Recovering the past from above Hibabiya — an Early Islamic village in the Jordanian desert?




Britain and the Middle East were the two areas in which the technique of aerial archaeology was pioneered in the 1920s. Overwhelmingly the latter took place in Syria where a French Jesuit priest, Antoine Poidebard, worked for a generation. Further south in Transjordan — as it then was — three men presided over a brief (1927–1929) but fruitful period: an archaeologist with a passion for the newly developing technique (O.G.S. Crawford) and two pilots of the Royal Air Force with an amateur interest in what they saw beneath their wings (Flt. Lt. P.E. Maitland and Gp/Capt L.W.B. Rees). An aerial photograph published at the time seemed to identify a ‘village’ as prehistoric. Over eighty years later and just after it was destroyed, a fresh examination and the rediscovery of some crucial dating evidence have combined to identify it as, probably, an early Islamic village on the desert fringe.