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A Roman Fort Amidst the Dunes: The 2013 'Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project

Location: 'Ayn Gharandal, Jordan

May 29, 2013 to July 2, 2013

Application Deadline: 
Friday, February 1, 2013

Flyer: agap2013_application_and_academic_schedule.pdf

Program Type

Field school


University of Tennessee

Project Director:

Robert Darby, University of Tennessee, and Erin Darby, University of Tennessee

Project Description

The ‘Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project (AGAP) seeks to contribute to our understanding of Jordan’s rich and diverse cultural heritage through documentation and publication of the archaeological materials and site of ‘Ayn Gharandal in the Wadi Arabah.  Our long term project goals are to: Investigate the occupational history of the site from the Nabataean through Early Islamic periods through systematic archaeological excavations and study seasons conducted in alternating years; Map and record its architectural remains using state-of-the-art technology, including both GPS and GIS, for inclusion in the MEGA-Jordan Database; Collect, analyze, and publish the material culture recovered at the site; Preserve and protect the site and its ruins for future generations.         

Location & History of Exploration
The site of ‘Ayn Gharandal is located c.100 km north of the gulf of Aqaba and some 40 km south-west of Petra on the eastern edge of the Wadi Arabah.  The ruins rest alongside a modern paved road running east from the nearby Dead Sea highway.  The presence of an artesian spring in the mouth of the nearby Wadi Gharandal, which still flows abundantly today, presumably served as the reason for human occupation at the site.  

‘Ayn Gharandal and its surroundings were visited by many of the early twentieth century European explorers to the region including T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia).  Alois Musil was the first to record the ruins at Gharandal in 1902. Gharandal has received moderate attention from archaeologists in recent years.  The site, however, has not been the primary focus of their work, but has rather been included as part of larger regional surveys.  While these earlier projects produced important results for our broader understanding of the site in its regional context, relatively little new information emerged regarding the site and its history.

In 2009, the ‘Ayn Gharandal Survey & Preservation Project conducted a systematic reconnaissance and survey of the site mapping all of the visible features, including a newly identified heated bath/hammam complex and aqueduct, as well collecting over 1,300+ ceramic sherds from the surface of the site dating from the Late Nabataean to Early Byzantine Periods.  Further, the exceptionally well-preserved rooms of the bath/hammam complex, exposed by recent looting, were reburied as a short-term solution to the problem of their preservation.  In 2010, we investigated four areas of the site by stratigraphic excavation to help illuminate the occupational sequence at the site.  Further, we continued to add and incorporate new architectural and archaeological features revealed in the course of excavations into our site plan, 3-D models, and GIS database.

In 2013 we will continue our excavations focusing on the ruins of a  Late Roman fort and bathhouse.  Lastly, we are continuing to develop a long term strategy to protect and preserve the ancient remains at the site, which are currently endangered by threats both natural and man-made.

Period(s) of Occupation: Roman/Byzantine, Nabataean, Early Islamic

Project size: 
1-24 participants

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

The team is housed in comfortable, air-conditioned rooms and all meals are provided by a local restaurant. Contact director for further information.


Academic Credit

Name of institution offering credit: 
University of Tennessee
Number of credits offered 6
Contact for details


Contact Information
Robert Darby
School of Art & Department of Classics