The Living Museum of Umm Qais: Sustainable preservation, analysis and virtual reconstruction of Gadara's ancient site and village

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Civil Engineering

Abstract

Umm Qais (mkes) is located 120km north of Amman, and its vicinity to Yarmouk River and the Sea of Galilee granted the site a unique significance amongst other Roman Decapolis cities on their Eastern Mediterranean region. The Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans left their own marks there. Remains of the city still show theatres, baths, vaulted shops, tombs, cardo and documanus. However, Umm Qais tangible heritage continues to suffer existential threats from a number of factors that affect its archaeological, physical features and morphological transformations and risk its enduring presence on the long-term. These include natural and human-made, such as environmental changes, earthquakes, and new settlement patterns that see the site as more of irrelevant remains of invading foreign cultures than the archaeological heritage of their ancestors. Such antagonizing relationship between community and heritage resulted in lack of knowledge and appreciation of the site's history, archaeological importance, attempts to destroy its elements for economic gains and the lack of economic engagement with tourism that would otherwise benefit hundreds of poor and unemployed community members. Such an antagonist relationship also had its impact on long-term preservation plans and development what requires a critical action of engagement that put the community socio-economic welfare at the heart of the site's preservation and future development.
There is an international effort to implement a sustainable conservation strategy of the site. There is a need to document, record and analyse the multi-layered structures of Umm Qais by implementing an evidence-based strategy and action-plan to inform the sustainable preservation of the site using digital and virtual LiDAR technologies to accurately record its fragmented remains adding sub-layers of socio-cultural history, spatial and architectural transformations. The project will use archaeological and architectural research, state-of-the-art point-cloud laser scanning, virtual modelling, and crowdsourcing of social history to interrogate fragmented evidence of architectural remains and produce coherent narratives of the history of Umm Qais and its role as an important node of regional cultural and political routes. The project will produce a series of textual, visual and virtual outputs including publications, exhibitions, digitally - reconstructed history and virtual tours of the site to support public awareness and user engagement at the Jordan Museums and Umm Qais Museum and at international venues.
This project will widely support a multidisciplinary collaboration between Jordan and the UK. The research team collectively has extensive experience in delivering scholarly research outputs and engaging with government institutions, policymakers and stakeholders. This innovative project will gather new evidence on the archaeological history of the site, its spatial layout, overlapping structures and help building new modes of public engagement with local communities as essential partners in the preservation and development strategy in Jordan. It is designed to challenge the current underuse of the site and develop the heritage of Umm Qais into a living experience that focuses on visitor and user interpretation of history. The project will revive and activate the social role of the archaeological site and museum and work with communities to establish forums for creating a sustainable community asset.
The project will develop Integrated virtual environments that incorporate researched, archived and surveyed datasets to offer 3D & 4D interactive virtual environment supported by infographics, statistical data and Digitised archaeological database of the site. It will attempt to produce a credible layout of the Gadara's spatial structures, buildings' layout and infrastructure overlaying archaeological and spatial data and imaging of the site on a custom-designed ArcGIS model of the site.

Planned Impact

The proposed research programme is designed to bridge the disparate areas of largely isolated research disciplines, creative industry, skill training, and job creation in Jordan that is urgently needed. This programme identifies new territories for research, studies and courses focused on heritage preservation, through overlapping disciplines such as archaeology, architecture, computer science, virtual technology and laser scanning. Association with Hi-Tec Industry, research institutions and VR laboratories in the UK will offer long-term support for research centres and academic institutions, as well as to start-ups and SMEs that will shift research landscape in Jordan towards more applied and practice-led research. Moreover, it is anticipated that there will be an impact on research communities through engagement with organisations, universities and institutes on one side and research policy, decision makers and government agencies on the other. The workshops are designed to foster such engagement with stakeholders and beneficiaries to advance the discourse on the necessity, applications and market-driven technologies of virtual heritage.

As a result of a successful network of museums formed by the AHRC funded BECAMI project 2016/17, the PI supported the establishment of innovative virtual heritage engagement activities and the production of virtual itineraries to link the museums for the first time, new award-winning virtual heritage start-ups resulted in increasing the number of visitors, and produced the first government policy document on managing cultural heritage in the digital age. The team collectively, through several AHRC projects, were able to influence the policy makers views on the significance of virtual technologies in building sustainable platforms for heritage conservation in Egypt. We anticipate that we will be able to apply this with the support of the DoA and academic partners in Jordan. In a continuation of that approach, this proposal designed a range of strategies to influence stakeholders' understanding of and investment in digital and virtual technologies that help alleviate many of the destructive implications of un-tested methods heritage preservation. Workshops with stakeholders would influence formal approach and policy decisions on sustainable tourism in Jordan as a consequence of preservation work.

The local community is a major beneficiary of this project's activities with planned impact on tourist accessibility to the site, either physically or virtually and the associated socio-economic impact. The establishment of a community-led "Friends of Umm Qais" charitable organisation will help sustain the project's impact on the tourism industry and associated services. It will also support the economy and business opportunities for low income and vulnerable groups. This will be achieved through training 140 local young people, university and school students on crowdsourcing data for online tourism information.

The virtual reality platform output will form the basis for new practices with the Jordan and Umm Qais museums in its initial phases. One version will be on display at the University in Leeds to reach out to the international and global audience. These materials will be on display to local communities and young people through educational packages, gaming and mobile apps.

