Weekly Reports from Jordan

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July 24-28, 2000

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

The last week of digging with workmen is normally a hectic time and this season was no exception. The intrepid diggers in the western room of the Late Bronze Age building dating to ca 1400-1300 BC, (Jon Ponder, Matt Jacobsen, Janelle Worthington, and Dena Zook) donned hard hats and worked frantically to reach the floor. We're happy to report that they have found it along with a step up from the eastern room to a slightly higher surface in the western room. They may still have to excavate a bit on Monday to clear the whole surface. Unfortunately (or fortunately for timing purposes), no broken pottery vessels or other objects have been found on the floor. Only a few large pieces of bone and broken potsherds seem to be present. But it has been exciting to find two more sherds of Mycenaean ware, bringing our total at `Umayri to three and reminding us of the extent of trade even into the rural hill country of Transjordan.

Another team (Joe Rivers and Rob Holm) successfully yanked out a balk stub (the last remaining portion of an excavation area), which was a meter and a half high, in less than a day to reveal completely the second LB to early Iron I building (late 13th century) just south of the four-room house. For old timers, this is the building with the standing stone. All this hard work will allow us to take excellent photos of this newly exposed building. It is not as well preserved as the four-room house to the north, except for the northern part.

Niche in Field A buildingIndeed, this building may be special in other ways. It does not appear to have a plan like typical houses from this period. There is a curious niche on the southern side with several rectangular stones in natural shapes (that is, they are not carved in any way) lying in a row. Near these stones and just to the east of the standing stone found in earlier seasons was a carpet of broken pottery vessels lying on the floor in two squares. They included jugs, small jars, and a biconical jug, a type typical of the end of the Late Bronze Age. This is further proof that our village belongs to the late 13th century. Congratulations to Ahmad ash-Shami, Ben Chambers, Heather McMurray, and Craig Curtis for skillfully exposing this wonderful corpus of pottery, helping us illustrate this marvelously preserved corner of time at `Umayri.

Cult standMore fragments of the late Iron I cult stand from Field H were found this week by John Heinz and Nathan Kemler and are being arranged by Gloria London on her ceramic technology table. None of us has seen anything like it and it must be ranked as the find of the season as far as objects are concerned. The pottery associated with it dates to the 11th century BC (or possibly the early 10th century). Along with the cult stand were several sherds of red slipped, hand-burnished ware and other vessels of the late Iron I period. Next season we will excavate more of the plaza, or open area, where these vessels were found to try to find more pieces of the stand.

Jason TatlockIn Field L on the southern lip of the site, two teams (Mary Boyd, Rhonda Root, Gina Rogers, and Jason Tatlock) have uncovered more of the Hellenistic building (probably a farmstead), revealing many more objects in the process. Most of the artifacts are food preparation implements such as grindstones and a new type of press, perhaps for olive oil.

Donut-shaped stoneWe are very uncertain about the function of the last item, but it may be composed of two elements which we found near each other. One is a large donut shaped stone about 50 centimeters in diameter with no wear on the inner part of the donut. The hole of the donut is concave, making the piece look like a large mortar with a hole through the bottom. The second item is a stubby cone-shaped stone that fits into the hole of the donut. Neither piece shows any signs of wear nor are there any parts of them could suggest there was a turning motion connected with them. So we are guessing some sort of pressing function. Any better suggestions? A second, larger donut-shaped object has been found nearby, as well.

Don MookWe are probably finally below the late Iron II period in the square immediately to the east of the LB building in Field B, dug by Jeff Youker and Adam Rich, where a new wall made of large stones (possibly Iron I) is emerging. Further south, Dean Holloway and Shilpa Kurkjian, are knocking on the door of LB remains. Don Mook, Nicole Igboji, and Garrick Herr are also in firm LB-to-early-Iron I layers and have dated a large wall that goes through Field H to that period. It could be the perimeter wall for that settlement running along the southern side of the site. This may be the same perimeter wall we have found in Fields A and B.

