Universiteit Leiden

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Fieldwork campaign

Udhruh Archaeological Project

The hinterland of important centres like Petra (Southern Jordan) can provide essential information that contribute to the understanding of their rise, expansion and decline.

Mark Driessen
Fondation Max van Berchem*
Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Leiden University Fund, Chastelain-Nobach Fund
NWO, Stichting van Moorsel en Rijnierse
Crowdfunding (2013-2014)

Petra College for Tourism and Archaeology, Al-Hussein Bin Talal University

Department of Antiquities of Jordan

Section Geo-Engineering, Technical University Delft

Environmental Sciences and Research, Wageningen University and Research

Department of Water Management, Technical University Delft

Centre for Isotope Research, Groningen University

Netherlands Centre for Luminescence dating 

Exchanging numismatic knowledge with local men (picture by Guus Gazenbeek - Udhruḥ Archaeological Project)

The region around Udhruḥ, 12 km east of Petra, was actively exploited in antiquity with investments of great effort and ingenuity in especially agricultural intensification, water management, military dominion, communication and security networks from the Nabataean to the Islamic periods. To investigate this interesting region the Udhruḥ Archaeological Project (UAP) was launched in 2011. The project is a joint venture between the Petra College for Tourism and Archaeology, Al-Hussein Bin Talal University (Wadi Musa) and the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University.


The 48 km² research area around the town of Udhruḥ, best known for a Roman castra (legionary fortress), can be characterised as a landscape with great archaeological diversity, good preservation and a long-term development. The UAP central research question is: What transformations can be observed in the hinterland of important centres like Petra, that contributed significantly to their rise, development and decline? To understand the dynamics of the region the research focuses on water resource management, agricultural innovations, trade logistics & security, religions and settlement development for the Nabataean, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic periods. 

Visiting Little Petra with part of 2018 team

2011-2015 field campaigns

The main focus of the first seasons was to get familiar with the region. A surveying program of the 48 km² research area was initiated to map the geomorphology and the wide variety of observed archaeological structures and phenomena.

2016 - 2023 field campaigns

As from 2016 we started to work on the different foci of the project. In the years 2016-2018 we excavated parts of the extra-mural church of Udhruḥ to get insights in the religious transformations. As from 2019 our main work is related to the regional water resource management and agricultural innovations; ‘An Antique Green Desert in the Udhruḥ Region'.

Sample taking for soil analyses in antique field systems southast of Udhruh.

Not only archaeology

The Udhruḥ Archaeological Project was not only initiated to satisfy the professional wishes of involved archaeologists. We also hope to meet the interests and needs of other stakeholders. Since the start of the project it became already clear that the local communities show interest in the archaeological heritage they live among. An oral history project was initiated through which local perceptions, ideas and oral traditions about the archaeology of the region are collected through semi-structured interviews. This is done to create a multi-vocal perspective on the site, to learn what value is ascribed to the place, and to promote awareness of the archaeological heritage within the local communities.

Two antique surface channels uncovered in erosion gulley (Wādī al-Fiqai, southeast of Udhruḥ).
* This project is sponsored by the Max van Berchem Foundation, established in 1973 in memory of Max van Berchem (1863-1921), the founder of Arabic epigraphy. Based in Geneva, the aim of the Foundation is to promote the study of Islamic and Arabic archaeology, history, geography, art, epigraphy, religion and literature. 

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