As a “doctoral Tandem” Brian Beckers and Christoph Konrad combined archaeological, geoarchaeological and geophysical data obtained in their research to reconstruct the historical water management system and the palaeoenvironmental development in the Resafa area.




Ancient food and water supply in drylands

Two ancient cities in the dryland of West Asia were investigated in this thesis with a focus on different aspects of their water and food supply systems. Resafa initially a fortified Roman military post located in the Syrian desert steppe, has been a Christian pilgrimage site and was the residence of the Ummayyad Caliph Hisham ibn ‘abd al-Malik. The city was finally abandoned in the 13th century AD after the Mongol invasion. Nowadays, the well-preserved city walls, ruined churches and large cisterns attest to Resafas former religious, political and economic importance that lasted from the 1st to the 13th century AD. The city is located ∼ 25 km to the south of the Euphrates at the confluence of various wadi systems that drain the surrounding undulating desert steppe. The drinking water supply of the city relied predominantly on an elaborated floodwater harvesting system. The major research question in Resafa was how reliable this floodwater harvesting system was. The reliability was assessed by applying a rainfall runoff model. Moreover constructional details of the floodwater harvesting system were investigated by applying a hydraulic model. The main findings of this study were that the floodwater harvesting system was reliable. In general the floodwater harvesting system could have harvested a sufficient amount of water at least every 13 – 14 months. Furthermore, it could be shown that the floodwater harvesting system consisted in addition to a previously excavated dam and large cisterns, of a several hundred meter long embankment system that channeled the floods to the dam.
Ancient Petra was the capital of the Nabataean kingdom and was founded around the beginning of the Common Era in the arid Eastern Highlands of Jordan. The city was annexed by the Romans at the beginning of the 2nd century and finally abandoned in the 4th century AD when. The unfavorable environs of Petra were reclaimed by installing numerous agricultural terraces, dams and channels. Little is known about the chronology, development and dynamics of this cultural landscape. The main research questions included: When did the reclamation of the environs around Petra began and what where the effects of this development on the environment? The chronological methods applied were Optical Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) Dating and radiocarbon dating. The chronological study was supplemented with geomorphological field and laboratory work. The focus lay on the terraced wadi systems of the region. The major results were that the agricultural terraces were most likely built around the beginning of the Common Era and used, maintained and extended at least until the 8th century AD. The terraces converted the formerly gravel-bedded wadis and floodplains of the region to arable land

This dissertation was published with the titel “Ancient food and water supply in drylands” in 2014.



Resafa-Ruṣāfat Hišām. Die Quṣūr (FP 106 und FP 220) in der Residenz des Kalifen Hišām b. ‘Abd al-Malik. Architektur und Baudekor – Ausgrabung, bauhistorische Analyse, archäologisch-kunsthistorische Einordnung

The tenth Umayyad caliph Hisham ibn ʿAbd al-Malik (105-125/724-743) decided to take his residence in Resafa-Sergiupolis persumably in the third year of his reign. There he spent all the 19 years of his rule, which “…marks the final period of prosperity and splendour of the Umayyad caliphate” (Gabrieli, EI2 sv. Hisham). Resafa was a Late Antique city of pilgrimage, 25 km south of the river Euphrates.

In correlation to his founder, the new residence is named in the Arabic sources Rusafat Hisham. In an area of about one sq. km many small and a view bigger and more important buildings (qusur) have been erected as well as building structures aiming to collect and use the surface water of the rain falls, which occur in the arid area just in winter times. The project was dealing with two of the more important buildings in the residence of the caliph Hisham. These buildings could be studied during a research and excavation project of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) under the directorate of D. Sack in the last years. The buildings show a later stage of development of the Umayyad qasr. The living rooms are no longer orientated to the main courtyard of the building but to different side courtyards. This may be caused by a change of social behaviour. The situation of one of the qusur above a wadi, its rich decoration with stucco and wall paintings and a pleasure garden in the back of the main hall already shows the most important elements of the Islamic palace buildings of later times.

The PhD-project brought profound knowledge about the main buildings in this Early Islamic ‘Central Place’.