Wadi Hafir Survey

About the AMAES, 1980-1990

The AMAES in Wadi Hafir

AMAES Reports and Publications

About the AMAES, 1980-1990


     The ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey (AMAES), directed by the late William (Bill) Jobling of the University of Sydney from 1980–1990, was the first official comprehensive survey of the ancient remains found in the Ḥismā/Wadi Ramm desert of southern Jordan. While the Ḥismā’s most prominent archaeological and epigraphic sites had been documented by earlier scholars, most notably George Horsfield, R. Savignac, G. Lankester Harding, and Diana Kirkbride, the AMAES aimed to fully explore the entirety of the region’s vast network of sweeping valleys, towering rock faces, and sprawling boulder fields. In all, the survey explored an area of more than 5,000 sq km, extending from the Red Sea port city of ‘Aqaba in the west to the desert outpost of Mudawwara in the east, and from the well-watered Ma‘an plateau and Rās an-Naqab escarpment in the north to Jordan’s desert border with Saudi Arabia in the south.


     During the course of its nine official field seasons, the AMAES explored a broad range of sites, features, and artifacts that provided abundant evidence of ancient human activity in the Ḥismā. In addition to discovering remarkable settlement and habitation sites, including the rock shelters at Hedeib al-Fala and Tell al-Kharaza and an early Islamic village and open-air mosque in Wādī Shireh, the survey documented the remains from several extensive wadi systems that were intensively used and settled  in the past, including Wādī Um Sahm, Wādī Rabigh, and Wādī Ḥafīr. Amid these wadi systems, the survey discovered numerous springs, catchment pools, wells, cisterns, and dams, but also thousands of boulders and rock faces carved with inscriptions and rock drawings of various date. From the third season on, the recording and documentation of these epigraphic and rock art remains became the survey’s primary focus.


     Of the thousands of recorded inscriptions, the

vast majority were written in Thamudic E/Hismaic (the local Ancient North Arabian script/dialect), although far smaller numbers of South Arabian, Nabataean, Greek, and early Arabic/Kufic texts were also found. In addition, the survey photographed countless rock drawings dating from prehistoric times to the present, but with a particular emphasis on the well-carved and signed drawings that often accompany the Thamudic inscriptions. Although the entire collection of epigraphic material recorded by the AMAES still awaits final publication, Jobling did provide many initial readings, translations, and commentaries in his numerous preliminary reports and, in doing so, helped confirm the correct reading of several important graphemes within the Thamudic E script as well as the shared linguistic, cultural, and religious context of the Ḥismā tribes and the Nabataeans of Petra.


The AMAES Team


Throughout the survey, Dr. Jobling was assisted by Richard Morgan, then a recent graduate in archaeology and geography from the University of Sydney who joined the project for several key seasons as cartographer and field photographer. In the survey’s later years, Michael Bannigan of the University of Sydney served as Jobling’s field assistant and was also responsible for photography. The AMAES was conducted with the permission and sanction of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan and was assisted by several representatives from the department, including Sami Rabidi, Nabil Bqa’in, Zeidoun al Muheisen, and Suleiman Farajat. At various times, other scholars, experts, and surveyors participated in the project, including Crystal Bennett, then director of the British Institute in Amman, Godfrey Tanner, professor of Classics at the University of Newcastle, and Lee Jobling, Bill’s wife. Archaeologists Eugene Stockton, Daniel Tangri, and Ina Kehrberg also assisted in analyzing and drawing many of the survey’s lithic finds. Outside the field, Elizabeth Roberts, then resident in Jerash, provided valuable logistical and on-the-ground support to the project during and between field seasons, while Lucy Davey served as Jobling’s chief research assistant at the University of Sydney.













The AMAES in Wādī Ḥafīr


The AMAES spent the better part of four field seasons exploring Wādī Ḥafir, recording thousands of examples of prehistoric rock art and Thamudic inscriptions, while also locating and studying the wadi’s key archaeological features and natural resources. During this exploration, the survey managed to visit nearly every tributary, bay, and boulder field along the length of the narrow 18 km long wadi, recording and photographing nearly 1,000 boulders and rock faces carved with inscriptions and drawings from a range of periods. The survey also identified and published preliminary studies of the Ḥafīr’s principal water sources, namely the Qaṭṭar Ḥafīr drip-spring located near the northern end of the wadi, and the Muqawwar cascades, situated at the head of Wādī aṭ-Ṭfeif. Finally, the AMAES noted and photographed the numerous though largely undatable manmade features that are present throughout the wadi, including groups of stone circles of varying size, scattered low stone walls that may have channeled winter rains onto simple agricultural or pasture plots (so-called “Roman gardens”), and isolated cairns and stone piles.


