Tall al-`Umayri 2012: Summer of Surprises

By: Douglas R. Clark, Director, and Kent V. Bramlett, Chief Archaeologist, La Sierra University, Riverside, CA
[photographer: Jillian Logee, Calgary, AB]

Figure 1: Douglas Clark

Figure 2: Kent Bramlett

Figure 3:  Jillian  Logee

What began as a normal, and 15th, season of excavations at Tall al-`Umayri, Jordan—part of the Madaba Plains Project—turned out to be anything but normal. Land ownership issues forced the team at the last minute to change course drastically and plan as if this were the last summer excavation season ever at a site deserving another 15 or 50. While negotiations continued, the 2012 team braced for the worst and reconfigured their entire set of objectives for 2012, a move which pressed them to sharpen their focus, record everything digitally as if there were no tomorrow, and push themselves to the limit of what is possible in five weeks. In the end, the 2012 team accomplished every single newly minted objective, including especially the following:

1) Accomplish several things archaeologically (in chronological order):
a. Complete recording of Early Bronze Age dolmen
b. Clarify buildings of the Early Iron I settlement along the western perimeter wall by exposing the fourth contiguous structure (Building D) in a row
c. Sort out pre- and post-earthquake phases of the buildings in this Early Iron I settlement
d. Expose a slightly later “four-room” building plan plus surrounding attached rooms and connect this stratigraphically with the Early Iron I settlement
e. Further clarify Iron II and Iron II/Persian remains

2) Document absolutely everything possible with all the technology available should the team not be able to return Continue reading

Wrapping up at Tall al-Umayri

By: Amanda Hopkins, 2012 Heritage Fellow
Read Amanda’s earlier posts here (1), here (2), and here (3).

A Hopkins 6

Amanda and other excavators in the cave entrance

Week Four and the end of this year’s dig:

As we continue our digging something very exciting happens- a white, hollow and crumbly residue is found clinging to the chisel marks. This is definitely plaster! The chiseling and plaster can be found on the ceiling and sides of the cave. Further chiseling is also found when looking at the natural dissolution features that trail off from the SE and Southern quadrants of the cave. One can clearly see how the natural fissures in the rock have been humanly manipulated into channels that bend upward and toward the surface of the earth. All this plaster and chiseling suggest that the cave had been manipulated into a cistern. Continue reading

A builders’ heritage at Umm el-Jimal

Photo 1: Double Window at Umm el-Jimal

By: Bert de Vries (Calvin College) and Muaffaq Hazza (Umm el-Jimal)

In 2012 the Umm el-Jimal (UJ) Project received a grant from the U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) to engage in preservation and presentation of House XVII/XVIII, the very large Byzantine/Umayyad House famous for its fourth-floor level double windows (Photo 1). The objective was to preserve the ruin as it was and make it presentable, safe and understandable for visitors. This conservation project is a component of a larger effort to make Umm el-Jimal meaningful in a participatory way in the lives of various communities ranging from international tourists and scholars to the local residents of the UJ Municipality*.  See for example, the various components of the new website, www.ummeljimal.org, which is designed to serve these communities with multi-layered content like Site Histories, a Museum, a Guided Tour, the Education Curriculum Guide, a Research Library, Ethnological Films and much more. Continue reading

History (and Microdebris) Uncovered at Dhiban

Excavating a Middle Islamic barrel-vaulted room

By: Nicholas Ames, 2012 Platt Fellow

Waking up at 4:00am is difficult no matter where you are in the world. But somehow, waking up in Jordan for the first time made it just a little bit easier.

Breakfast at 4:30am and troweling by 6:00am, it is a schedule regimented by environmental and social concerns of labouring outdoors in a culturally foreign country – which is exactly what field archaeology is. Despite this early schedule, my overall experience excavating with the Dhiban Excavation and Development Project (DEDP) left me craving for much more – more time spent in the field as well as need for a much greater understanding of the regional and methodological history of archaeology and excavation in the Near East. Continue reading

Archaeology and Community: Experiences in the Azraq Oasis

Figure 1

By: Alison Damick, Columbia University, and Ahmad Lash, The Department of Antiquities of Jordan

Azraq, an oasis village in the northeastern Jordanian steppe, sits on the crossroads of the highways connecting Jordan to Saudi Arabia and Iraq [Fig 1]. Its remarkable archaeological record reflects millennia of human activity; the first recorded human occupation in the Azraq Basin dates to more than 300,000 years ago. Including prehistoric, Roman, Byzantine, and early and middle Islamic sites, the 13,000 km² basin area currently hosts a total of 157 documented archaeological sites. A great concern of recent years has been how to effectively protect those sites from the various threats they face, including environmental degradation and erosion, increased vehicle traffic, construction projects and looting. Co-emergent with this concern is the increasing interest among archaeologists in the close relationship between the contemporary world of which archaeological practice is a part and the narrative of the past that is produced from its activities. In 2008, the Azraq Community Archaeology Program (ACAP) was initiated to address these issues. We’d like to use this brief presentation of our experiences with the project to raise some of the issues we’ve encountered in practice and in theory, as launching pads for further discussion. Continue reading

Protecting, Preserving, and Presenting Cultural Heritage in Petra: The Temple of the Winged Lions Cultural Resource Management Initiative

treasury, petra, tweissi

Figure 1: Petra’s most famous icon, the Al-Khazne (‘the Treasury’) tomb façade with tourist camel riders (Q. Tweissi).

