Waking Sleeping Giants: Archaeology and Local Benefit in Wadi Faynan, Jordan

There exists an astounding hidden economic potential within the archaeological sites of the Wadi Faynan region in Jordan. The following post written by Dr. Paul Burtenshaw imparts his work and insight into the potential for preservation and development in this area. Currently a Research Fellow at the Centre of British Research in the Levant, Amman, Jordan, Paul completed his PhD looking at the economic value of archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL. This research explored conceptual approaches to archaeology as an economic asset, the role it plays in motivating preservation and how it is measured and managed. Paul has completed economic impact assessments of archaeology in Scotland and Jordan, is the group leader of the Archaeology and Development Research Network and has worked for several years in the heritage, and wider, tourism industry.

‘[It is] one thing to discover [archaeological sites] and then leave them to sleep, it is another to make tourists come and make money for the community’ – Wadi Faynan resident

More than 25 years of research in Wadi Faynan – a spectacular landscape in southern Jordan between the Edom Mountains and the Israeli border – has uncovered some of the most significant archaeology of the Middle East.  However as one member of the local community there described to me, these giants of archaeology remain asleep; a resource with great potential to benefit their lives, but one which currently rests unused.

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Wadi Faynan. (Photo credit: P. Burtenshaw)

Jordan is famous for its ancient sites, none more so than Petra, hailed as one of the ‘New 7 Wonders’ of the world.  However tourism in Jordan can often focus on only the most iconic sites, leaving vast archaeological riches unheard of, and greatly limiting the communities that may benefit from the industry. As the projects with which SPI is involved demonstrate, a great variety of archaeology has the potential to bring economic benefits to communities though tourism, and in doing so can help ensure the long-term survival of the archaeology itself.  While some sites grab tourists’ attention with visually spectacular monuments, the appeal of many places lies in the stories they tell, about the people of the past and of their role in shaping the world we inhabit in the present. In Wadi Faynan, it is the strength of these stories which gives the archaeological remains the potential to be of service to local people today.

Wadi Faynan can lay claim to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, and indeed there is evidence of some of the very first settlements humans ever created. Starting over 11,000 years ago, the Neolithic was one of the most important shifts in human history when the innovations of permanent settlements, agriculture, domestication and communal religion mutually informed each other. Remains at the site of ‘Wadi Faynan 16’ date from the very beginning of this process and include a unique, spectacular ‘amphitheatre’, purpose built for gatherings that formed the basis of the development of some of the world’s first communities. The abundance of Neolithic sites in the area means visitors can follow the increasing complexity of these communities, tracing how their social experiments gave us the foundation for the lives we know today.

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Remains of the ancient ‘amphitheatre’ at Wadi Faynan 16. (Photo credit: The Wadi Faynan Project)

The area also played host to another revolution in human society – a technological one. Wadi Faynan is the best preserved landscape of ancient mining and metallurgy in the world. Metal dominates our modern lives and its exploitation began in this region with copper. The raw material was first taken from the earth here as early as the 5th millennium BC and the landscape is littered with hundreds of mines from this and later periods. By the Iron Age (1200-500BC), a time period associated with Old Testament biblical sources, the mining and smelting of copper had reached industrial scales and hundreds of furnaces would have illuminated the ancient night sky. Visitors today can witness the sheer energy of this production in the form of deep mines, giant mountains of processed materials, and fortresses built to protect the valuable commodity.  But the production left another, human, and more immediate legacy: Wadi Faynan has been identified as biblical Pinon/Phaino, where Christian slaves were sent to their deaths to serve the Roman Empire’s appetite for copper. It subsequently became a place of pilgrimage, attested to by the remains of three churches built on the Roman city and an extensive cemetery which mixes the bones of travellers with those they came to honour.

The preservation of the varied archaeology of Wadi Faynan owes much to the lack of modern mining in the area. However the prospect of mining remains a possibility and could have a significant impact on the area’s potential as a heritage and ecotourism destination, as well as affecting the lifestyle of the community, and the archaeology itself. Many sites suffer from casual, but persistent, looting. Wadi Faynan belongs to one of the most economically poor areas in Jordan and from the community’s perspective the jobs mining may offer are certainly welcome. However, through tourism the archaeology itself may offer a resource than can be ‘mined’ more sustainably and over the long-term. The survival of the archaeology depends on it being wakened from its slumber to become an economic and social asset for local people.