Fortunately, the notes, photographs, photographic log, and field maps of the AMAES allowed the WHPS to determine the relative location and/or topographic position of many of the sites that had first been recorded by Jobling. This is particularly true for sites that were recorded within specific tributaries, around the wadi’s major natural and manmade features, and in the vicinity of its principal water sources. In exceptional cases, the project’s field maps and notes even allowed us to determine the specific area where a site was located, sometimes within less than 100 m. With this information in hand, a main goal of the WHPS has been to relocate as many Jobling sites as possible and pinpoint their location with handheld GPS units. As the WHPS has progressed through the Ḥafīr and its various tributaries and located more and more Jobling sites, it has become increasingly easier to determine where exactly Jobling’s team worked and, equally important, where we might expect to find Jobling sites that have not yet been located. Thus far, the WHPS has located around 275 of the rock art and inscription sites photographed by Jobling, representing between a quarter and a third of the sites recorded by the AMAES in the Ḥafīr.

AMAES Reports and Publications


Preliminary Reports of the AMAES

While Dr. Jobling unfortunately passed away before a final publication of the AMAES could be completed, he provided regular annual updates on the progress of the survey and its major discoveries in several academic journals, including the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan (ADAJ), Syria, Liber Annuus, and Archiv für Orientforschung. Although frequently visited by the AMAES from 1983 onwards, Wādī Ḥafīr was most intensively surveyed and recorded during Seasons 4, 6, 7, and 8.


Season 1 (January–February 1980)*


Jobling, W.J. (1981), “Preliminary Report on the Archaeological Survey Between Ma‘an and ‘Aqaba, January to February 1980,” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 25, pp. 105–112, pls. pp. 388–394.


Jobling, W.J. (1981), “The ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Survey,” Liber Annuus 31, pp. 328–329, pls. 97–98.


Season 2 (January–February 1981)


Jobling, W.J. (1982), “‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Survey, Jan.- Feb. 1981,” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 26, pp. 199–210.


Season 3 (January–February 1982)

Jobling, W.J. (1983), “The 1982 Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey of the ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Area of Southern Jordan,” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 27, pp. 185–196, pls. 32–38.


Jobling, W.J. (1983), “The ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey 1982 Season,” Liber Annuus 32, pp. 467–470, pls. 111–113.


Jobling, W.J. (1983/84), “The ‘Aqaba-Ma‘ān Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey 1980–1982,” Archiv für Orientforschung 29–30, pp. 264–270. (Summary of Seasons 1–3)


Season 4 (December 1982–February 1983)


Jobling, W.J. (1983), “Preliminary Report on the Fourth Season of the ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey, 1982/1983,” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 27, pp. 197–208, pls. 39–49.


Jobling, W.J. and R.V.H. Morgan (1983), “The Fourth Season of the ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey 1982–83: Some Aspects of Geomorphology, Climate and Epigraphy,” Liber Annuus 33, pp. 396–401, pls. 67–69.


Jobling, W.J. (1983), “Prospection archéologique et épigraphique dans la région d’‘Aqaba-Ma‘an,” Syria 60, pp. 317–323.


Season 5 (March–April 1984)


Jobling, W.J. (1984), “The Fifth Season of the ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Survey 1984,” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 28, pp. 191–202, pls. 41–45.


Jobling, W.J. (1984), “The Fifth Season of the ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey, 1984,” Liber Annuus 34, pp. 423–428, pls. 85–86.


Jobling, W.J. (1985), “Prospection archéologique et épigraphique dans la région d’‘Aqaba-Ma‘an in 1984,” Syria 62, pp. 165–169.


Jobling, W.J. (1984), “The ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey,” Australian Foreign Affairs Record 55.5, pp. 434–435.


Jobling, W.J. (1984), “The ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey 1980–1984: Some Notes and Reflections,” TRASUS 2.2, pp. 35–52. (Summary of Seasons 1–5)


Season 6 (December 1984–February 1985)


Jobling, W.J. (1985), “Preliminary Report of the Sixth Season of the ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Epigraphic and Archaeological Survey,” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 29, pp. 211–220, pls. 43–50.


Jobling, W.J. (1985), “The Sixth Season of the ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Survey, 1985,” Liber Annuus 35, pp. 396–399, pls. 99–101.


Jobling, W.J. (1986), “Prospection archéologique et épigraphique dans la région d’‘Aqaba-Ma‘an 1984–5,” Syria 63, pp. 405–415.


Jobling, W.J. (1985/86), “The ‘Aqaba-Ma‘ān Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey 1983–1985,” Archiv für Orientforschung 33, pp. 233–247. (Summary of Seasons 4–6)


Season 7 (September–December 1986)


Jobling, W.J. (1987), “The Seventh Season of the Aqaba-Ma‘an Survey,” Liber Annuus 37, pp. 376–379, pls. 55–56.


Jobling, W.J. (1988), “Prospection archéologique et épigraphique dans la région d’‘Aqaba-Ma‘an, 1986,” Syria 65, pp. 427–434.


Season 8 (January–February 1988)


Jobling, W.J. (1989), “Report of the Eighth Season of the ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey (January–February 1988),” Liber Annuus 39, pp. 253–255, pls. 74–75.