By: Christopher A. Tuttle

Two hundred years ago, on 22 August 1812, the ancient city of Petra was re-identified by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, the first European on record to have visited the site since the 13thcentury. Word of his discovery quickly spread and other visitors soon followed in his footsteps—inaugurating a bicentennial of exploration and research at this amazing site located in what is today southern Jordan.

Petra served as the capitol city for the kingdom of Nabataea from at least the second century BCE until Trajan’s annexation of the region into the Roman Empire in 106 CE. Under Roman rule, the city retained its importance and became the administrative center for the new province of Arabia Petraea. Although heavily damaged by a major earthquake in May 363 CE, the city continued to play a significant role in the region during the Byzantine period when it served as an episcopal see of the Christian church. Continue reading

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.  Continue reading

A Roman Fort Amidst the Dunes: The ‘Ayn Gharandal Archaeological Project

By: Erin Darby and Robert Darby

Figure 1: Map of southern Jordan with ‘Ayn Gharandal

Located in southern Jordan, the archaeological site of ‘Ayn Gharandal lies covered by the desolate sands of the Wadi Araba (Fig. 1). Even though the site is located near an ancient spring, Lawrence (of Arabia) described the Araba Valley as follows: “Every few hours’ journey a greener patch marks a stagnant hole of water, which is always nasty to drink, in part from its own sedgy taste, and in part from the mixed flavors added to it by… camels (Woolley and Lawrence 1915: 13).” Noting that the Wadi Araba contained minimal archaeological remains, Lawrence ended his survey of the valley at ‘Ayn Gharandal and headed toward Petra.

Figure 2: Picture of ‘Ayn Gharandal fort prior to excavation

Continue reading

Heritage Fellow Mapping Moabite Site

Tristan updating the top plans

By: Tristan Matheson, 2012 Heritage Fellow

Thanks to the ASOR Heritage fellowship in 2012, I received the opportunity to be involved in a dig at Khirbat al-Mudayna, which is an Iron Age Moabite site half an hour South West of Madaba, Jordan. The dig lasted an intense six weeks and was nothing short of amazing. Not only did our team find many high end artefacts Continue reading

Heritage Fellow’s First Impressions Excavating at Tall al-Umayri

The cave with brush removed and the boulder showing

By: Amanda Hopkins, Wesley Theological Seminary, 2012 Heritage Fellow
You can read Amanda’s previous posts here and here.

Week 2

Digging is going slowly. Our first stumbling block, after cleanup is a large boulder (110 cm by 56 cm). The soft limestone boulder rests on loose soil (the accumulation debris) and it proved impossible to break into pieces. The sledge hammer blows were cushioned by the plug of soil upon which it rested. The most we could accomplish was the chipping of corners of the boulder. At some point it became small enough and round enough to lift up to the mouth of the cave and roll away. Continue reading

Putting Umaryi Survey Site 84 into Context

The cave before cleanup

By: Amanda Hopkins, 2012 Heritage Fellow
You can read Amanda’s previous post here.

We were given permission to dig a cave that we are hoping could be a wine cellar found at Tall al- Umayri Survey Site 84. The landowners of this site agreed. News of the ability to dig is very exciting since the opening that we are attempting to excavate may have been used in the storage of wine for this large wine production facility. Site 84 dates from the late Iron II/ early Persian period.  The farmstead itself was excavated during the 1994 dig season after an initial survey of site 84 produced such installations as wine presses, reservoirs and cisterns. Continue reading

Week 1: The Price of Progress

The building on Site 52

By: Amanda Hopkins, 2012 Heritage Fellow

When I returned to Jordan for the 2012 dig season  of the Madaba Plains Project excavations at Tall al-`Umayri, with a fellowship from ASOR, I was dismayed to find that my proposed survey site now hosted a large and fully constructed shell of an apartment building dug into the center of it. There on Site 52, (a few kilometers north of `Umayri which was discovered in the five-kilometer-radius survey several years ago) stood a modern edifice.

