Platt Fellow’s Close Encounter with a Camel

By: Patrick Clark, 2012 Platt Fellow

This summer I had the privilege of receiving the Platt Fellowship.  This generous grant enabled me to join Dr. Andrew M. Smith II for a second incredible field season at Bir Madhkur.  In my photo I am sitting on a boulder in a wadi, recording a Bedouin camp built on a Roman-era wadi terrace.  My friend, and our guide, Musa yells “Shoof, Ghadeer (my Bedouin name)!”  I look up. A camel is walking up to me.  Another friend yells from across the wadi, “Dude, I got a nice Facebook photo!”  The camel starts sniffing my site form.  So I give the camel an old one, thinking it won’t enjoy paper. The camel eats my site form.  To my surprise, the camel does not find paper disgusting, but delicious, and starts sniffing for more.  Finally, Musa comes over and leads the camel away.

What is important about this episode is not the cool Facebook photo or the close encounter with a camel, but the two things the camel and the site together indicate.  The first is that ancient peoples exploited the same limited fertile land as the Bedouin do today.  One feature of my site was the wadi terrace, created by a Roman-era wall for small scale agriculture (I am sitting on a part of the wall).  At the same time, a man named Abdullah was herding his camels into the same wadi to feed.  Thus when thinking about how ancient peoples exploited the limited resources of the region, it might be helpful to use the Bedouin as a comparison.  The second is that the ancients permanently altered the landscape.  The wadi terrace created a flat, clear area that the Bedouin reused for a camp (you can see the hearth dug in the middle of the terrace behind me).  In other areas, some Bedouin still exploit large Roman-era field systems.

To conclude, scholarships, such as the Platt and Heritage, are indispensible for students like me in our quests for knowledge and experience.


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