Department of Classics

Queen's University Queen's University



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The Humayma Excavation Project

The archaeological site of Humayma is located in the northwest corner of the Hisma Desert approximately 80 km south of Petra and 80 km north of Aqaba. Today it can be reached by a 20 minute car or bus excursion off of the Desert Highway. In ancient times the site was located on the ancient King’s Highway, rebuilt in the early second century AD as the Via Nova Traiana. The Nabataean through early Islamic settlements are concentrated in a one kilometer square area on the desert plain bordered on the west and northwest by sandstone hills and ridges which were also used for human activities. From the first century BCE until the mid-eighth century CE, Humayma (in Nabataean, Hawara; in Greek, Auara; in Latin, Hauarra; in Arabic al-Humayma) was a bustling desert trading post, military strongpoint, and caravan way station. Notable ruins at site include those of the Nabataean and Roman towns, the Roman fort, multiple Byzantine churches, Umayyad-Abbasid farmhouses, and the qasr and mosque belonging to the Abbasid family, who from Humayma plotted the overthrow of the Umayyad caliphate.

The site of Humayma has been the focus of intensive archaeological work for more than three decades. Queen’s University’s Dr. M. Barbara Reeves has been part of the Humayma Excavation Project since 1995 and in 1998 began directing the excavation of Nabataean and Roman structures just outside the Roman fort. The structures discovered here include a military bathhouse, a community shrine used by soldiers and civilians, an insula (city block), a large courtyard house, a possible brothel, a ceremonial platform, and the path of the Via Nova Traiana / King’s Highway. In 2012 she directed the excavation of a heated room (probably a winter triclinium) within the praetorium (commander’s residence) of the Roman fort as part of a larger project to develop a dated typology of Humayma’s ceramic building materials. She has also directed a survey of rock-carved petroglyphs, inscriptions, pictograms, quarries and related activity areas on the raised landmasses west of ancient community and has been involved in a geophysical survey of the site and in the reflective transformation imaging of rock carvings, architecture, and artifacts. As all of this fieldwork has generated a great deal of data, the Humayma Excavation Project is currently focusing on analysis and publication and no new field seasons are currently planned. Students interested in getting involved in the analysis should check out the “Student Research Opportunities” page. 

  • the summer 2010 excavators at Humayma

    the summer 2010 excavators at Humayma

  • 2010 team at Humayma site

    2010 team at Humayma site

  • the Canadian Ambassador to Jordan visited the site on June 10, 2010

    the Canadian Ambassador to Jordan visited the site on June 10, 2010