Jobling, W.J. (1989), “‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey,” in Archaeology of Jordan II, eds. D. Homes-Fredericq and J.B. Hennessy, Akkadica Supplimentum 7 (Leuven: Peeters), pp. 16–24. (Summary of Seasons 1–8)


Jobling, W.J. (1989), “William Jobling Collects North Arabian Inscriptions,” ACOR Newsletter 1.1, pp. 4–5.


Season 9 (February–March 1990)


Jobling, W.J. (1990), “The ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey, 1990,” ACOR Newsletter 1.2, p. 6.


Jobling, W.J. (1990), “The ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Survey 1990,” Liber Annuus 40, pp. 455–457, pl. 67.


Jobling, W.J. (1991), “Aqaba-Ma’an Survey,” in “Archaeology in Jordan” segment, American Journal of Archaeology 95.2, pp. 268–270.


Jobling, W.J. (1992), “The ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Survey 1980–1990: Research Report,” Liber Annuus 42, pp. 351–356, pls. 39–40.


Jobling, W.J. (1993), “The ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Archaeological and Epigraphic Survey 1988–1990,” Syria 70, pp. 244–248. (Summary of Seasons 8–9)


Post-Survey Progress Reports


Jobling, W.J. (1993), “‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Survey,” in “Archaeology in Jordan” segment, American Journal of Archaeology 97.3, pp. 514–516.


Jobling, W.J. (1993), “Southern Jordan Survey: Inscriptions, Rock Art, and Overland Trade,” Biblical Archaeologist 56.2, pp. 105–106.


Jobling, L., M. Bannigan, and R.V.H. Morgan (1997), “‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Survey,” in “Archaeology in Jordan” segment, American Journal of Archaeology 101.3, p. 500. (Overall Summary of AMAES)



Additional Publications and Studies


During and after the AMAES, Dr. Jobling as well as different scholars and experts affiliated with the project (including Daniel Tangri, R. Godfrey Tanner, and Neil Munro), published numerous articles and reports summarizing and/or synthesizing different aspects of the archaeological and epigraphic material the survey collected.


Jobling, W.J. (1983), “Recent Exploration and Survey in Southern Jordan: Rock Art, Inscriptions and History,” Berytus 31, pp. 27–40.


Jobling, W.J. (1984–1986), “Desert Deities: Some New Epigraphic Evidence for the Deities Dusharas and Al-Lat from the Aqaba-Ma'an Area of Southern Jordan,” Religious Traditions 7–9, pp. 25–40.


Jobling, W.J. (1986), “North Arabian (Thamudic) Inscriptions and Rock Art from the ‘Aqaba-Ma‘an Area of Southern Jordan,” Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan 30, pp. 261–284, pls. 48–55.


Jobling, W.J. and R.G. Tanner (1989), “Zeno the Tribune,” Studi Epigrafici e Linguistici 6, pp. 135–142.


Tanner, R.G. (1990), “Greek Epigraphy in South Jordan,” Zeitschrift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik 83, pp. 183–193.


Jobling, W.J. (1990), “Hellenism in North Arabia: A New Epigraphic Focus,” in Greek Colonists and Native Populations, ed. J.P. Descoeudres (London: Clarendon), pp. 551–557.


Jobling, W.J. (1990), “Some New Nabataean and North Arabian Inscriptions of the Hisma in Southern Jordan,” ARAM Periodical 2.1/2, pp. 99–111.


Jobling, W.J. (1990), “New North Arabian Epigraphic Evidence for the History of the Decipherment of the Alphabet,” in History and Historiography of Linguistics: Papers from the Fourth International Conference on the History of the Language Sciences, Vol. 1: Antiquity–17th Century, eds. H.J. Niederehe and E.F.K Koerner (John Benjamins), pp. 125–134.


Jobling, W.J. and D. Tangri (1991), “A Prepottery Neolithic Site in the Hisma Basin, Southern Jordan,” Paleorient 17.2, pp. 141–148.


Jobling, W.J. (1991), “Nabataean and North Arabian Writing Systems: History and New Approaches,” Languages of the World (Sprachen der Welt) 1, pp. 33–41.


Jobling, W.J. (1992), “The Annotated Rock Art of Southern Jordan,” in Rock Art in the Old World: Papers Presented in Symposium A of the AURA Congress, Darwin (Australia) 1988, ed. M. Lorblanchet (New Delhi: Indira Ghandi National Centre for the Arts), pp. 385–392.


Jobling, W.J. and R.G. Tanner (1993), “New Evidence for Early Christianity in the North-West Hejaz,” Studia Patristica 25, pp. 313–317.


Munro, R., R. Morgan, et al. (1997), “Optical Dating and Landscape Chronology at ad-Disa, Southern Jordan, and its Potential,” Studies in the History and Archaeology of Jordan 6, pp. 97–103.




*While the AMAES exploration of the Ḥismā began in January–February 1980, Jobling had begun investigating portions of the Wadi Arabah in 1979. As such, some publications list the starting date of the survey as 1979.





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