Mensef at Seven HillsThe end of the season brings a hospitality vortex that works two ways, that is, we both receive and give hospitality. One of the workers, Hamid Taha, gave a mensef to the directors and the field supervisor of the area in which he works. The very next day the dig sponsored a mensef for all of our staff at Seven Hills Restaurant. For those of you who have not been to Jordan and have never had the privilege, a mensef is a traditional bedouin feast, often associated with special activities, marriages, etc. Chunks of choice lamb are placed over a heaping mound of rice, pine nuts, slivered almonds, and cilantro. Then a mixture of yogurt and lamb sauce is poured over the whole affair. Sometimes the head of the goat (or sheep) is placed at the very top of the mound. It is often followed by a typical desert, such as qanafe (a thin layer of cheese topped by very thinly shredded wheat, soaked in syrup, and garnished with pistachios).

Carolyn Rivers with Jordanian educatorsBut we also entertained visitors, both at the site and the camp. The most comprehensive visit was organized by Carolyn Rivers and included the Educational Committee of the Friends of Archaeology. One of Carolyn's interests is to find ways to incorporate archaeology into the educational curricula of both elementary and high school classes. The group spent over two hours at the site and then another three hours in camp during the afternoon. The visit was apparently effective because, a few days later, one of the teachers brought several of her students for a visit to the site.

Ambassador and Mrs. Molloy with CanadiansOther visitors during the season included Bill Dever of the University of Arizona who has sent several students to the dig and who enjoys keeping up on our progress; Tim Harrison of the University of Toronto, an alumnus of `Umayri, brought several students; and Mike and Jo Molloy, the Canadian ambassador and his wife who are very serious amateur archaeologists. The Molloys treated us to a deep, rich chocolate cake at second breakfast. Bruce Routledge of the University of Pennslvania, also an MPP veteran, stopped by, on his way to continue excavations at Medeinet `Aliya, northeast of Kerak in ancient Moabite territory. Some of us had a chance to visit there as well and ponder the large number of stone-pillared domestic buildings dating to the Iron I period. These provide an important source of architecture for comparative studies with what we have at `Umayri.

Nancy IgbojiLikely the most important person on the dig, the cook, Nancy Igboji, visited a hospital during the week. Having suffered a freak accident two weeks ago when a china bowl she was holding fell onto the stone counter-top dropped and exploded upward, cutting a deep gash in her wrist and sending her to the emergency room (Casualty Department), Nancy was advised to return, this time to the Arab Heart Center. There she received the services of the best neurosurgeon in the country, who reattached a tendon and repaired an almost completely severed nerve. She returned to camp the next day and is doing well, cast and all.

Setting up ladderThe madness of closedown week is upon us. It includes cleaning everything for final photographs, moving the five-meter ladder all around the site for lofty, overhead pictures, excavating the last bits of a locus or two in order to get to logical places to stop digging, making sure all the objects are registered and entered into the database for the government's records, making final top plans and architectural drawings, finishing off various computer processes such as email and photography, organizing all the pottery and separating it into publishables and non-publishables, inventorying equipment station by station, preparing the storeroom to receive everything, and finally, moving everything to the storeroom with the help of 18 workers. The logistical demands are doubled this time because we are actually preparing two inventories. Part of the equipment from every aspect of the dig will go to a separate storeroom for the Jalul and Hisban wings of MPP because they work out of the nearby Crown Hotel instead of our location at the Amman Training Center.

Closedown is further complicated by the happy occasions of a visit on Sunday to the newly touristicated Baptism Site and to the Dead Sea for some frolicking in the salty waters. Monday evening is the occasion of the ACOR lecture on MPP-U at which we hope a good time will be had by all.

But in a few days we'll be winging our way home. Some of us are wondering if we will ever remember that, when we are home, we actually CAN put the TP into the toilets! I'm sure we'll learn to adapt, however long it takes. Of all people, archaeologists have lots of time on their hands.

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