This apartment building should not have been here. What should have been here was a deposition from the late Iron Age that included rectilinear structures, perimeter wall lines, a cistern, cup holes, terraces and field embankments.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Heritage Fellow’s Mysterious Find at Khirbat Ataruz

By: Christine Chitwood, 2012 Heritage Fellow

Ever since I decided to embark on the adventure of archaeological studies, I have been told by professors that, “it’s not what you find, it’s what you find out.”  With this simple phrase, I was satisfied to participate in past field excavations, as well as my current excavation at Khirbat Ataruz, funded partly by my acceptance of the 2012 Heritage Fellowship. It wasn’t until the season was in full swing, that I discovered that sometimes, it isn’t even what you find out that makes archaeology so rewarding.

Continue reading

Heritage Fellow Finds a Stone with Ancient Drawing in an Iron Age Reservoir

Abelardo Rivas with the team of Jalul Square W-7, Dr. Randall Younker, Dr Elena Gregor, and the stone in situ at the center of the square. On the left of the group is the partition wall and on the right side the plaster of the reservoir.

By: Abelardo Rivas, Andrews University, 2012 Heritage Fellow

This year I participated, thanks to the Heritage Scholarship, in two excavations in Jordan. My duty was to supervise two squares, one at Tell Jalul and a second square at Khirbet Atarutz. Our goal for the season in square W-7 at Jalul was to trace the development, on the southern slope of the central depression in field W, of the wall and plaster of the Iron Age water reservoir found last season. To our surprise, during the first week we found a wall that seemed to be completely unaligned with the wall of the cistern and we thought it was perhaps a sharp turn. Continue reading

Platt Fellow Experiences New Cultural Worlds

By: Mariana Garcia de la Noceda, 2012 Platt Fellow

The Middle East is one of the few places in the world where you can be digging in your square, just minding your own business, while there are camels and donkeys walking around the site sniffing the picks and shovels. It’s also one of the few places in the world where people of all faiths, nations and languages can be found working together in the same field for the same reasons. This has been my experience in Tall Jalul, in central Jordan. In my square, which we nicknamed the United Nations, no two people are from the same country, or have the same native tongue. It’s a mix of color and accents that I have never experienced before. And it’s one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had, even if we have to get up at 4 o’clock in the morning.

Continue reading

Heritage Fellow Dips Into the Past

By: Stephane Beaulieu, Andrews University, 2012 Heritage Fellow

My desire to experience an archaeological excavation has been made a reality, thanks to the generous ASOR Heritage Fellowship that I received for 2012. This scholarship helped fund an opportunity to spend three weeks in Jordan at Tall Jalul, near Madaba, where teams from Andrews University have been excavating for the past 20 years. This is the first time that I am participating in an archaeological dig, and it has given me the opportunity to learn what archaeologists do in the field. Being a doctoral student in the area of Old Testament exegesis, participating in archaeology has broadened my understanding of the biblical text.

Continue reading

ASOR Heritage Fellowship: Supporting Student Research in Jordan

Monique, center, behind scale

This past summer I received a Heritage Fellowship to carry out excavation and research in Amman, Jordan. I had applied for this fellowship for assistance with airfare and living costs while in Jordan, and described the necessity of working in Jordan for my dissertation research. I excavated at Tall al-‘Umayri’s Iron Age settlement, which forms the basis of my dissertation on households and community at ‘Umayri.

Continue reading

ASOR Heritage Fellow explores the Epipaleolithic

Thanks to the generous ASOR Heritage Fellowship, from late June till early August 2011, I participated in the excavations of the Upper and Epipaleolithic site of Wadi Madamagh in the Petra region in Jordan. The excavation was part of the Western Highlands Early Epipaleolithic Project directed by Dr. Deborah Olszewski from University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and Dr. Maysoon Al-Nahar from University of Jordan in Amman. As a part of the team comprised of undergraduate and graduate students from University of Pennsylvania, University of Connecticut, University College London, University of Jordan and Yarmouk University in Irbid, I participated in the excavation of the Epipaleolithic levels of the site, as well as in processing of recovered lithic artifacts and faunal remains in the laboratory.

Continue reading

Platt Fellow Jacob Moody Describes his Summer at Tall Jalul

Thanks to the Platt fellowship program I was able to go to Tall Jalul this past summer and have a wonderful six weeks participating in the excavations there. This past season not only added to my field experience and overall understanding of archaeology, but it opened doors for personal research opportunities, allowed me to learn more of the technological side of things, and provided me with an unforgettable cultural experience.

Having been to Tall Jalul the previous year, returning felt like coming back to a home away from home. While I slipped easily back into the routine of early mornings, second breakfasts, long days, pottery washing/reading, and supervising squares, this year presented new challenges and learning experiences. I was put in charge of all of the GPS/GIS equipment and their proper use; worked extensively with registering the objects; and supervised a new field.
Continue reading