2. Faynan

The Faynan area was one of the many mining and quarrying districts of the Roman and Byzantine empires. Called metalla, these extraction industries supplied the empire with the raw material for coinage, buildings, and the funds for imperial projects. Several archaeological surveys have been conducted in the Faynan, the principal one used in this study is the Wadi Faynan Landscape Survey (Barker et al. 2007). What is highlighted by these studies is that this was an industrial landscape and the main activity was the production of vast amounts of copper.

An indicator of the scale of the copper industry is found in the metallurgical waste products: 45-70,000 tonnes of slag dated to the Roman and Byzantine periods are piled around Khirbet Faynan, the main settlement (Hauptmann 2007, 94-96). From this it can be speculated that 2500-7000 tonnes of copper were produced in total, an average of 6.25-17.5 tonnes annually over a 400 year period (Barker et al. 2007, 346).

The Faynan region is defined by its copper ore beds that stretch over several wadis or dry riverbeds and is created by a number of these wadis feeding into one another (Fig. 2). The Wadi Faynan is the main geological formation from which the region takes its name. The Wadi Ratiye, the wadi system to the north and a main tributary to the Wadi Faynan, is the focus of this study.

Figure 2
Figure 2: Map of the Faynan region with principal wadis (Barker et al. 2007, 5).

The population of the region was composed of both convicts and free workers but there is little evidence for a substantial military presence (Friedman 2009, 1-12). Soldiers, even if their numbers were supplemented by civilian guards, would have been outnumbered by the convicts and the miners. In order to run the industry successfully, the administration would have had to employ management techniques that were not dependent on military force. One of these methods may be visible in the chief mining zone, the Wadi Ratiye.


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Last updated: Tue Nov 3 2009