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The Middle Islamic Copper Smelting Revival in Faynan

Proofread and Updated April 19th 2019

Khirbat Nuqayb al-Asaymir and Middle Islamic Metallurgy in Faynan: Surveys of Wadi al-Ghuwayb and Wadi al-Jariya in Faynan in Southern Jordan by Ian W N Jones -- Thomas E Levy -- Mohammad Najjar in the Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research (2012)

The exact chronology of copper production at Byzantine Phaino (Khirbat Faynan) is still uncertain. Weisgerber (2006: 25) argued that copper production is not attested at all in the early Byzantine period and that the town of Phaino ceased to be important on any level very early in the sixth century A.D. Kind et al (2005: 192) suggest that copper production at Faynan ceased or at least scaled down significantly between 360 and 370 A.D. Hauptmann (2007: 156) proposes a slightly later date, suggesting that copper production at Faynan had stopped by the late fifth century. Friedman (2008: 5456) on the other hand argues that copper production continued into the sixth century and that the town probably did not decline in importance until the late sixth or possibly even early seventh century. Likewise Mattingly et al (2007a: 333 and 348) maintain that copper production continued into the late Byzantine period although they admit that it is currently impossible to date the end of this phase of copper production at Faynan with any precision.

Regardless of when exactly copper production ceased in the Byzantine period it is clear that a hiatus in copper production and a decline in occupation in general followed. While some Early Islamic material has been found in the area surrounding Khirbat Faynan (King et al 1989: 203) and to the west at Khirbat Hamra Ifdan, the evidence for Early Islamic occupation in Faynan is sparse and no copper production seems to have taken place during this period ... In Faynan post-Byzantine copper production began again only in the Middle Islamic II (12001400 A.D.) and was probably limited to this period.

Evidence for Middle Islamic smelting comes from Khirbat Nuqayb al-Asaymir and three small slag mounds near Khirbat Faynan referred to as Faynan 2 -- Faynan 6 and Faynan 7 by the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum (DBM) team (Hauptmann 2007: 97 and 103; Newson et al 2007: 364). The large Roman slag mound known as Faynan 1 may also have some connection to Middle Islamic copper production though this is less clear (Hauptmann 2007: 127). It is likely that our current understanding of the Middle Islamic period at Khirbat Faynan is still incomplete due mostly to the complicated settlement history of that site ...

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