Samya Khalaf

Linda L. Layne collection: Documenting life in the Jordan Valley

Anthropologist Linda L. Layne (b. 1955) had a career spanning only some three years in Jordan, but her rich documentation of research in the early 1980s more than compensates for that brevity. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California, she went on to earn a PhD from Princeton University in cultural anthropology and Near Eastern studies with her 1986 dissertation, The Production and Reproduction of Tribal Identity in Jordan.

The fieldwork for her dissertation is richly documented in the collection that ACOR is honored to have received: hundreds of photographic prints, slides, and negatives of research in the Jordan Valley. Her focus was on settled Bedouin, and she documented agriculture and other tasks of daily life among the people of the A’abadi tribe, along with other topics, such as education and elections in 1984.

We present here a sample of the activities that Lane photographed. While the metadata provided was often scant, we did our best to ascertain what appears in these images.

Sewing a traditional dress.
Cleaning wool.
Harvesting tomatoes.
Cleaning meat from a bone.
Packing green beans, presumably for the market.
Butchery.
Rock-breaking.
Carrying water.

In addition to photographing daily tasks, Layne wonderfully documented other aspects of life around the village (as well as the natural and built environments), as shown in the following photos.

Family preparing dinner.
Men lounging.
Mud-brick house.
Tent in agricultural field.
Stone house.
View of ruined buildings in the Jordan Valley
Mud-brick house in Adwan.
Woman smoking a traditional pipe.

Layne and Gary Rollefson also hosted a conference in 1984 titled “Anthropology in Jordan: State of the Art.” The program schedule is available as part of the collection and can be downloaded. The conference featured lectures as well as an exhibition of Layne’s photography. Queen Noor also visited.

Cover of the Anthropology in Jordan: State of the Art conference program.

Queen Noor opening the Anthropology in Jordan: State of the Art conference, 25 February 1984.
Conference session.
Portion of Linda Layne’s photo exhibition.
Queen Noor and Linda Layne viewing the exhibition of Layne’s photos.

After earning her doctorate, Layne’s academic focus shifted toward reproduction, motherhood, and selfishness. She was a professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and finished her career as visiting professor in the Reproductive Sociology Research Group at the University of Cambridge. While her career did not involve Jordan much after her dissertation research, we are honored she chose the American Center of Research as home for her personal collection documenting aspects of Jordanian life that have been underrepresented in the ACOR Archives.

Linda Layne, early 1980s.

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Adventures in 1970s Levant with Robert Schick and Family

We are pleased to have added over 6,500 images to the Robert Schick collection in the ACOR Digital Archive. The Schick family has a long history in the Levant and with the American Center of Research. Here we will look at the 1970s, noting that there is so much more of their work and travel available in the archives.

In 1970 Dr. Edwin Schick, Robert’s father, was at the Albright Institute in Jerusalem while Robert attended St. George’s School. 

Robert Schick’s class at St. George’s School.

During the year in Jerusalem, the Schick family traveled throughout the region in a Volkswagen camper van that they had driven from Hamburg, Germany. (Robert Schick has said the passenger liner that brought them to Europe from the United States was one of the last to operate.) Locations in the collection include Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Greece, and Turkey.

Volkswagen vans in Nitzana, in the Negev Desert.
Van life, early 1970s style.

Barbara Schick, Robert’s mother, later wrote an interesting journal that documented their 1970­ – 1971 adventure, complete with brochures and maps.

Cover of Barbara Schick’s printed journal.
The dedication in Barbara Schick’s printed journal.

Although the collection we currently offer online is all Middle Eastern material, the physical collection includes hundreds of European postcards from their travels from Bremen, Germany, to Greece.

A selection of postcards and brochures, some from the 1970 – 1971 trip.

Postcards from Jordan are available online, such as this overview of Amman.

After that adventurous year, Robert Schick waited until 1974 before returning to the area, and he did so for a season of excavation at Caesarea, which helped spark his love of the region and archaeology.

Recordkeeping in the field. Caesarea, 1974.
Excavation. Caesarea, 1974.
Troweling. Caesarea, 1974.
Overview of excavations at Caesarea, 1974.
Workers at Caesarea, 1974.

In 1978, Edwin and Barbara Schick returned to Jordan, where Edwin served as the Annual Professor at ACOR during his sabbatical and Barbara taught in the Nutrition Department of the recently opened University of Jordan. At the same time, Robert lived in Cairo as part of the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) at the American University in Cairo. As one might expect, there are many photos from Jordan and Egypt during the late 1970s, as well as photos from Syria taken by Edwin and Barbara.

The Egyptian selection here focuses more on less common photographic subjects, with only a few of the lovely, but more more frequently seen, photos of archaeological sites.

Street scene in Cairo.
 Al Rifai Mosque (left) and the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan (right) as seen from the Cairo Citadel.
Elephantine Island and feluccas in Aswan.
Tahrir Square, Cairo, with some impressive advertising signs atop the buildings. The center of the square has changed over the years.
Robert and Barbara Schick on the no longer existent elevated walkway surrounding Tahrir Square.

Naturally, many photos of familiar Egyptian archaeological sites were taken as well.

The temple built by Rameses the Great at Abu Simbel, seen here after it was moved just a few years earlier (1964 – 1968) to keep it from being drowned in Lake Nasser, formed by the construction of the Aswan High Dam.
Temple of Hatshepsut, Luxor, built for one of Egypt’s few female pharaohs.
Osiris, god of the dead, as seen in a painting in the Nineteenth Dynasty tomb of Sennedjem at Deir el-Medina, Luxor. He served as an artist for tombs in the Valley of the Kings and died during the reign of Rameses the Great.

Numerous photos of other sites in Luxor, Saqqara, Giza, and elsewhere in Egypt were taken and can be found in the ACOR Digital Archive.

Barbara and Edwin also documented their travels through Jordan and Syria, as well as Barbara’s work at the University of Jordan, including the campus, colleagues, and the 1979 commencement.

University of Jordan Liberal Arts building, Amman.
University of Jordan commencement ceremony at King Hussein Sports City, 1979.

They also attended camel races in Amman.

Camel race, 1979.

And, of course, there are archaeological photographs from the 1970s taken in Jordan. These two, taken at Iraq al-Amir in the spring, are quite lovely.

General View of Qasr al-Abd at Iraq al-Amir, Jordan, with flowers in bloom, 1978. Construction of this palace, which once stood in an artificial lake was never completed, is attributed to the Tobiad family in the 2nd century BCE. The earthquake that so badly damaged the city of Petra in May 363 CE also destroyed this building.

Qasr al-Abid, a 2nd-century BCE palace at Iraq al-Amir, Jordan, 1978. François Larche, an architect who helped a French team restore the building, stands atop a wall and points as he tells the Schicks about the site . The large feline figure in high relief was part of a fountain.

These are selections from ten years of adventures experienced by Robert Schick and his family in Jordan and the region—and there is still much more to come.

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