The research programme will also contribute to the establishment of specialist Virtual Heritage Research Unit (VHRU) at JUST and training a group of 35 - 40 archaeologists, computer science, architects and software engineers, and 10 Ph.D./Masters students on the developed model and techniques for similar sites in Jordan. The project will involve graduate courses in Heritage Digitisation at Jordanian Universities and the University of Leeds, with 30-40 prospective graduates over a five-year period.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Co-production outputs by Jordan University for Science and Technology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The series of sessions, in collaboration with international project partners at the Jordan University for Science and Technology, were run to co-design and co-produce a range of collaborative visual outputs for the wider project.
Fifteen final year postgraduate students, working collaboratively in groups of 3 or more developed a number of public engagement materials around the cultural heritage site of Umm Qais, Jordan. These included: Children's Trail Maps; People of Umm Qais (videos); Artistic artefacts for Umm Qais Architectural elements; Storytelling maps
An initial extended working brief identified four themes of working topics, which formed an initial starting point for each groups work. Some of the topics were already strongly structured, whilst others offered the opportunity for participants to explore innovative approaches to cultural heritage engagement.
During the course of the sessions participants developed their critically evaluation skills, and through a process of collaborative discussion between the postgraduate student's, course leaders and the UK research team members, the working brief and themes were further refined, leading to the identification and co-development of additional valuable outputs.
The sessions built capacity in community and public engagement and the presentation of cultural heritage amongst the those graduating into the cultural heritage profession within Jordan. The co-produced outputs from these sessions are being utilised for planned public engagement activities at local and national museums in Jordan and the UK during the second year of the funded project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description International Workshop: Mapping the Multilayered Heritage of Umm Qais Sustainable preservation of Gadara's ancient site & Ottoman Village 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop was designed to build capacity in Cultural Heritage skills amongst heritage professionals and the local Community at Umm Qais, Jordan. The workshop focussed on the development of suitable strategies and the needed practical methods to apply smart and digital technologies to research, record, document and analyses cultural heritage sites and their multilayered histories at Umm Qais's heritage site.
We provided professional training to c.35 early career researchers and heritage professionals on the purpose, use and strategies for analytical archaeological methods, public engagement and use of digital technologies to document and preserve heritage sites in Jordan. The training focused on the use of Point-Cloud laser scanning and software and semi-automated processing of archaeological and spatial datasets to generate digital models of heritage sites. In addition, academics and specialists from the UK and Jordan worked closely with local community members, residents and young people to develop an inclusive strategy for preservation in Umm Qais.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Local Community Workshop: Mapping the Multilayered Heritage of Umm Qais Sustainable preservation of Gadara's ancient site & Ottoman Village 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This workshop brought together UK academics and cultural heritage professionals with community members from Umm Qais, Jordan and local postgraduate students in cultural heritage to provide practical training on the application of digital approaches to record, analyse and promote cultural heritage sites.
The field bases practical sessions focussed on skills in photogrammetry, 360 degree photography and cultural heritage mapping. The workshop developed a foundation of practical skills within the local community volunteers, and enhanced their ability to independently promote their local cultural heritage as part of sustainable approaches to economic development within the local tourism economy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Public talk: Heritage for Global Challenges, PRAXIS workshop - Arts and Humanities for Global Development 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The 3 days of workshops and presentations brought together an international group of delegates to examine the question of how AHRC-GCRF and Newton projects on heritage have shaped responses to global challenges in the past four years, and harness delegates' collective learning to address how projects should continue to do so in the future. The event was informed by conversations with project Principal Investigators and partners, and it championed an expanded and nuanced conceptualization of heritage that has emerged from within the AHRC-GCRF and Newton portfolios. The workshop included brief lightning talks by all delegates, group work, as well as a session at the end of each day for the collective writing of a briefing report that will emerge from the event and be co-authored by all those present.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Research Seminar, Practical Training: Smart Heritage Preservation for Endangered Heritage Sites in the Middle East Strategies, Virtual Technologies and Impact 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop investigated suitable strategies and practical methods of utiilising smart and digital technologies to research, record, document and analyses cultural heritage sites, structures and their histories. It trained researchers and heritage professionals on the purpose, use and strategies for using digital technologies to preserve cultural heritage sites. It focused on the use of point-cloud terrestrial laser scanning and semi-automated processing of archaeological and spatial datasets to generate digital models of cultural heritage sites.
The workshop explored an inclusive understanding and appreciation of the possibilities of digital surveying, archiving and modelling of both cultural as well as physical heritage. Participants had direct access to innovative research methodologies and broad practical knowledge focussed around how to engage with digital technologies in the context of heritage preservation.
The workshop was aimed at supporting young researchers, heritage professionals, policy makers, and entrepreneurs to engage with virtual heritage technologies in the context of national and global heritage sites. The sessions brought together scholars and specialists alongside Early Career Researchers from the UK and the Middle East to present and debate current strategies already used in projects in the Middle East and across the globe and, informed by the breadth of experience, developed future approaches.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Seminar: Spatial Modelling of Conflict and Urban Conditions (University of Leeds) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The seminar was organised in the context of the "Revolt in the Square' project. The seminar Brought together academic and non-academic experts to explore and discuss the mapping and visualisation of various spatial and urban conditions during protests as they unfold on large public squares. The seminar results were taken forward to shape the further work of the project, and to inform future policy and research debates.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.revoltinthesquare.org