Heritage Fellow Uncovers Unique Mudbrick Wall

Stephanie Boonstra in front of mudbrick wall

By: Stephanie Boonstra, 2012 Heritage Fellow

On Friday, May 4th I arrived in Madaba, a small city in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, at 2:30am and completely exhausted. After the eight-hour flight from Toronto to Frankfurt, the seven-hour layover in the large German airport, and the four-hour flight from Frankfurt to Amman (complete with screaming toddlers), I was more than ready to pass out on my bed. However, I decided to send my parents a quick email to let them know I arrived safe and sound. When I opened my email I was shocked to see an email from “ASOR Fellowship” with “Dear Stephanie, I am pleased to inform you that…” in the subject heading. A full twenty minutes later (the internet was not the fastest) the email loaded and I was able to read that I received the Heritage Fellowship! The relief and excitement that I experienced in that moment still brings a smile to my face.

The next two months were a whirlwind of new experiences (even though it was my second time participating on Wilfrid Laurier University’s Wadi ath-Thamad project), learning, and fun. For well over a decade, Dr. P.M. Michele Daviau has been directing a dig at the Iron Age town site called Khirbat al-Mudayna (whose ancient name is still unknown), approximately 20 kilometres southeast of Madaba with co-director Dr. Robert Chadwick. The town is equipped with a six-chambered gate, two shrines, a large industrial building, as well as numerous residential complexes.

The square that I was supervising and excavating with two volunteers from Bishop’s University in Quebec was located in the northern end of the mound, directly to the west of the six-chambered gate of the site. The square (which happened to be shaped more like a trapezoid) was bordered by part of the western wall of the gate as well as the inner casemate wall to the north. This area of the Iron Age town is particularly interesting for the massive and widespread destruction that took place here sometime mid-first millennium; this destruction is evident in the ashy soil, burnt stone, and charred wooden beams found throughout the gate complex.

While other squares were finding completely intact jugs, female pillar figurines, and articulated burials, I was uncovering a mudbrick wall. While a mudbrick wall may not sound very exciting to some, this wall, Wall 1521, is the only wall of mudbrick found on the entire site (which is pretty impressive considering there are hundreds of walls in the town of Khirbat al-Mudayna). We’re still not entirely sure what was the purpose of a mudbrick exterior wall, however this unique wall poses many interesting questions about the construction and the builders of this Iron Age settlement.

Throughout my two months in the Middle East, I learned not only a considerable amount about the archaeology, history, and fascinating culture of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, but I also learned quite a bit about myself. This excavation season helped build my passion for Near Eastern archaeology as well as solidify my knowledge that working in the Near East is what I believe I was meant to do.  None of this would have been possible without ASOR’s Heritage Fellowship and all of the amazing people who donated their hard earned money to make the fellowships possible. I can’t thank you all enough for the amazing experience I was given.


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