Q & A with Melissa Kennedy, editor of A Land in Between

A young woman with light brown hair wearing brown-and-blue checkered shirt and jeans covered in dirt, is shown excavating with a trovel. She is shown seated on the edge of the trench and looking down.

Melissa Kennedy is a Research Associate at the University of Western Australia for the Project Aerial Archaeology in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She is the editor of A Land in Between: The Orontes Valley in the Early Urban Age, a book which documents the material culture and socio-political relationships of the Orontes Valley and its neighbours from the fourth through to the second millennium BCE (photo from the author archives).

Why is the Orontes Valley in the Northern Levant often described as a ‘land between’?

Most research has focused on the large riverine valleys and the coast, with everything in between generally an afterthought, perhaps as many of the sites in this area were not as large as those on the rivers and coast. It is partly because of this that the region has largely been viewed as a ‘land between’ rather than a connector.

Much work has been done on the coast and along the Euphrates and the Khabur river corridors, but with the exception of sites like Ebla, Qatna and Hama comparatively little research has focused on this area. Why is that?

Again, I think this is mainly due to the smaller size of many of the sites, they have not been seen as important as their larger neighbours but we know that is not the case.

What has sparked your interest in the archaeology of this part of the world?

I had the privilege to go to Pella, Jordan for my first archaeological experience. This made me fall in love with the Levant. The people who worked at Pella were also instrumental in developing my love and scholarly pursuit of this important region.

What first got you interested in archaeology?

As a child I used to live in London, as my dad worked at UCL Hospital, my mum would take my brother and myself down the road to the British Museum. I grew to love the ancient world through this, and the fact that both my parents are really interested in ancient history and archaeology and they nurtured this interest.

What are you currently working on?

I am now working on the Neolithic and “Early Bronze Age” of Saudi Arabia. In comparison to the rest of the Middle East, very little is known about these periods in this region. So it is all very exciting to be at the forefront of academic research into this amazing region.

If you could go back in time, when and where would you go?

I think the 3rd millennium BC, I’d love to see if what I think may have happened, actually did. Also, this is such a crucial/pivotal period in history, it would be amazing to see these fantastic sites in all their glory.

A grassy landscape with patches of dirt and hills in the distance. A woman is shown crouching on the right and looking at the ground.
Wadi Hammeh, Jordan (photo from the author's archives).

A woman wearing a hat and brown clothing is looking at pottery and a note book with colour swatches, which are lying on the ground. There are blurry mountains in the background.
Al-'Ula, Saudi Arabia (photo from the author's archives).

A woman with light brown hair, wearing sun glasses and a red t-shirt with white text, is posing in front of a rock wall with carved entrance to a tomb visible on the left.
Hegra, Saudi Arabia (photo from the author's archives).