School of Humanities

Aerial archaeology in Jordan

Since 1997 the government of Jordan has supported an annual program of active aerial reconnaissance and photography.

Usually that has been a single ‘season’ of flying but in some years there have been two seasons in different climatic conditions (see Kennedy and Bewley 2009).

By 2010 we have totaled 206 flying hours.


Some flying has been in private aircraft but the great majority has been in helicopters (usually Bell UH-1 'Hueys') of the Royal Jordanian Air Force. None of this would have been possible without the enthusiastic patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Al-Hassan and the generous support of His Royal Highness Major General Prince Feisal bin Hussein.


Initially photographs were taken entirely on film with several cameras and using different media, films and sizes. Since 2004 there has been increasing use of digital cameras and almost all photographs are now taken on Nikon D3 cameras equipped with a linked GPS which adds the precise co-ordinates of the camera to the photograph’s metadata at each shutter release.


All digital and digitised imagery is imported into Lightroom where it is given further metadata tags and key words. It is then uploaded to our online digital archive where various sizes of each image can be viewed by year, season or groups.

Subscribers can search for keywords relating to site name or type and can post comments and pose queries.

Although a few are near-vertical photographs, all were in fact taken at an oblique angle using a hand-held camera. A few are panoramic views from 2000 feet or higher; most are low-level views from a few hundred feet or less.

The photographs are mainly of individual sites of all periods and in most parts of Jordan. Some are of multiple sites or landscapes. The total archive of photographs taken during AAj season now stands at over 40,000 images.


Sets of duplicate prints are lodged at the British Institute in Amman, Department of Antiquities of Jordan in Amman, and a third set (together with the original colour print negatives) is with the Palestine Exploration Fund in London. In addition, each of the current collaborators (Kennedy, Bewley and Radcliffe) has a set.