Shu’aib/Hisban project: Air Photography at Tell Iktanu

Project summary

The grant was awarded to help with the costs of publication of the excavations at Tell Iktanu and Tell al-Hamman, Jordan.

Project details

Location: Jordan

Year(s): 2020

Project director(s): Kay Prag

Lead institutions and funding:

  • CBRL

Project description

The project as re-established in 1987 stemmed from a D.Phil field project completed in 1971 which investigated the nature of the Intermediate Bronze Age in the Southern Levant (IBA or Early Bronze IV/Middle Bronze I or Intermediate Early Bronze-Middle Bronze Age). This included a survey of many of the then-known sites of the period in Lebanon, south Syria and Transjordan and a brief season of excavation in April/May 1966 at the site of Tell Iktanu in the south- east Jordan Valley, sponsored by the BSAJ and for the most part funded with a small grant from the Palestine Exploration Fund. A summary report was included in the doctorate, and published in 1974 in Levant.

In 1987, a new project was initiated, sponsored by the BIAAH and with the financial support of a number of institutions in the UK, including the BIAAH. As part of this project, three further seasons of field work were carried out at Tell Iktanu (including a part season at Tell Hammam) in 1987, 1989 and 1990; a survey of the modern botany of the environment in 1992 (with Dr U. Thanheiser and J. Walter); and a survey linked to air photographs of the region (with  Dr D. Kennedy and Dr P. Freeman) in 1995. Other shorter visits have been made to the sites.

As originally outlined, the project was intended to support a regional survey of the south Jordan Valley and its hinterland by selected excavation, at Tell Iktanu (EB I, IBA, IA/Persian) and Tell Hammam (EB III). However, the emphasis became the excavation of the accessible and well-preserved IBA settlement at Iktanu. The initial excavations (Prag 1971, 1974) radically changed perceptions on sedentism and on aspects of pastoralism during the IBA; and since then ongoing work has addressed and clarified both continuity and distinctions between the EB III ‘urban’ and the IBA ‘non-urban’ populations. Increasingly also the chronologies of these periods have become of interest to studies of north-south Levantine relationships.

One of the major aims in returning to excavate at Iktanu in 1987 was to obtain charcoal samples and information on the palaeobotany of the period which were not retrieved in the 1966 campaign, when flotation recovery was in its infancy, and it was assumed such organic materials would not survive in the very shallow deposits encountered. The intensive flotation program carried out during the following three seasons proved unexpectedly rewarding. A series of C14 dates has since been achieved with a grant from the CBRL in 2012.

Project bibliography

Prag, Kay. 2021. Shu’aib/Hisban project: Air Photography at Tell Iktanu. Bulletin of the Council for British Research in the Levant 2020, p 44-46.