14th International Conference for the History and Archaeology of Jordan (ICHAJ14)

It is difficult to think of a better location conference than Florence, the venue for the 14th International Conference for the History and Archaeology of Jordan (ICHAJ14) which took place between 21st and 25th January 2019. Both the conference and venue did not disappoint. 

Started in 1980 in Oxford under the patronage of HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, this conference series has travelled between Jordan and across European cities and as far as Washington in the US and Sydney in Australia. The ICHAJ series, held every three years, has long been a ‘must’ for anyone involved in the archaeology and heritage of Jordan. Moreover, the conference is not only of interest to those working in Jordan, but also the Middle East, the Mediterranean and long-term Euro-Mediterranean cultural relations more broadly. The number of attendees listed on the conference mailing list greater than 270, of which more than 70 were Jordanian. 

The conference programme for ICHAJ14 was a long and rich one, encompassing five days of activities. There were sessions around the latest research on the history and archaeology of Jordan under traditional time frameworks: including, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age, the Nabateans and Petra, and Islamic periods. In addition, there were sessions on the broad and important themes of ‘Science, Methods and Technology in Archaeology’, Landscape Studies, ‘Public Archaeology’, ‘Social-Economic Development’, and ‘Awareness and Education’ reflecting many contemporary concerns and new activities. 

While an important outcome of the conference is to update the archaeological community and build connections on all things archaeological and relating to cultural heritage and history broadly in Jordan, it also had a timely thought-provoking theme. For ICHAJ14, this was ‘Culture in Crisis: Flow of People, Artifacts and Ideas’. The opening session and plenary talks as well Thursday’s session on ‘Culture in crisis affected countries: The experience of Italy, Jordan and UNESCO in preserving Cultural Heritage’ with were devoted to discussing this topic with an interview with experts speaking on the theme, as well as an in depth interview with HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal. Speakers were strongly aware that post-conflict reconstruction that can do more damage that war to heritage. HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal started the conference calling for a minute’s silence for all people affected by and enduring the consequences of war, noting that 80% of the world’s refugees are Muslim.  

The opening and closing session speeches are available on YouTube.

The organisers and scientific committee are to be congratulated for the excellent organisation and fine Florentine hospitality. It was a splendid venue offering much food for thought on every level.