Jaffa Street: The Neglect

For the Day of Archaeology 2012 and the end of my course on Christian and Moslem archeology (4th-20th centuries) in the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, we went on a field trip to downtown Haifa to see remnants from bygone times marking the contemporary landscape. Strolling along Jaffa Street we examined the houses built at the beginning of the 20th century, following the construction of Haifa harbor and the building of the Hejaz Railways, which connected Haifa to the holy Moslem cities.The houses represent various Ottoman (16th-20th) styles and traditions, and there are also a few cemeteries and religious institutions, both Moslem and Christian, along the street.

In spite of its beauty and historical importance, the street, inhabited nowadays by an impoverished Arab population, is neglected. Rumors say that the neglect of this area stems, not only from political grounds, but from a process of gentrification that attracts rich people into this neighborhood in the center of town and forces the poor population to leave. Standing in the shed of one of the old buildings, I referred to the idea that the structure of a neighborhood, such as that of Jaffa Street, was vital for the reproduction of social life of the community living there.

The obliteration of historical knowledge, on the other hand, by violent act of foundation of a new neighborhood can produce a tangible influence on people’s identities. The students, however, when asked to comment on the status of preservation of the contemporary landscape were reluctant to express their opinion. Their reluctance may be related to their technological background and lack of a humanistic one. It may also be the result of the composition of the course, attended mostly by Arab students who are unwilling to express their opinion regarding the contemporary landscape as a sort of a protest against the State because of their displacement and dispossession by the hegemonic culture.

Stuck at my Desk With a Packet of Jaffa Cakes

As has already been posted today, the osteo team from Cardiff University are currently out in Turkey, on site at Catalhoyuk and apparently for their day off are lounging by the pool, a particularly difficult task I imagine. As well as the bone-iologists, one colleague is in Iceland working on a site out there and another is currently excavating in Romania. Cardiff is seeming massively unappealing and rather dull at this point in time. Why a PhD in medieval and early post-medieval pottery from Wales seemed a good idea three years ago when I applied for the studentship here is beyond me.


Despite my jealous grumblings (mostly to myself as the post-graduate room is so quiet and now to you) this has been an informative, busy and exciting couple of years. Having the ability to spend three years on a subject you love is a luxury and one I keep having to remind myself of in the dark writing up stage. Post-graduate life here in Cardiff has been amazing fun and it is strange to think that that will all have to end once finished. It is quite difficult to watch others around you completing and passing vivas, which ultimately leads to a change in dynamic within the community you live and work in, as well as rely on, to provide support through what can be incredibly challenging years.


The post-graduate room here at Cardiff is central to the developing research community and it is where many a thesis has been written and are in the process of being written now. Friendships, relationships and collaborative projects are developed in this room, many of which last beyond the PhD timescale.


One collaborative project which has been recognised as important to all who spend time in this room is the Jaffa Cake challenge. We have sampled and tested the full range of Jaffa Cakes available, including the time old favourite McVities as well as the other supermarket alternatives. I’m afraid I don’t have any official stats and as the room is empty have not been able to call for a show of hands today on the matter, but we believe as a collective to have come to a conclusion on the perfect Jaffa Cake: Lidl’s finest Sondey Orange Jaffa Cake. It has the perfect balance of chocolate, orange and soft cake base, none of this slightly crunchy, could actually be stale, quality you often find with the branded variety.


I couldn’t imagine doing anything but archaeology with regards to a career and even though the last 6 months have been a struggle, my archaeological spirits have not been dampened, for at least I always know that the post-graduate room (even on a quiet day like today) can provide solace, a friendly ear – when people aren’t on amazing field projects – and a packet of Jaffa Cakes.