A passion for Jordan Neil Faulkner
Dr Neil Faulkner is leading Cox & Kings’ Jordan: Crusaders, Traders & Raiders art tour next year. An archaeologist who works as a freelance editor, writer, lecturer, and excavator, he is a research fellow at Bristol University, a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, the editor of Military Times, and co-director of several archaeological field projects, including the Great Arab Revolt Project in southern Jordan. His latest book is Rome: Empire of the Eagles. His television appearances include Channel 4’s Time Team, BBC2’s Timewatch, and Channel Five’s Revealed series.
What is your specialist connection with Jordan?
Seven years ago, we set up a project in the deserts of southern Jordan to investigate the archaeological remains of Lawrence of Arabia’s war. We have taken a party of about 30 archaeologists and volunteers out for two weeks in November every year since. We are using a range of archaeological and anthropological techniques to explore the whole range of human experience, political change, and cultural impact represented by the first world war in Jordan.
Why else do you like about Jordan?
Jordan is at the centre of one of history’s great regions of collision and contestation. Empires, civilisations, and cultures have clashed and interacted in this region for thousands of years. So you have layer upon layer of material evidence for past human activity imprinted on the landscape.
During the tour, we visit sites representing the Greeks, the Romans, the Nabataeans, the Byzantines, the Muslim Arabs, the crusaders, and the Ottomans. Some of the sites are military and testify to a struggle for power, but others bear witness to rich cultural interaction – like Petra, where the Nabataeans created a genuine synthesis of Egyptian, Assyrian, and Graeco-Roman culture.
If you could recommend one book to read before departure, what would it be?
This is impossible. It depends what period you are most interested in. What I will say is this. The new Michael Korda biography – Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia – is very good, despite the crass title. Heroes do not exist in reality. They are cultural constructs. Any serious biographer should recognise that – especially when the subject is that supreme cultural construct, Lawrence of Arabia!
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