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

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.

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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.

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Heritage Grant Recipient Monique Vincent Describes her Summer at Tall al-‘Umayri

This summer the ASOR Heritage Fellowship allowed me to participate in a season of excavation at Tall al-‘Umayri with the Madaba Plains Project, directed by Douglas Clark. I have worked at ‘Umayri as the supervisor of Field H, located on the southwestern acropolis of the tell, since 2008. The goals for excavation this season included investigation along the southern face of a large, Late Iron I wall running along the southern boundary of the field and of the tell. We wanted to understand the activities along the southern lip of the tell and to prepare for the eventual removal of the wall, one of the last substantial architectural features remaining in Field H that belonged to a Late Iron I/Early Iron II open-air courtyard sanctuary excavated in earlier seasons. The results of our work indicate that activity related to the sanctuary continued to extend south of this large bordering wall, using the southern face of the wall to form a series of narrow rooms. Particular finds included a large stone bench and a unique chalice with a figurine appliquéd below the exterior of its rim. This work helps complete our picture of the full extent of the courtyard sanctuary in all of its phases, including the construction of the large wall. An earlier phase of this wall may have been constructed as part of an Iron I domestic structure underlying the courtyard sanctuary, posing interesting possibilities for studying the continuity and reuse of architecture throughout the Iron I period in this location.
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