TEA Photo Contest: “Out of the comfort zone: Fieldwork in perspective”


Submission 117

Tabun ovens for the preparation of bread are part of a very long-standing culture in the Middle East. As part of a project aimed at reconstructing the history of Petra after the Byzantine period, which is traditionally but erroneously thought to be a substantial abandonment of the area, excavations by the Islamic Baydha Project at Beidha have investigated a village of the Middle Islamic period. Here, several domestic structures included tabun ovens that are identical to those still used today in the area. Current studies have recorded that the material culture of Petra in the Islamic period is characterized by a particularly intense longevity that includes aspects of technology of ceramic production, building techniques, and other elements of daily life.

The Islamic Baydha Project gives particular importance to the interaction and synergic effect of the three aspects of archaeological research, archaeological training and community engagement. Understanding well the local, recent and modern material culture is a valued approach by the project, as it helps to interpret and understand at best the remains and their formation process, as well as the reasons behind the choices of long-lasting local traditions. For this reason, the team involves experienced individuals from the local community for better understanding the traditional building techniques and technological aspects. At the same time, this inclusive approach opens up for the local community the possibility to connect more closely to their own local cultural heritage and to the history of the community at the site.

This photo was taken during a visit of the team to a tabun in Beidha, to better understand and record the archaeological traces of a tabun found on the excavation. We learnt, also, that a tabun locally lasts an average of 10-15 years.

Often, as archaeologists, we work within a living community who can provide us with information not only on the latest history of the site, but also on crucial aspects of the local material culture. Research-driven archaeology can be a powerful and fundamental part of sustainable archaeology of the future, which must be relevant not only to archaeologists, but also, to modern, local communities, and must, therefore, take us “out of the comfort zone” and put “fieldwork in perspective.”

The protection of the intangible cultural heritage of the Bedouins of Petra is also one of the current UNESCO projects in Jordan.