7.2 WF1415 and the plantation model

The Faynan's main purpose was also economic, the production of copper for the Imperial State. The local region was not producing for itself but for a wider market, and one source of cheap labour to accomplish the large-scale production was Christian convicts and miners. If we assume that the Wadi Ratiye was organised in a fashion similar to a plantation, with the combined goals of maximising profit and discipline through surveillance and establishment of a hierarchy, then the physical layout of the landscape should be analogous. If so, WF1415 takes the role of the manor house, a statement of political and social power, with its large walls and its high-status buildings and lifestyle. This structure helped to reinforce the social order and establish a hierarchy between different segments of the population. Where plantations might have verandas, the main authorities in WF1415 would be able to monitor the housing of the community from the towers.

This study has also shown that from the Wadi Ratiye towers, the industrial areas and mines were within view, similar to the plantation fields and production centres being visible from manor houses. Another similarity is the placement of the Wadi Ratiye community. On plantations, other key structures usually orientated themselves in relation to the fields (Orser and Nekola 1985, 69). For the Wadi Ratiye, rather than have the miners/convicts walk from the main settlement of Khirbet Faynan to the mines each day, a trip of 3km, the housing was located up the wadi. This shorter journey was more efficient and WF1415 was the local representation of authority.

Can we infer from this parallelism between the Wadi Ratiye and plantation architecture that a task-orientated system with quotas or supervision by overseers was also present at WF1415? Some form of task system is likely since, once inside the subterranean mines, it was no longer possible to maintain discipline through surveillance. However, the mining overseer could have stood at the entrance to the mine preventing movement out until the daily quota was met. Piles of waste suggest that ore-processing occurred at the surface next to the mine entrances. As described by Diodorus for gold mining in Egypt, women, the elderly and children had different tasks preparing the ore (BH 3.12-13). Thus there were probably closely supervised work gangs of convicts or miners who were watched by the local overseers and monitored generally from the towers of WF1415.

The Wadi Ratiye, however, has some differences from plantations. While the concept and architecture of surveillance is similar, it was not executed so comprehensively on plantations. Rarely was the entire plantation landscape under direct surveillance. This could be due to the particularities of the Wadi Ratiye. It was a bounded landscape without vegetation, making it easier for authorities to set up a closed and pervasive surveillance system. Or it could be due to the use of different tactics in a volatile mixed population, some of whom had rights under the law. Or it could be that there are different motivations when a landscape is laid out on behalf of an imperial government. Plantation owners, while they were concerned with making profit, were building for themselves. The layout and structures on plantations ultimately were to demonstrate the owners' power and wealth (Epperson 2000, 73). The administration of the Faynan had to produce copper for the State and had no such aspirations.


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Last updated: Tue Nov 3 2009