The Australian Research Council/University of Sydney project Drawing the line: the archaeology of Roman provincial borders in Late Antique Palaestina and Arabia (shortened to Borders of Arabia and Palaestina – hereafter BAP) requires two field seasons of survey and sampling in the northern hills of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
This project will extend the existing work of the University of Sydney excavations at Pella to the far hinterland of that city’s territory. Within a regional survey we will be targeting already identified sites which are at risk from modern development. We plan to focus on ceramics of the 3rd to 7th centuries from these sites in the area of the supposed border route between Palaestina and Arabia. The overall corpus from each site will be categorized by reference to the known ceramics from Pella ('Palestinian') and Gerasa ('Arabian'). The ancient Roman border must lie between the 'Palestinian' and 'Arabian' sites.
We will develop an archaeological methodology to allow a more precise definition of provincial territory. Once the borders are better established, it will be possible to understand the Roman reasons that lay behind the allocation of territory to one province or another. This will lead to the first archaeologically-based understanding of the functioning of the provincial system.
The case-study area has been chosen because the Late Roman/Byzantine/early Umayyad period (AD 250 - 700) is the one which saw the greatest settlement density and extent in the region before the 20th century. Ceramics of the period are the most abundant in surface collections (e.g. Jerash Region Survey, with Byzantine/Umayyad pottery "found in quantity at almost every site visited".) It is now possible to assign ceramic material to broad chronological bands, roughly the 4th, 5th/early 6th and later 6th/7th centuries. These factors mean that a project based on intensively sampled surface collection, supplemented by targeted small-scale test-pit sampling, would produce sufficient datable ceramic material to support the project’s conclusions.