Friday, 11 November 2016

Jordan Trip, Day 2 (Oct 29)

It was a day fully dedicated to learn about the fascinating history of Amman.  Our day began with a lengthy and much-needed visit to the Jordan Museum. There, we took a step away from the Crusaders and instead had the opportunity of immersing ourselves into the rich historical layers of Jordan, from prehistoric up to the Islamic period.  The highlights of our trip to the museum were the Qumran scrolls, a set of papyri scrolls found by accident in caves at the site of Qumran and the fascinating material culture of the Nabataeans.

                                 The iconic plaster statue of Ain Ghazal, note the coffee-bean eyes...

                                       Scott’s name written in the Nabatean and Aramaic scripts

                                                      The Qumran Scrolls

After spending our morning at the museum, we climbed up to the citadel.  There, we saw the Roman Temple of Hercules, as well as the Byzantine basilica, and the Umayyad Mosque and the palace which was built around the 730s.  Our fellow friend, Heba Mostafa who specializes in the Umayyad period, introduced us to the enigmatic façade design of the Umayyad mosque-palace complex. From the site, we walked down to the Jordan Archaeological Museum. This was the moment where we turned to our roots, Crusader that is... There, with the help of Edna Stern, we learnt about the intricacies of studying the Mamluk and Crusader ceramics. Edna specifically mentioned talked about the spectra of the ceramics found at the sites with Mamluk and Crusader phases. One detail that came out of her presentation was that not only glazed but also hand-made tableware with painted decorations were major items of ceramic production and consumption.

                                              Ready to discover the Amman citadel

                                    Heba’s tour in the palace and mosque of the Umayyad period

                                                           A Reception Hall fit for the Caliph

                                         Our group photograph in front of the Umayyad mosque

                  Studying the intricacies of Mamluk and Crusader-period ceramics with Edna

In the evening we reinitiated first pair of the thematic presentation by the junior scholars. Tonight, Nicholas Melvani and Rebecca Darley had the theme of “spolia.” Nicholas, probed the objects that are taken as spolia from Constantinople into Venice after the Fourth Crusade.  He adduced a set of thought-provoking examples, from the well-known Pala D’Oro to the so-called Pilastri Akritani. Nicholas’ talk was followed by Rebecca’s more theoretical approach toward the definition of spolia. She talked about the ways to differentiate the talismanic spolia from that of the victory spolia by using a wide array of examples from the Mediterranean world. The presentations sparkled numerous questions and comments. The common reactions and inputs were related to definition of the term “spolia,” and the polyvalent application of the term in the contemporary scholarship.

                             Nicholas and Rebecca are  getting ready for their presentations

Fellows’ presentations were followed by a dinner at a traditional Jordanian tavern. There, in an environment surrounded by the black and white photos of the Egyptian singers and actors whose fame spread beyond Egypt, Doris gave us a scoop of the particularities of each character.  Combined with delicious local food, good company, and just the right amount of arak –if in fact there is such a thing!– we reflected more on our day in the old city of Amman and the museums.

Text and Photos by Anthi Andronikou & Suna Cagaptay

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