Waking sleeping giants must be done with care.  The small numbers of tourists to the area currently walk and relax in the environment, unaware of the dynamic layers of history around them.  Due to the spectacular but fragile environment, the area cannot host large numbers of tourists – economic benefits will come from encouraging longer stays and increased spending on local guides, accommodation, transport and souvenirs. My research in the area has shown that different communities currently benefit very differently from existing tourism, and so any use of the archaeology will have to be carefully designed to ensure that benefits are not isolated to the few.  Many of the tourists I interviewed in the region are intrigued by the archaeology, however they insist on good presentation and good ‘stories’ if they are to visit the sites.  If they can be persuaded to come and stay, there is good evidence that the archaeology will benefit – nearly 70% of local people said that the value they place on the archaeology lay in the economic benefits it could bring them, suggesting that realising its potential through tourism provides a strong incentive for preservation.

The stories, however, are not just told to attract tourists, but to awaken the sites for local residents as well. The knowledge created by archaeologists is currently almost invisible to the local communities and for many people the ruins around them are empty of any meaning.  Over 40% of residents saw value in the archaeological sites as sources of knowledge, but the vast majority of them have not been able to access that knowledge. Having the stories of the past embedded in local people offers another path to the preservation of sites – as one community leader remarked to me, ‘if you know the story you will recognise and respect’.

Over the next few months, a project supported by the Centre of British Research in the Levant, will begin to wake the sleeping giants of Wadi Faynan by translating the vast library of academic knowledge into headlines and stories that will connect with tourists and local people. Through events, posters and talks the project will spread the stories amongst local people and schoolchildren, creating new connections to the sites. Working with local hotels, community leaders and guides, these stories will promote the area and give local guides the capacity to bring the sites to life for visitors. Ultimately the project will provide the ‘fuel’ for local tourism based on the archaeology, making it a resource to sustain the community and the sites themselves.

Five to Follow: Sustainable Development

Over the past number of years SPI has reached out to become one in a network of other individuals and groups working towards economic development, sustainability and the preservation of cultural heritage. People Not Stones is featuring those who work towards goals similar to ours and who are proponents of the ideas behind our paradigm the world over in the area of Sustainable Development. Whether it’s through their promotion of ideas, the facilitation of partnerships or their direct action, the following five work to promote enduring development and to end global poverty. In the words of One Day’s Wages Founder Eugene Cho (read on to find out more about ODW):

“There are some incredible organizations and individuals doing amazing work…we are certainly not the first and thankfully, we are not the last to care about these issues.”

Kiva

Having just celebrated its eighth anniversary, Kiva is a non-profit organisation. By seeking lenders of small funds, this capital is used to catalyse local development and micro businesses, to alleviate poverty and most importantly to empower those in poorer socio-economic situations to improve their quality of life for themselves. Based in California, it operates in over 70 countries around the world. Click here for an explanation of the life of a Kiva loan.

In their own words:

“We envision a world where all people – even in the most remote areas of the globe – hold the power to create opportunity for themselves and others.”

The Milken Institute

The Milken Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan think thank, aims to improve lives by advancing innovative solutions to promote prosperity and combat social issues the world over. Milken runs a research program with the main focus on the three areas of Human Capital, Health Economics and Regional Economics front and center. Milken operates with an extremely impressive array of experts which analyze issues facing policy makers in all fields today, in addition to decision makers who transform these ideas into action to have an impact globally. These experts and decision makers are convened in a number of events, perhaps most impressively at the Milken Annual Global Conference.

In their own words:

“Whether the issue is building a more sustainable energy future or ensuring that entrepreneurs can access the credit they need to grow their companies and create jobs, our objective is to advance solutions that create prosperity in all corners of the globe.”

Click here for a video of SPI Executive Director Larry Coben speaking at The Milken Global Conference in April. (Begins 42.40)

 

Katerva

Katerva is a not-for-profit ‘social venture’ which aims to ‘identify, evaluate and accelerate’ innovation and sustainability on a global scale. Named after the Latin term for crowd, it acts upon knowledge of a global network of experts to find and promote the greatest social innovations on the planet. Acting in many broad areas from ecosystem conservation, to human development, and gender equality to food security and urban design, Katerva has the entire span of global sustainable development covered. Katerva engages most with its community by offering an annual award for the newest ventures in sustainability the world has to offer.

In their own words:

“The world is full of remarkable world-changing innovations. Individuals and organizations are eager to find, invest and help the best of these innovations thrive and scale. Katerva connects the dots.”

 

Intelligent Travel Blog and the Center for Sustainable Destinations – National Geographic

Many of us are aware that increased footfall to high-profile archaeological sites can cause significant damage. National Geographic is known the world over for its investigation into everything related to the world and now its offering online provides not one but two ventures into the world of sustainability and economic development with a focus on travel. Intelligent Travel is a blog that not only aims to highlight some of the most spectacular places to visit on the planet (many of which are sites of archaeological importance) but also promotes a sustainable attitude to travel which enables us to preserve these gems for generations to come.

