Daviau, Michèle: Excavations at Tall Jawa, Jordan, Volume 4 The Early Islamic House. 540 pages, 24.6 x 16.5 x 3.6 cm, 156 €, ISBN-13: 9789004175525
(Brill Academic Publishers, Leiden 2010)
Compte rendu par Walter de Winter, Humboldt Universität, Berlin

Nombre de mots : 1516 mots
Publié en ligne le 2011-08-22
Citation: Histara les comptes rendus (ISSN 2100-0700).
Lien: http://histara.sorbonne.fr/cr.php?cr=1363
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          This is a review on “Excavations at Tall Jawa, Jordan Volume 4, The Early Islamic House” 2010, by P. M. Michèle Daviau and contributions by Martin Beckmann, Debra C. Foran, David Hemsworth, Nola J. Johnson, Margaret A. Judd, Heather Siemens, and Alan Walmsley. The publication is one of five volumes to cover the six Canadian excavations at Tall Jawa in Jordan in 1989 and during the seasons from 1991 to 1995. Volume III that describes the pottery corpus of the site is still in preparation. Volume V is a future project that will include the outcome of a survey around Tall Jawa, the early Byzantine installations, the faunal remains, the excavation of a Roman tomb, and an ethnographic study on the early 20th century houses in the modern village Jawa.


          Originally, the excavation of Tall Jawa was part of the Madaba Plains Project. By the strategic position of the site located in the Ammonite hill country, overlooking the Madaba Plain to the south-east of Amman, and the corpus of Iron Age II sherds, it was decided to excavate the site proper under supervision of P.M.Michèle Daviau.


          The publication of the project consists of five parts, starting with an overview of the history of the site, the research strategy and recording techniques. Tall Jawa was mostly occupied during the Iron Age, but this excavation deals with a single structure dating to the Byzantine/ Early Islamic period after an occupational gap of 1200 years. The research goals during the excavation of the early Islamic House Building 600 were twofold: comprehension of the structure, plan and function and secondly the stratigraphic relation to the earlier Iron Age settlement. A point worthy of mentioning is the fact that the basic recording system of the Madaba Plains Project was partly expanded to investigate Building 600 at Tall Jawa.


          The second part is specifically about the stratigraphic excavation of Building 600, and all contributing authors make very well additions to provide a clear and thorough view of the technique of excavation, the stratigraphic problems encountered, the layout of the house, the mosaic floors, the painted plaster and the architectural features.


          The contribution of Margaret A. Judd on the multiple burial found under floor in the centre of the house is very interesting for the research to the context of the age in which the house was used. Both individuals interred had no signs of diseases, but it seems that they did some activities in which the hands and the upper body were used. At first, the human remains buried in the domestic context would suggest a building collapse during an earthquake, not uncommon in the area. Moreover, during the Early Islamic Period, people were buried outside the community, so possibly   the timeframe of the burial could be between periods of occupation. The burial raises new questions in the ongoing research on the diachronic context of the site.


          Part three of the publication, on the pottery and artifacts, starts with a more than 100-page chapter on the Islamic ceramic wares, and mould-made lamps by Michèle Daviau herself. In this discussion she distincts between a functional and formal typology of the ceramic wares, and gives many parallels with material found at sites in the region. Strikingly, there are certain well-known Byzantine and Umayyad vessel types and surface treatments absent in the ceramic assemblages of Tall Jawa. This study by Michèle Daviau is as detailed as possible, but one should guard against losing the overview. Yet, ceramic studies are the main indicators for a chronological research. Michèle Daviau concludes this chapter with a comparative study on painted ceramic material found at Jarash.


          Together with Martin Beckmann, the main author wrote a chapter on the ceramic lamps in the same style, giving many parallels of the ceramic types and styles found at Building 600. Most motives appearing on the various groups of lamps are dated from Late-Byzantine to the Umayyad Period, such as vines, types of birds, leaves, pomegranates, grapes, amphorae, palm trees, and even a rare piece of a donkey parade. The stylized flower and guilloches are mostly seen in mosaic floors, but at Tall Jawa, these themes are common on the lamps discovered. The authors of the chapter hint at the possibility of the presence of a regional production centre in the area, due to the assumption of distinct groups of mould-made lamps.


