Weekly Reports from Jordan

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July 3-7, 2000

Larry Herr, Doug Clark, and Warren Trenchard. Photos by Warren Trenchard and Larry G. Herr

The most attention-getting item of week 2 was the weather. Sorry, no rain or hail storms -- don't we wish! But the temperatures were warm (to say the least). An east wind sprang up over the weekend and continued for the next three days with temperatures soaring into the upper 90s. There was also increasing dust in the air as the heat wave wore on. When the weather shifted on Tuesday AM and the wind began again to come aggressively from the west, we were able to watch the wind chase the wall of dust back out to the desert. May it stay there for at least the next four weeks! Thursday and Friday have been windy, dusty, and warm with temperatures hovering near 100. But when the wind is blowing, things are tolerable.

Three generations of HolcombsAmong the interesting people on the project this summer are three generations in one family. Fred and Sally Holcomb are accompanied by their daughter Kim Rolling, and her daughter Leanne. We always knew digging at `Umayri was a family thing.

For the fourth season a team from Poland continues to excavate the surfaces around the dolmen in Field K that dates to the Early Bronze Age I, about 3000 BC. They are all from Ela Dubis and crew at the dolmenKrakow and are working hard under Field Supervisor Ela Dubis. The dolmen was found in 1994 by Ela while she was looking for tombs. It contained at least 20 burials and 20 complete pottery vessels, the first time such finds have been made in the thousands of dolmens known from the Mediterranean basin. This week all three squares in Little Poland (as we call Field K) found good surfaces (or walls) that were in use along with the dolmen, perhaps in some kind of ceremonial fashion. On Thursday, one square uncovered one of the nicest surfaces ever discovered at `Umayri. It was only a patch about 2 meters (6 feet) long and 1.2 meters (4 feet) wide, but it suggests how very intense were the activities around the dolmen.

Second breakfat in the siwanWe are using the new siwan more and more heavily, especially during 2nd breakfast.

Doug Clark slaughtering watermelonsDoug Clark continues the long-standing tradition of cutting the luscious watermelons while the goats come by everyday to eat the rinds that we throw to them.

Regular inhabitants of 'UmayriThey and their accompanying sheep are daily visitors.

Shilpa Kurka with notebookMuch of the work on the mound continues to be focused on answering detailed questions of stratigraphy.

John Lawlor and the theodoliteSuch work demands excellent record keeping and the use of the theodolite. So far, the complex phasing of several walls in Field H and A has been established very nicely.

Diggers in the LB buildingWe have probably (finally) found a surface in the Late Bronze Age building (ca. 1400-1300 BC) where the walls now tower over our diggers by 3.3 meters or about 11.5 feet. The walls are about one meter thick and are made of beautifully chiseled stones. When Bill Dever, whom many of our readers know, made his seasonal visit on Wednesday he agreed with us that this was more than a private house. But we have no definite suggestions yet for its precise function. None of us can recall a better preserved LB building anywhere in the southern Levant. So far, only a small portion of the floor has been cleared and no objects have been found to help us determine how it was used. But we'll keep you posted! This is one of the first LB buildings excavated in Jordan after the Amman Airport structure discovered in the 1950s.

Kent Bramlett and crewIn the square next to the LB building where we have been removing late Iron II layers (ca. 550 BC) to clear a pillared house, a small portion of a surface collapsed to reveal the top of a perfectly preserved holemouth pithos completely embedded in the ground. It was virtually empty inside. Because it was found at quitting time on Friday we don't have a picture, except to show the people who found it. Stay tuned!

Heather McMurray in surgery with Craig CurtisTwo important squares in Field A, supervised by John Lawlor, have been removing balks to clear the second early Iron I house (ca. 1200 BC). They are almost at the surfaces and we should be having some exciting finds next week.

In Field H, at the southwestern corner of the site supervised by David Berge, the square probing beneath the plaster floor of the late Iron II and early Persian (ca. 500 BC) administrative complex has come across what may turn out to be cultic furnishings. Most of the broken vessels were removed on Friday at quitting time making an accurate interpretation impossible at this point. But one vessel had a very high pedestal base typical of chalices and others were rectangular pieces with openings in the sides like pottery incense stands. We are sorely missing Lloyd Willis in Field H this season. He is our master seal finder. Whereas we normally find 12-15 seals each season he has been with us, we have found no seals so far this season without him.

Field L on the southern lip of the site, supervised by David Hopkins, is producing the best Hellenistic remains (ca. 150 BC) we have found at `Umayri. The same square that found the three lamps last week, has produced several small jars, a large pithos, a juglet, and other pottery vessels. All of them are broken and need reconstructing, but when that is complete, we will have a nice corpus of Hellenistic pottery to study. Other squares in Field L have helped our understanding of how the site was used agriculturally throughout the middle ages and have taught us how useless are surface surveys and analyses! We had earlier projected a massive city wall in the area. We couldn't have been more wrong!

David Berge confers it Wayne JacobsonThe health of the team is surprisingly good this season, in spite of last weekend's trip to Petra, which often produces many instances of gastro-intestinal ailments during the second week. Physician Wayne Jacobsen has been quick to identify problems and to dole out the needed medicines. People have been pacing themselves well and, in spite of the heat, are producing significant finds and having a good time to boot!

We are preparing for next week's visit by the presidents/provosts of the Madaba Plains Project-Umayri consortium colleges and universities. They arrive on Sunday and Monday and will be here to see the Madaba Plains Project first-hand and to visit other sites of interest in Jordan as well. There will be a reception at ACOR (The American Center of Oriental Research) on Thursday evening to honor the MPP-U academic administrators. Members of the Royal family, the government, embassy staffs and other Jordanian entities have been invited. Should be a pleasant experience, about which we will "show and tell" more in the MPP-U release for next week.

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