Bethany J. Walker


Transjordan witnessed significant social and economic changes in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. With the loss of agriculturally-rich territory in Europe, the Ottomans sought to make up for their economic losses by regaining control of their Arab provinces, some regions of which had been autonomous for nearly three hundred years. The application of Tanzimat legislation to the Transjordan was a success, to a large degree, in that it secured tax revenues and contributed to the general security of the region.

The application of the 1858 Land Law, in which land was registered in a proprietor’s name for tax purposes, was particularly effective in transforming grazing land to productive agricultural properties. It, moreover, had a significant impact on Transjordanian society which was tribal and largely nomadic. The introduction of direct rule in the region by the Ottoman government transformed traditional tribal life, resulting in the settlement of formerly nomadic groups, the transition to an agrarian way of life, and the opening up of markets formerly inaccessible to indigenous tribal groups. A variety of urban, manufactured goods became readily available to all sectors of society throughout this frontier zone.

“Bangles, Beads and Bedouin: Excavating a Late Ottoman Cemetery inJordan” considers the transformation of tribal funerary practices in the Belqa’ of central Jordan. The paper highlights the burial ground of one Transjordanian tribe, identified as the Adwan, excavated at Tall Hisban in 1998. Dated to the late nineteenth century on the basis of coins, this mass grave was one of the last of its kind, as permanent cemeteries replaced seasonal burial grounds by the early twentieth century. The composition of theburial goods indicates that members of the tribe participated in an exchange network that embraced the Red Sea, Greater Syria, and Europe.

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