Residue Analysis as Evidence of Activity Areas and Phased Abandonment in a Medieval Jordanian Village


  • Bethany J. Walker University of Bonn
  • Robert Bates Andrews University
  • Silvia Polla Freie Universität Berlin
  • Andreas Springer Freie Universität Berlin
  • Sabrina Weihe Freie Universität Berlin



residue analysis; phased abandonment; medieval Islamic food systems; underglaze-painted ware; stonepaste; fritware; Mamluk ceramics; Tall Ḥisbān; medieval Jordan, residue anslysis, phased abandonment, medieval Islamic food systems, underglaze-painted ware, stonepaste, fritware, Mamluk ceramics, Medieval Jordan


During the 2013 and 2014 excavation seasons, a cache of complete ceramic vessels was recovered from a stone-outlined pit sealed by domestic building collapse at the site of Tall ?isb?n, a Mamluk-era rural site in central Jordan. Among the finds were two whole, handless stonepaste jars of the late 14th century—an extremely rare find in Bil?d al-Sh?m—along with a small, handless handmade jar containing a gelatinous residue. Valuable not only for the stratigraphic association of a local coarse ware (of previously unclear chronology) with datable imports, the pit provides the opportunity to explore the realities of site abandonment in a rural setting and the communal experience associated with it. The following study presents the results of recent residue analysis of these jars, as interpreted by the unique conditions of the jars’ deposition and against the backdrop the emerging picture of the household economy of medieval ?isb?n, its food systems, and the fast rise and slow decline of the village in the 14th through the 16th centuries CE. In the process, this essay suggests ways in which rural communities in southern Syria were transformed on the eve of the Ottoman conquest.

Author Biographies

Bethany J. Walker, University of Bonn

Bethany Walker is a Research Professor in the Department of Islamic Studies of the University of Bonn, where she directs the Research Unit of Islamic Archaeology and co-directs the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Mamluk Studies. An Arabist and archaeologist with interests in environmental history and peasant studies, she currently directs three archaeological projects in the region, and regularly consultants on Islamic and Crusader ceramics. Walker serves on the Board of Trustees of the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, and is the founding and Senior Editor of the Journal of Islamic Archaeology.

Robert Bates, Andrews University

Robert D. Bates, PhD, is the Assistant Director of Publication and Research Associate in Near Eastern Archaeology and Egyptology at the Institute of Archaeology, Andrews University (Michigan). He has been field archaeologist on several projects in Jordan, including Tall al-Umayri, Tall Jalul, Khirbat Atarūz, and Tall Ḥisbān. Currently, he teaches courses in ancient languages, the history of Antiquity, and Bib¬lical and Near Eastern archaeology. His research interests include the Iron Age archae¬ology of Transjordan, Roman and Byzantine glassware, and Egyptian portable artifacts.

Silvia Polla, Freie Universität Berlin

Silvia Polla (PhD Siena 2006) since 2009 has served as a Junior Professor at the Insti¬tute of Classical Archaeology of the Freie Universität Berlin and is a Member of the Excellence Cluster TOPOI. Her research focuses on Roman, Late Antique, and Early Medieval landscapes and economy using archaeometrical techniques.

Andreas Springer, Freie Universität Berlin

Dr. Andreas Springer is the Head of Mass Spectrometry Core Facility at the Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Freie Universität Berlin.

Sabrina Weihe, Freie Universität Berlin

Sabrina Weihe is a Master student at the Institute of Chemistry and Biochemistry of the Freie Universität Berlin.


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How to Cite

Walker, B. J., Bates, R., Polla, S., Springer, A., & Weihe, S. (2017). Residue Analysis as Evidence of Activity Areas and Phased Abandonment in a Medieval Jordanian Village. Journal of Islamic Archaeology, 4(2), 217–248.