Weekly Reports from Jordan

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July 10-14, 2000

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

 It was a very busy week at Tall al-`Umayri. Excellent finds were made both in the field and in camp; the presidents of the consortium institutions visited the site and the camp; and there was a social whirl surrounding the presidents' visit. As we write this report over half the team is in Aqaba where the daily temperatures are well over 100 degrees F. But the air-conditioned hotel is marvelous. Some of us finally got to visit a famous Edomite site near Aqaba called Tell el-Kheleifeh. The site is located smack in the middle of no-man's land between the Israeli and Jordanian borders and has been off-limits to everyone until recently. It was dug by Nelson Glueck in the 1930s and we have been waiting many years to get permission to visit it. Thanks go to Mary-Louise Mussell of Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, who is digging the site presently, for getting permission for our visit and for showing us around.

Institutional administrators and directors just outside the four-room house at `Umayri The presidential visit was led by Larry Geraty, President of the primary sponsor of MPP--`Umayri, La Sierra University, and long-time director of the Tell Heshbon excavations and the initial director of the Madaba Plains Project. He was accompanied by his sister, Kathleen. John McDowell, Academic Vice-President and Acting President of Canadian University College, was accompanied by his wife, Lynn, PR director for CUC. Robert Nienhuis and his wife, Betty Jo, came from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids Michigan where John Lawlor now teaches. As Provost for that institution, Bob was considering the possibility of having his university join the consortium. W. G. Nelson from Walla Walla College regrettably had to cancel his participation at the last moment.

HRH Prince Ra`ad with Lynn McDowell and Carolyn RiversWith their activities planned by Doug Clark, this group was constantly busy, visiting MPP sites, seeing how the dig operates and processes materials, and meeting people in the Jordanian government as well as overseas scholars and embassy officials. A gala reception was held in their honor at ACOR and was attended by His Highness Prince Ra`ad, His Excellency the US Ambassador, Fawwaz al-Khraysheh, the Director-General of the Department of Antiquities, various scholars and friends of ACOR and MPP--`Umayri, and most of the dig participants. We hope the presidents will with enthusiasm take excellent reports back to their respective institutions.

Mary BoydBut for those of us who are die-hard archaeologists the finds in the field surpassed even these excellent social and official events. Interesting Hellenistic (2nd century BC) finds from Field L came up almost every day. Mary Boyd, the square supervisor for the square that was following a surface rich with finds, remarked at one of her frequent lunch-time announcements, "Another day, another juglet!" Besides the five juglets, they also found a reconstructable pithos or two, a reconstructable cooking pot, a carnelian seal carved as a scarab, and several coins. This group will make an excellent corpus of material to compare with the Hellenistic reuse of many of the farmsteads the `Umayri survey has found in the area. This is especially appropriate for David Hopkins, the supervisor of Field L, because he excavated several of those farmsteads in former seasons.

Julie KuehnAs Heather McMurray, Julie Kuehn and Craig Curtis reached the bottom of a balk they were removing, they came upon the floor of the early Iron I building to the south of the four-room house dug in previous seasons.

Smashed pots on early Iron I floor in Field AOn the floor were several smashed pots of a type quite unique to `Umayri. There were so many pieces, the excavators had a difficult time finding a place to stand; certainly there was no room to kneel or sit. I'm sure the end-of-dig party will have a song entitled, "Tiptoe through the Potsherds." There was also a small part of a vessel excavated in 1992 and partially reconstructed at CUC! We now know the vessel had two handles on the shoulder instead of just one as it will soon be published in MPP 4. Live and learn!

At any rate we will soon have a new building to associate with the four-room house. Excavations in two nearby squares by Ahmad ash-Shami, Fred Holcomb, Ben Chambers, Carolyn Rivers, and Dan Cotton are also giving us an open space or road way in front of these two houses. The road (or open space) may have been associated with the large trash pit from the same time as the houses. This same pit produced over 15,000 bones in previous seasons.

Three paleo-zoologists: Angela, Joris, and NadjaFor three weeks, three experts in zooarchaeology from Munich, Germany have been analyzing the bones from all previous seasons and have found several interesting items. Joris Peters, the head of the team and the director of the institute for palaeo-zoology, announced that the pit mentioned above produced the bones from two different lions and one Syrian Brown Bear. Another lion and two other bear bones were also found elsewhere on the site. The lions were about the size of American mountain lions, but the bear is a direct relative of the grizzly of North America, although slightly smaller. Angela von den Driesch, who also worked with the Hisban bones in 1976, told us that this is the only type of bear ever to appear in the Middle East. No wonder the biblical authors expressed such fears of this animal! The team, which also includes research assistant Nadja Póllath, has also found many bones of a very rare fresh water fish, the Nile Perch. Reaching sizes of almost 6 feet (2 meters) in length, it has been celebrated as a very important fish in several ancient Egyptian drawings. There is presently a large debate on how the fish came to be in Jordan, so far from its home waters.

Floor of LB building in Field BA clear surface has been found and traced across most of the eastern room of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1300 BC) building, but, alas, no finds have been made on the floor so far. There is still another room to excavate this season (and others in subsequent seasons), so we still hope to find items on the floor. But the building is still remarkable because of the exceptional height of its walls, soaring 3.5 meters (almost 12 feet) above the floor with no sign of the wooden supports for the second floor. This latter feature must have been present because the room was filled with the detritus of huge amounts of mudbricks from the upper story (or stories). None of us can think of a better preserved LB building in all of the southern Levant. Because of the very thick walls (over a meter thick in places) and the unusual height before the second story, the building was certainly not a private dwelling, but its original function still eludes us. Come help us excavate its northern rooms in 2002!

Parts of Fields H (the southwestern part of the site) and L (on the southern edge of the mound) may be coming down on late Iron I phases much sooner than expected. If so, it will help us tie in the stratigraphy from various fields much more securely than we had thought possible before the season began. Field B has also been able to find two intermediate Iron I phases that help to tie it to those found in Field A. All in all it's a wonderful season that has reached its halfway point. Onward and downward!

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