          Although it is a short chapter, the part on inscribed vessels and ostraca by N.J. Johnson is not to be omitted. Most inscriptions are Greek and Arabic, but the author surprises us by making a small but thorough side-study on the distribution and history of the use of ostrich shells in the Ancient Near East, based on the find of one single inscribed ostrich shell. The conclusion holds an important message: the presence of graffiti does not automatically imply the abandonment of a structure.


          For the economists and numismatists among us, the chapter on the Early Islamic coin hoard by Walmsley is of interest. Although short, this one is very detailed like other chapters from the publication.  Interestingly, these coins seem to be collected at one relatively specific time at one of the major centres in the vicinity of Tall Jawa somewhere in the eight century AD.


          Heather Siemens’s study on glass vessels and lamps has the same structure as Michèle Daviau’s on the ceramics. She devides the material in functional classes and provides a lot of parallels from sites in Jordan. The conclusion that she makes is that the Umayyad glass continues the tradition of Roman  and Byzantine forms, and similar material is found in Jarash. Siemens emphasises the value of the materials found at Tall Jawa,  that lies in the relatively secure dating of the context.


          The DVD enclosed is a very nice addition to the publication of the excavation. It is recommended to read the chapter on the Tall Jawa Multimedia Information System. One can find in it all the steps to install the program and how to use the database for research. The system contains six different databases on all kinds of artifacts of Building 600, and with a little effort one can find a vast inventory of the data discussed in the previous chapters.


          One of the main research goals in the excavation of the Early Islamic House was to define the diachronic relation of the structure from the Iron Age to the Umayyad period. One major difficulty was due to the fact that parts of the Islamic house were built directly over Iron Age remains. The researchers have managed to overcome this very well. All in all, the publication on the excavation of the Islamic House Building 600 is very detailed, and all authors are experts in their field. In my opinion, this publication provides a picture as complete as possible, especially with the digital database. Finally,  a short remark on the title of the publication. The designation of the “Early Islamic House” could also be the “Late- Byzantine/ Early Islamic House”. In its discussion and conclusion by Michèle Daviau, the transitional phase from the Late Byzantine to the Early Umayyad period is frequently mentioned in relation to Building 600, in material as well as in architectural features.




Chapter One

Tall Jawa: The Site and Its Setting, P.M. Michele Daviau, p. 3

Chapter Two

Research Strategy and Recording Techniques, P.M. Michele Daviau, p. 15

Chapter Three

Field D: Building 600, P.M. Michele Daviau, p. 25

Chapter Four

The Mosaic Floors and Their Construction Techniques, Debra C. Foran, p. 91

Chapter Five

Painted Plaster in Building 600, N.J. Johnson, p. 107

Chapter Six

Architectural Features in Building 600, P.M. Michele Daviau p. 121

Chapter Seven

The Multiple Burial in Building 600 at Tall Jawa, Margaret A. Judd, p.143

Chapter Eight

The Pottery: A Functional and Formal Typology, P.M. Michele Daviau, p. 171

Chapter Nine

The Ceramic Lamps from Building 600, Martin Beckmann and P.M. Michele Daviau, p. 293

Chapter Ten

Inscribed Lamps, N.J. Johnson, p. 341

Chapter Eleven

Inscribed Vessels, Ostraca, and Plaster, p. N.J. Johnson, p. 351


Chapter Twelve

The Artefacts from Building 600, P.M. Michele Daviau with Martin Beckmann and N.J. Johnson, p. 367

Chapter Thirteen

The Early Islamic Coin Hoard, Alan Walmsley, p. 393

Chapter Fourteen

Glass Vessels and Lamps, Heather A. Siemens, p. 415

Chapter Fifteen

The Settlement of Tall Jawa in the Balqa Region: Chronological Implications, P.M. Michele Daviau, p. 467

Chapter Sixteen

The Tall Jawa Multimedia Information System, David Hemsworth, p. 479