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Long-Distance Trade and Social Complexity in Iron Age Faynan, Jordan

  • Author(s): Howland, Matthew David
  • Advisor(s): Levy, Thomas E.
  • et al.

Tens of thousands of tons of copper were produced in Southern Jordan’s Faynan region during the Iron Age (ca. 1200 - 600 BCE). Despite this, the long-distance exchange of copper and its effect on the development of social complexity in the region are not well-understood, due to a limited corpus of copper artifacts sourced to the Iron Age mines of Faynan, recycling of metal objects, and a lack of research specifically focused on the exchange of copper. However, trade and social complexity can be explored through examination of material culture beyond metallurgical evidence. This work applies a range of methods in order to study whether elites at the Iron Age copper producing site Khirbat al-Jariya exploited trade networks in which copper and ceramics were exchanged in order to develop and reinforce their own power. The approaches used here to address these issues are aerial regional survey, excavation at Khirbat al-Jariya, and comprehensive ceramic analysis. The aerial survey, consisting of low-altitude aerial photography and three-dimensional image-based modeling, facilitated the remapping of important Iron Age sites such as Khirbat en-Nahas and Khirbat al-Jariya, among others, providing an updated understanding of the distribution of material remains and scale of copper production at these sites. Excavation at Khirbat al-Jariya in 2014 provided data allowing for the study of the social organization of the site and its role in a regional network, as well as a refinement of chronology of the site. This excavation also recovered the ceramics, studied through 3D modeling, typological analysis, and ceramic petrography, that allow for the examination of technology and provenance. This ceramic study demonstrates the presence of elites at Khirbat al-Jariya and illustrates their participation in Iron Age regional exchange networks. This analysis also shows that social complexity at Khirbat al-Jariya was driven by elites’ exploitation of long-distance exchange networks.

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