Arabic Toponymy around Ashkelon: The Village of Hamama as a Case Study
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Arabic Toponymy around Ashkelon: The Village of Hamama as a Case Study


Arabic Toponymy around Ashkelon: The Village of Hamama as a Case Study The village of Hamama, situated between the cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon, was the second largest village, in both its territory and the number of its inhabitants, in the Gaza sub-district during the British Mandate period. The article surveys and discusses the Arab toponymy of Hamama, as part of the broader corpus of Palestinian rural toponymy in Ashkelon’s hinterland before 1948. The article reviews the scholarly trends in the study of Arabic toponymy. In light of the toponyms, the article traces the social, geographical and historical characteristics of village toponyms, and assesses their connection to its natural and man-made geographies. Underlying the Late Ottoman and British Mandate corpus, is a limited stratum of pre-Ottoman village names. To this pre-exiting stratum, new toponyms were added, referring in cases to families living in or around the village. The great importance of land as the main means of production in Hamama’s agrarian society, is manifested by the many toponyms relating to the soil and its characteristics. Many names refer to various types of agricultural plots (gardens, orchards, vineyards, orchards and mawasi plots of land irrigated from shallow wells dug in sand dunes along the coast), in addition to the phenomenon of coastal wetlands (birak). Toponyms provide external evidence of the names of the village families, corroborating names known from the ethnographic literature. Furthermore, it reflects Hamama’s sacred geography, e.g. village shrines and their endowments. Finally, the article briefly discusses the ways in which new place names were derived from existing

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