The Center for Sustainable Destinations (CSD) via National Geographic is another online initiative which promotes sustainable tourism and the oft forgotten destination stewardship around the world. Aside from their articles on responsible tourism and a web of expertise for both travellers and professionals, CSD runs a number of projects such as an initiative for creating ‘GeoTourism’ Maps and devising GeoTourism strategies for hotels and others alike. Both initiatives float the important message of responsible tourism and highlight that heritage sites are a non-renewable source that need to be interacted with in an appropriate way for their continued existence.

In their own words:

“We believe that to know the world is to change it. We’re on the front lines of travel that illuminates, celebrates, and preserves irreplaceable places.”

 

One Day’s Wages

Last, but without a doubt not least, is the non-profit group One Day’s Wages. ODW’s main goal is to facilitate partnerships in developing regions affected by extreme poverty. The organisation looks for donations of small amounts, typically each giver’s wages for a day of work which is then in turn used to stem sustainable relief in some of the world’s poorest areas. ODW strives to collaborate and partner with other non-profits such as SPI with similar goals and to make use of the collective opportunities therein to end global poverty. ODW only invests in sustainable projects which continue to be affective for future generations reaping the benefits of these donations.

In their words:

“It was seeing organizations and women, men, and children do amazing and arduous work to uplift themselves out of poverty – if only given respect, dignity, and opportunities. It’s by far more complex but it’s also very simple: We have the capacity to end extreme global poverty.”

 

Photo(s!) of the Week: PUCP’s Graphic Design Team tour Bandurria and Chotuna-Chornancap

By Solsiré Cusicanqui

Two weeks ago students from the Art Faculty at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú were working with the artisans of the projects sponsored by SPI: Chotuna-Chornancap (Lambayeque) and Bandurria (Lima). Thanks to the support of professors Carmen García, Isabel Hidalgo and Martín Razuri, the students were incorporated into classes working with local iconography, the creation of a brand and a graphic line that includes merchandising products. Artisans, archaeologists, professors and SPI members will eventually choose the winning proposal for each site. During the visit by students professors also organized talks surrounding innovation and the improvement of the quality of these products.

Within the classes the students were divided into two groups which visited the two project sites while aiming to collect information and create a tie with the local communities. The first group visited the Bandurria Archaeological Site where the students learned both the archaeological and social aspects of the project. After viewing the conditions in which the artisans live, they were interviewed with the president of the artisan group who explained to them part of the rush extraction process and the elaboration of products. Furthermore, they could watch one of the local ladies elaborating a “Rush Petate”.

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The rush extraction process utilised by local artisans is demonstrated to PUCP students during their visit to Bandurria.

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The students visit the monumental reminds at the Bandurria archaeological site.

The second group visited textile artisans at the Chotuna-Chornancap Archaeological Site who made a demonstration of the textile production process. This group was also interviewed with the archaeologist Carlos Wester, Director of the Brüning Museum, Director of the Chotuna-Chornancap Project and the person responsible for the artisans. The next day, they visited the archaeological site of Túcume and the artisan store, in which students could appreciate an example of the archaeological project which yielded designs for local art crafts.

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Students from PUCP are given a demonstration of the textile production process by artisan weavers at Chotuna-Chornancap.

Students at the Bruning Museum, Chotuna (1)

The students visit the Bruning Archaeological Museum.

Worth noting is that the Faculty of Graphic Design at PUCP has been supporting us since 2012 with San José de Moro artisans, most recently winning the 1st International “Turismo Cuida” award and which continues to develop serigraphy workshops in the region. Let’s hope this alliance endures in the future!

Students at the Archaeological site of Chotuna-Chornancap (1)

Photo of the Week: Túcume Archaeological Site

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Photo of the Week: Tucumé Archaeological Site

This week we bring you a photo from a recent trip made by a group of Harvard students to the Tucumé Archaeological Site in Northern Peru. Led by Solsiré Cusicanqui and Carlos Wester, the students learned about the traditional craft methods used by weavers to sustain local economic development and visited sites such as the above along the way. Part of the Lambayeque Valley, this region is home to thousands of monumental sites similar to Tucumé.

Watch this space next week for more photos and find out exactly what the group got up to on the trip!

Unlisted 3 Now Listed

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In case you missed it last Spring, the videos for the Third Annual Unlisted Conference are available for viewing online! Check them out at the AIRC’s page here on YouTube.

