During the Wadi Hafir Petroglyph Survey (WHPS) in 2005-06, Dr. Glenn J. Corbett recorded around 1,800 Hismaic inscriptions on over 1,200 boulders and rock faces along the Wadi Hafir using photographs and GPS coordinates. This project facilitated the creation of a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database of petroglyph locations that aided in the analysis of the spatial distribution of the petroglyphs and their content. The 2012 Wadi Hafir Photographic Survey aimed to re-photograph 125 stones in major tributaries of the Wadi Hafir with a focus on Hismaic inscriptions and signed rock drawings. In addition to standard photographic recording, three other digital imaging techniques were employed during the 2012 project: photogrammetry, gigapixel imaging and reflectance transformation imaging.
The steep-sided Wādī Ḥafīr gorge is a long and narrow canyon that stretches approximately 18 km from the Rās an-Naqab escarpment towards the Qā‘ ad-Dīsī mudflat in the center of the Ḥismā Basin in southern Jordan. A number of tributary wadis of varying size enter the main wadi from the adjacent inselbergs, the largest being Wādī aṭ-Ṭfeif and Wādī Khāyneh to the west, and Tel‘at Rashid to the east.
Inscriptions and Rock Drawings
During the initial season of the WHPS, more than 1,200 petroglyph sites were photographed, recorded, and mapped, and it is estimated that several times that number still await discovery. Just under half of the recorded sites include one or more Hismaic inscriptions. While a precise count of recorded Hismaic inscriptions will only come with detailed analysis of the survey’s photographic record, a preliminary examination identified more than 1,800 inscriptions on the stones and rock faces recorded by the survey. By contrast, less than a dozen inscriptions in Nabataean script and/or with Nabataean lexical features were recorded, while a slightly larger number of unpointed Kufic/early Arabic inscriptions were found. In addition, the survey documented scores of examples of more recent/modern Arabic and English graffiti both carved and painted on stones.
The ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey (AMAES), directed by the late William (Bill) Jobling of the University of Sydney, was the first comprehensive survey of the ancient remains found in the Ḥismā/Wadi Ramm desert of southern Jordan. During the course of nine field seasons, the AMAES systematically explored the region’s vast network of sweeping valleys, towering rock faces, and sprawling boulder fields, revealing abundant archaeological and epigraphic evidence of ancient human activity and settlement in the Ḥismā.