Rethinking The Cultural and Natural Dimensions of Landscape Pollution in the Faynan Valley, Southern Jordan


The human impact on marginal environments is an issue that has especially affected societies in the Middle East during the past 8,000 years, a time when some of the most significant political and economic developments in the history of human societies took place. Such development often permanently altered the character of these fragile ecosystems. Landscape degradation, especially heavy metal pollution, is a poignant example of the deleterious effects that humans can have on the environment. We conducted a study of ancient pollution in the Faynan valley of southern Jordan – an area rich in copper ores – during the most intensive episodes of production: the Iron Age and Roman period. Based on the results of excavation and survey, geochemical analysis, and OSL dating, we created a GIS model of the spread of ancient metal ions through biophysical processes. This information has allowed us to simulate the ways in which potential pollutants would have moved across the landscape, and hypothesize the effects on the landscape. We argue that intensive copper production did not directly lead to environmental degradation, but instead, was probably the result of a combination of post-abandonment factors, including erosion and the collapse of supportive infrastructure.

SAA 2015 abstracts made available in tDAR courtesy of the Society for American Archaeology and Center for Digital Antiquity Collaborative Program to improve digital data in archaeology. If you are the author of this presentation you may upload your paper, poster, presentation, or associated data (up to 3 files/30MB) for free. Please visit for instructions and more information.

Cite this Record

Rethinking The Cultural and Natural Dimensions of Landscape Pollution in the Faynan Valley, Southern Jordan. Kyle Knabb, Matthew Howland, Tammy Rittenour, Yigal Erel, Thomas Levy. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398426)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Geographic Keywords
West Asia

Spatial Coverage

min long: 25.225; min lat: 15.115 ; max long: 66.709; max lat: 45.583 ;