Catreena Hamarneh, James A. Sauer Fellow at ACOR, Fall 2017

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Catreena Hamarneh is a Jordanian archaeologist and a Ph.D. candidate in Classical Archaeology at Von Humboldt University. In 2017, she was awarded the James A. Sauer ACOR Fellowship. She began her professional career in archaeology working in mosaic conservation and documentation at the Madaba Mosaic School. This inspired her to specialize in mosaic restoration in graduate school at the University of Jordan. Later, she worked in documentation and the MEGA-Jordan data base at the Department of Antiquities, and subsequently she taught the German Jordanian University.   Presently, Catreena is working towards her doctorate while serving as the Administrator at the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology (GPIA) in Amman.

Catreena Hamarneh standing at the terraces of Muzera’a in 2017. Photo courtesy of C. Hamarneh.

She writes below about her dissertation research project titled “Ancient Terraces in the Hinterlands of Petra.”

My connection with ACOR began when I was an undergraduate and I frequently visited ACOR’s library to read and to study. I had the opportunity to interact with various scholars in residence, to learn about their research, and become inspired by their knowledge. Since then and until today I pass by ACOR on a regular basis to use the library and touch base with colleagues.

In 2015, while working on a hydrology project that focused on mitigating flooding in the hinterlands of Petra together with a team of professors from the German Jordanian University and Yarmouk University, I began to think about ancient human interaction with the environment and the balance between survival and adaptation as the key to understanding patterns of human settlement or migration. These thoughts later developed into my dissertation project to explore human modification of the landscape through the construction of drywall terraces.


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The village of Wadi Musa, or “Elji” or “Gaya” as it was known historically, is flanked by several wadis. The village has a number of springs that encouraged humans to settle, beginning as early as the Neolithic period (the site of al- Basset) until the present time. To the northwest lies the site of Muzeraʿa, an enigmatic set of terraces that span almost half a kilometer. Today threatened by urbanization, large portions of the site were sadly demolished by bulldozing, construction, sewage, plowing and dumping of construction debris.  The need for investigation and documentation of these ancient terraces is clear and urgent.

Catreena Hamarneh joyfully at work at Muzera’a. Photo courtesy of C. Hamarneh.

The James A. Sauer Fellowship enabled me to embark on site investigation and documentation at Muzera’a. In May 2017, a methodology was developed to document the terraced walls, focusing on their method of construction, stone provenance, and possible function. I also collected various soil samples for future further analysis of past vegetation and possible dating. The site has proven to be more complex that initially anticipated, hence further investigation is required to explore its function and role in the dynamic landscape.

One of the most exiting aspects of working at the site of Muzera’a was interacting with the scientific communities of both Jordanian and international archaeological teams working in Petra. Working at the archaeological site brought daily interaction with local Wadi Musa community, who became almost a family.  The community’s interest and curiosity stimulated the progress of the project, and continues to inspire my research.

Catreena Hamarneh received her B.Sc. in Geology and M.A in Archaeology from the University of Jordan. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Classical Archaeology at Von Humboldt University.

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