Run by the American Institute for Roman Culture, each year the conference brings together a range of stakeholders to discuss new ways to preserve global cultural heritage sites that are not named on the UNESCO World Site List.

The First Annual Unlisted Conference in 2011 was centred on the sustainable preservation of cultural heritage where, unsurprisingly, SPI’s Executive Director Larry Coben spoke. In 2012 the second sitting of Unlisted offered the theme of ‘Enhancing Visibility’ of the past leading nicely onto this year’s theme:

Cultural Heritage in Digital Media: Conversation for Conservation, Sustaining Global Storytelling Online”

Unlisted 3 focused on ‘’the sustainability of conservation through wider engagement with a more diverse community and with a broader spectrum of resources including digital and social media, digital resources and ‘edutainment’.’’ This year’s conference had an extra dimension of live streaming, ensuring that the conference organisers practised what they preach by making the day-long conference sessions available in real time to anyone unable to attend.

At SPI we use a range of digital media to spread information about our work. Throughout our 2013 crowd-funding campaign we utilised these media to spread the word, raise funds and find others with a similar mission to our own. We know there is no limit to the amount of people who believe that ending poverty and protecting the world’s cultural heritage is important. Luckily, through digital media we can connect with them!

Conference speakers were recruited from the world of global storytelling featuring photographers, documentary film makers, journalists and social media aficionados. Some speakers, such as Sam Horine categorised as a ‘visual storytellers’, even had their personal Instagram follower number listed in the programme.

Click here to read the reaction of AIRC Director Darius Arya to the success of this year’s conference.

Summer in Peru: Reflections from Student Volunteers on the San José de Moro Archaeological Program

By Alex Parody, Sarah Martini and Solsiré Cusicanqui

For the past three years, the Sustainable Preservation Initiative (SPI) has partnered with the San José de Moro Archaeological Program (PASJM), among others around the world, to help connect and involve communities in their local archaeological projects. These community projects benefit both the archaeologists and the local populations by encouraging interaction and discourse between groups that are often set at odds. 

During the summer months of June, July and August, the San José de Moro Archaeological Program (PASJM) brings students, professors, and researchers from all over the world together to learn about archaeological investigation in Peru. The site employs local workers to aid archaeologists and students with uncovering the prehistoric artifacts, architecture, and tombs.This year over 25 student volunteers from PASJM, including Alex Parody and Sarah Martini, had the opportunity to observe and participate in an SPI-directed program. 

A Peruvian Perspective

My name is Alex Parody and I am an undergraduate studying history and anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C.  I have had no previous experience in archaeology but have always had a deep interest in the past. This trip was my first foray into the field, and I have loved every aspect of it.  Because my mother is Peruvian I had the opportunity to travel to Peru twice before, but this trip has by far been the best. Although I grew up knowing Peruvian cuisine and customs, during the last five weeks I have come to appreciate the sheer kindness and welcoming attitudes of the people of San José de Moro, not to mention their terrific local cooking! They were always open to conversation and loved talking about their town, culture, and listening to what you had to say. Because of this, as well as being able to speak Spanish, I felt very connected to the workers at the site. I know that I am going to miss every single one of them like they were my best friend. They essentially “raised” the archaeologist in me – having taught me how to do everything from basic tasks like brushing and digging to measuring, surveying and identifying features in soils. They even helped me learn how to differentiate one kind of soil from another. I loved seeing every side of this town during the past five weeks, and because of this trip I am more confident than ever that I want to get involved in archaeology.

A New Experience

Hi! My name is Sarah Martini and I am a second year undergraduate concentrating in archaeology at Harvard University. Moro was my first chance to both come to South America and to see what being a field archaeologist entails. Having only traveled in European countries before, Peru was a completely new experience. While things were not always as I expected them to be, over the last five weeks I have fallen in love with the many faces of the Peruvian countryside, the Peruvian cuisine (I love Lomo Saltado!), and the local communities that opened up their homes to us. The people here were certainly more welcoming than many others that I have encountered in previous travels. Although I came to Peru having only taken a semester of Spanish, I found that my speaking skills quickly improved through attempting to maintain conversations with workmen from the town as I enjoyed learning about their home country from them. Over all, my experience at Moro has made me want to become an archaeologist, one involved with local communities, even more than before and has made me want to return to Peru.

