An examination of archaeology in Jordan and Palestine, Competitive Archaeology in Jordan explores how antiquities have been used to build narratives and national identities. Tracing Jordanian history, and the importance of Jerusalem within that history, Corbett analyzes how both foreign and indigenous powers have engaged in a competition over ownership of antiquities and the power to craft history and geography based on archaeological artifacts. She begins with the Ottoman and British Empires—under whose rule the institutions and borders of modern Jordan began to take shape—asking how they used antiquities in varying ways to advance their imperial projects. Corbett continues through the Mandate era and the era of independence of an expanded Hashemite Kingdom, examining how the Hashemites and other factions, both within and beyond Jordan, have tried to define national identity by drawing upon antiquities.
Competitive Archaeology in Jordan traces a complex history through the lens of archaeology’s power as a modern science to create and give value to spaces, artifacts, peoples, narratives, and academic disciplines. It thus considers the role of archaeology in realizing Jordan’s modernity—drawing its map; delineating sacred and secular spaces; validating taxonomies of citizens; justifying legal frameworks and institutions of state; determining logos of the nation for display on stamps, currency, and in museums; and writing history. Framing Jordan’s history in this way, Corbett illustrates the manipulation of archaeology by governments, institutions, and individuals to craft narratives, draw borders, and create national identities.
Elena Corbett, who holds an MA in Islamic Archaeology and a PhD in Modern Middle East History from the University of Chicago’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, is the Resident Director of the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE) Study Center in Amman, Jordan.