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WMF Participates in International Conference on the History and Archaeology of Jordan

I was in Berlin to participate in the International Conference on the History and Archaeology of Jordan, which is held every three years and gathers archaeologists, historians, epigraphers, architects and conservators from all over the world. The title of the conference this year, “Transparent Borders,” made clear that throughout history Jordan has been a place where borders have been established (examples of which include the Roman Empire’s eastern frontier—the Limes Arabicus—as well as the line of defense established by the Crusaders in Central and Southern Transjordan to protect their conquests in the Holy Land), and also a region that has been permeable to contacts and influences from its neighbors.

With our partners from the Italian Institute for Conservation I presented a paper on recent conservation work in Qusayr ‘Amra. The paper was part of a session dedicated to conservation activities in the so-called “Desert Castles” in Jordan, and also included reports on activities conducted by Spanish and German missions at three other locations in the Jordanian desert. There were many interesting sessions being held but I wanted to meet with colleagues from the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin and see the fragments from Qusayr ‘Amra that have been kept there since 1908—mosaic fragments and three mural painting fragments, removed by the first Western explorers to the site and used to “prove” their discovery. We also discussed how best to collaborate on studying and exhibiting these fragments in the future wing that will be dedicated to Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum.

A highlight of the trip was the chance to explore some of Berlin’s wonderful museums, especially as the city is carrying out an extensive program of refurbishment and new construction (including the reconstruction of the Royal Palace which will house the ethnographic and scientific collections of Humboldt University, and will expand the university’s facilities). Many exhibitions were dedicated to the rise of Nazism 80 years hence. Especially striking was an intact piece of the Berlin wall, sheltered and housing a temporary exhibition; a reminder to passersby of the horrors that this beautiful city, now so peaceful and welcoming, nevertheless withstood for much of its recent history.