAME, in gathering these historic aerial photographs and our colleague Rebecca Repper’s work in digitising the Sir Aurel Stein and O.G.S. Crawford collections at the British Academy and UCL respectively.
We have recently uploaded an important set of vertical aerial photographs covering the eastern side of the northern section of the River Jordan as Information Resource records on the EAMENA database. These photographs, taken in late 1930 by ‘B’ Flight of 45 Squadron of the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) while attached to 14 Squadron RAF, provide a unique insight into this landscape prior to more recent settlement development and agricultural intensification. We can use these photographs to identify archaeological sites that have not previously been documented, many of which have subsequently been covered or destroyed by later development.
“Seeing these beautiful buildings and their amazing details made us feel the importance of documenting the cultural sites,” explains Dana
I first visited Jordan in 2006 as the Landscape Archaeologist for the Great Arab Revolt Project (GARP, n.d.). Over nine seasons, this project investigated the archaeology of the Arab Revolt of 1916-1918 and discovered extensive Ottoman militarisation of a landscape built to defend the Hejaz Railway against attacks from the Hashemite Arab Army and British forces (Saunders 2018).
Ground visits are extremely useful, and can be used to validate and check that the interpretations we had made based on remote sensing imagery are correct. For the eight archaeological sites we visited, we could confirm that they are indeed archaeological sites, and that the features we had identified through remote sensing were also correct
The UCL Institute of Archaeology Air Survey Photographs: an archaeological reference collection of Royal Air Force aerial imagery from 1918–1939
The UCL Institute of Archaeology Collections Air Survey photographs comprise a series of glass plate negatives, cellulose negatives, safety negatives, and prints of Royal Air Force (RAF) aerial photographs taken between 1918 and 1939. The photographs are predominantly of Iraq, the former Transjordan, Egypt, and Sudan (see distribution map).
In the EAMENA Project, most of the time we see the world from above, through satellite imagery or aerial photographs. These are very informative and, moreover, a quick way to examine and assess large areas of the landscape. However, there are some things that we simply cannot see from above.
The eighth international conference on Science and Technology in Archaeology and Conservation (STAC8) took place in Amman, Jordan, from 21 to 25 May 2017. Its main organisers were WATCH and CULTECH Jordan, and the conference took place under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of Jordan, UNESCO, and ICCROM.
Historical aerial photographs are of great value for the EAMENA project, and we have recent launched an appeal to locate any held in archives or private collections. They can be analysed in conjunction with more recent photographs or satellite images and used to identify archaeological sites that have since been lost or altered by subsequent development, or to assess broader landscape change.
Endangered Archaeology as captured with the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan Project: September 2016 Season
In 2016, Dr Robert Bewley, Prof. David Kennedy, Dr Andrea Zerbini, and I had the pleasure of conducting several reconnaissance flights with the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan project (see our affiliate project page).