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Faynan Museum Soft Opening, 4 March 2018 - an ‘archaeological celebration’

On 4 March 2018, Faynan Museum was opened for its first visitors by Her Excellency Ms Lina Annab, Jordan’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities. The soft opening was a culmination of almost 30 years of CBRL involvement in archaeological research in the Faynan region and the efforts of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan.

Her Excellency Ms Lina Annab and Prof Steven Mithen cut the ribbon to officially open the new Faynan Museum

Prof Steve Mithen presents the Wadi Faynan 16 monograph to the audience of notables at the Faynan Museum soft opening 

The museum’s first major exhibit, Discovering Faynan Heritage showcases the archaeology of the region through a timeline and information panels in both English and Arabic.

Local Bedouin reads the panels that are part of the Discovering Faynan Heritage exhibition 

A specially commissioned 3-D landscape specially commission from the UK focuses on 30 archaeological sites.

A highlight of the day was seeing the local Bedouin enthusiastically crowd around the 3-D model pointing out areas known to them

School dance troops perform for the distinguished audience 

The Faynan Museum’s new central exhibit was the result of more than a year’s hard work of the ‘Discovering Faynan Heritage’ project, a follow-on project developed from the excavations at the spectacular early Neolithic site of Wadi Faynan 16, led by Prof Steven Mithen from the University of Reading, Prof Bill Finlayson, CBRL’s long-serving director, and Dr Mohammed Najjar, former director of excavations at Jordan’s Department of Antiquities. 

The relative remoteness of Faynan belies its archaeological and historical richness. Some of Faynan’s most significant archaeological remains relate to the transition to settled life and farming in the Neolithic; copper mining and the origins of metallurgy; and the Roman copper manufacturing industrial complex (and associated pollution).

Faynan was possibly the site of ‘Punon’, cited in the Old Testament, the region is later equated with the Roman settlement of ‘Phaino’, mentioned by Eusebius. The remains of Byzantine churches, found amongst the large pile of rubble that is Khirbet Faynan (Faynan ‘ruins’), suggest that Faynan was the centre of a Byzantine bishopric in the 5th and 6th centuries.

View across Wadi Faynan during the Wadi Fayan 16 excavations

All this heritage sits within a spectacular and dramatic landscape that includes the Wadi Araba, part of the African Great Rift Valley, the Shera (sometimes referred to as ‘Edomite’) mountains and the fringes of the upland Jordanian plateau.  A large part sits within the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature’s (RSCN) and the Dana Biosphere Reserve. CBRL’s close connection with the area dates to the early 1990s and the establishment the Dana Biosphere Reserve.

An audience of 200 dignitaries and local notables attended the musuem soft opening

In the run up to the big day, CBRL in Amman had been tasked with overseeing the guest list – a delicate matter in terms of community relations. We were hoping for an excellent turn-out as the confirmed numbers rose steadily from 80 to 90 and then to 120 ahead of the date. We were delighted when we counted 200 people on the day, but it wasn’t without a fair amount of nervous head-counting and telephone calls to the kitchen at the Feynan Ecolodge to ensure that everyone would be catered for. Not enough food would have been a disaster!

Following the opening ceremony attendees arrive at the award-winning Faynan Ecolodge for a film screening and lunch

So, off to a great start! We look forward to the next phase in Faynan’s growth and through the new museum, to an increased awareness of its amazing heritage.

The soft opening event on the 4th March was made possible through a close collaboration between the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Department of Antiquities, Reading University, CBRL’s British Institute in Amman, Safi Museum (‘The Museum at the Lowest Place on Earth’), Feynan Ecolodge, and key representatives from the local community. The event was additionally supported by local schools.

Carol Palmer is CBRL’s director of the British Institute in Amman, a post she has held since September 2009. She has known Wadi Faynan well since 1998 when she held a CBRL Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of Leicester and was a team member of Profs Graeme Barker, David Mattingly and David Gilbertson’s ‘Wadi Faynan Landscape Survey’, where she made a study of the recent Bedouin heritage and history of Faynan.

Photos kindly supplied by the Department of the Antiquities of Jordan, Prof Steven Mithen, Bushra Nabas, Dr Barbara Porter, and Carol Palmer

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