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Sarah Martini, Second Year Archaeology Undergraduate at Harvard University 

The Field

The archaeology at San José de Moro provides a hands-on approach for any field school student. Conditions in the field could sometimes be hard under the hot Peruvian sun, since every day was different, it made every moment exciting as you never knew what could happen next.  The great thing about Moro is that it teaches students the basics of archaeology; skills that we could take anywhere is the world. But we would say that best of all were the valuable opportunities to excavate rich tombs – which for most archaeologists are only the stuff of dreams.  In addition, Moro facilitates daily interactions with the locals through the opening of their homes for home-cooked meals.  The women who cooked were very friendly and sometimes had their children bring out food for us.  We got to know the women’s personalities (and cooking!) in this way.  Because the site is right inside the community, it was very common for people to walk by the excavation units, and people always liked to look at what we were doing and often stopped to talk with us. There were plenty of times in the field when the local children came into the pits and helped (with permission of course) excavate features with us. There were endless opportunities for us to interact with the community, and the community loved to interact with us!

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A Mural Competition

This year, SPI contributed to community-field school interactions through a mural design competition at the local elementary school.  In collaboration with the children we created some fantastic artwork.  The children were very welcoming and loved to draw!  It was fun to compare favorite games, movies and music.  It was also interesting to see the depth of knowledge and pride the children had in their cultural heritage as descendants of the Moche.  They seemed to love having us there, and we hope that in the end we helped to encourage them to follow their dreams.  Working with them made us both want to get more involved with community projects – in Peru and elsewhere – and also offered us the clearest view of the types of influences the children of San José de Moro come into contact with as they grow up.  From movies to music to games, they are not much different from the children back home!  It is interesting to see, however, how important their local history is to them.  On the 28th of July, Peru’s Independence Day, some children put on a small show celebrating their country’s rich history, and others orated poems expressing love for their town of San José de Moro – from its vivid history and culture to its modern people and cuisine, there was nothing they couldn’t love more about their home!

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SPI Projects on the Northern Coast

Moro has another SPI-initiated project, where local ceramicist Julio Ibarrola produces replicas of Moche and Lambayeque pottery that have been found at the site itself.  He is currently apprenticing a few local teenagers and in this way hopes to continue the tradition of ceramic reproduction, as well as create a sustainable economy for the town. His replicas are found not only in Moro but also in the gift shops of museums all around Peru and through an online vendor, he gives his industry the potential to be a great source of income for those who become involved.

Before reaching Moro, we visited another SPI site which was the Chotuna and Chornancap Archaeological Complex. While this site has been recently made famous for its priestess burial found last year, the SPI has brought local women back in touch with their cultural roots through a weaving program.  It allows the community to connect with the archaeological site, provides potential revenue through sales at the gift shop, and provides the opportunity to learn about traditional methods of cloth production. During the last week of the field school, we had the opportunity to work with Moro´s weavers, who have also become involved with the help of SPI. The women were happy to answer any questions we had about the weaving process when they came to the field school at Moro.  They even allowed students to try their hand at setting up a back-strap loom. All of the students tried, but the women were much faster than any of us! Even so, they were very patient in explaining the process numerous times to the different students.

It is an unfortunate truth that throughout history many archaeologists have not involved themselves with local communities, maintaining a distance between their familiar group of colleagues and the residents who live among the site.  Even when they have made an effort to improve the economy of the community, such as building a museum, many projects have focused on increasing tourism without encouraging local involvement in the site. This tourism fails to help communities when gift shops lack locally-made artisan goods – it is important to include local artisan crafts (such as Julio’s ceramics or the weavers’ textiles) because without them, the money spent at the museum by tourists does not always stay with the community. This idea would not get far if interactions between archaeologists and locals are hampered by an invisible wall created by many differences ranging from socioeconomic to cultural, as well as by the absence of some great impetus for interaction.  Part of SPI’s mission is to provide that impetus.  Its efforts to increase local involvement in archaeological projects, by allowing locals to learn about their cultural heritage and how it can be preserved, are the first steps in bridging the gap between archaeologists and the local communities in which they work.

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San Jose de Moro Archaeological Program Wins First International “Tourism Cares” Award!

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San Jose de Moro Archaeological Program is the winner of the first International Turismo Cuida/Tourism Cares Contest!

SPI’s San Jose de Moro, Peru project was awarded recently the First International Tourism Cares/Turismo Cuida award. Sponsored by the world’s leading travel and tourism companies, the award is given for outstanding work in sustainability and preservation, both of which are critical to SPI’s mission. The award recognizes both the job creation (22 new permanent jobs!) from tourist development and the resultant end to looting at the site. The accompanying $15,000 grant will aid our continued work on sustainable tourism and economic, social and cultural development at Moro.

Congratulations to all of those involved on their hard work.