Weekly Reports from Jordan

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July 27-August 1, 2002

Larry G. Herr and Douglas R. Clark
Larry Herr Douglas Clark

Field L at Its CloseIt may sound strange, but the dig is not digging any more. We spent the last several days processing what we have found during the preceding six weeks. Of course, that process was begun soon after we began, but the closing days are always frantic when all the records, photos, drawings, and various lists have to come to pristine completion. Alas for anyone who does not like homework. We have spent many hours writing in notebooks ("let's see, is that architectural locus made up on medium or large boulders?"); drawing balks ("at 50 cm from the south balk, how far down is the top of that stone from the datum line?"); getting up extra early to clean for final photographs ("the stone at the lower left needs more polishing! Cleanliness is next to godliness!"); and taking final photographs ("OK, let's get those people into the picture to make it more interesting!" Or "Let's get everyone out of the picture; I still see a foot at the top left!").

Field L Hellenistic House 

Final Photo of Cobbled Surface in Field H from the EastMonday and Tuesday were just such days. Field L (David Hopkins) finished first and had their final photos shot early Monday morning. We left at 5:00 when it was just barely getting light to do a final brushing of the walls before setting up the tall ladder (16 feet high) and clicking away just before the sun hit the tops of the walls. The sun and the shadows it casts are the enemy of good photos so we work very hard (and fast) to take as many pictures as we can before its rays spoil our pictures. Sometimes, if we are too late we have to line up people in weird postures to block the sun. Or we set up a wide sheet attached to poles we call a Joshua cloth (because it stops the sun).

Final Photo from the South 

Final Photo of Field B with Mostly Late Bronze Age Walls (Note Northern Extension of LB Building On Tuesday morning it was Field H's turn (Julie Cormack). Whereas Field L had needed only one ladder position, we had to race to carry the huge A-frame ladder, weighing in at about 160 pounds, to two different locations. The large, fine cobble surface needed several different views. It was quite a circus as we raced around, recklessly carrying the ladder over stone walls and earth balks. Add to that scenario the fact that two types of pictures were taken at each place. One was taken with just a meter stick to give scale.

The Partially Reconstructed Four-room House above the Late Bronze Age Building

When that was finished ("make sure that meter stick is exactly parallel to the frame of the photo!"), four or five of our people (mostly Jonathan Francisco, Caroline Riegel, Hanan Azar, and Dean Holloway) raced onto the cobbles with brushes, squatted down, and pretended to brush while another picture was taken. Then they raced back out again as another photographer, this time with a digital camera, climbed the ladder (he climbed up one side while the other photographer climbed down the other), and the same sequence took place. All this had to be done during a 10-minute time span when the light was just bright enough to take hand-held photos but before the sun hit the highest stones.

The Extent of the Refuse Pit 

Moat, Rampart, Perimeter Wall and Partially Reconstructed HouseThis same scene became even more ridiculous Tuesday evening in Field B (Kent Bramlett). First, we had to take a picture of the fortification system at the foot of the tell. Everything was nicely cleaned by our workers and the moat, retaining wall, rampart, and perimeter wall stood out in glorious detail. Then, because the best view of the primary two features excavated this season (the perimeter wall and the Late Bronze Age building from about 1400 BC) was from the reconstructed roof of the early Iron I house, we had to haul the huge ladder up the hill and onto the roof before setting it up there. The top of the ladder was now about 10 meters (33 feet) above the floor of the LB building. No wonder there were only a few people with the courage (foolhardiness?) to climb the ladder. Add a very strong wind from the northwest and it was downright nerve wracking perched on top of everything and squinting through a tiny viewfinder. But the pictures were taken, the walls were shining, and all footprints were removed. That was the last element of our field work and it was with emotions of considerable triumph that we trooped down the hill and drove back to camp.

John Raab, Winner of a Biblical Archaeology Review Scholarship to Participate on the Dig (watch for his report in next January's BAR

The end of a dig season is always fraught with conflicting emotions. We are sad when new friends we have worked with closely leave, but we look forward to resuming our lives at home. While we disliked (with amusement) the dust, intense sun, early rising bell, and boring first breakfasts (but who wants stimulation at 4:30 AM?!), we will miss the camaraderie and esprit de corps those negative elements strangely built in us.

But before the good-byes were said, we had fun. The annual "talent night" took place Saturday night on the steps in front of the men's dorm building - the place most people hang out before heading to bed. Dick Dorsett treated us to a discussion of his research on traditional Jordanian music and played several selections. Then others contributed ... sort of. So many people took part, we won't slog through the hilarity, but suffice it to say that most of us were the butt of several jokes.

Bowes and Hanson Big Winners at Siegfried Gala

Saturday night was also the night for awarding the coveted Siegfried Awards. Named after the founding archaeologist of our project in 1968, Siegfried Horn of Andrews University, the awards are given to those who have risen above their peers in a number of predetermined categories. Eight Siegfreids were given this year.

  1. Most Consistently Dirty Face was judged by the nominators to be a toss up between Franke Zollman, Janelle Worthington, and John Raab. The audience voted by their applause and Janelle won by a considerable number of decibels. She received a film canister filled with dirt. The following Siegfrieds were won more handily.
  2. Greatest Number of Guffas (dirt baskets) Moved in One Day: Franke Zollman and Tony Sears: 401. They received a guffa decorated with crepe paper.
  3. Greatest Number of Loci: Dean Holloway: 33. He won a special locus sheet autographed by the Chief Archaeologist.
  4. Greatest Number of Objects: Wendell Bowes and James Hanson: 54 (runner up had 37). The prize was a gilded Identification Tag.
  5. Greatest Hospitality in Square: Wendell Bowes and James Hanson: for their pit party when they reached the bottom of the huge refuse pit. They received a free roll of crepe paper each.
  6. Most pottery pails: Dick Dorsett, Jonathan Francisco, and Caroline Riegel: 74. They won a pottery pail with an attached rosette en crepe.
  7. Most Accurate Millstone Toss: Kate Dorsett when she hit the watermelon named Abimelech right on and red gore flew everywhere. She won a decorated basalt stone.
  8. Greatest Addition to Archaeological Terminology: Don Mook (see previous weekly report). Don received a bag of miniscule potsherds to which he, in his acceptance speech, intoned: "None of these sherds deserves to be here."

Wendell and James also won Mary Boyd's newly instituted prize, the Spinderella award, because they found the most spindle whorls. As our textile specialist she is eager that people find evidence of that activity. Wendell and James should have won two more awards (Most Bones [about 10,000] and Most Squares Dug in a Single Season [4]), but the organizers wanted to avoid a lopsided rout. As it was, Wendell and James actually ran out of words to say for acceptance speeches.

On Sunday night about half of us grabbed our swimsuits, got on the bus, and traveled downhill about 4000 feet to the Dead Sea where we floated in the warm water. Our cuts sang with pain for a few minutes and we didn't dare get our eyes under the water, but the buoyancy was a unique experience.

Perhaps a fitting end to the season was the MPP-`Umayri lecture and reception at ACOR (American Center of Oriental Research) in Amman. Larry Geraty, Doug Clark, and Larry Herr presented the history of `Umayri intertwined with the finds we made this season. It was the largest attendance at ACOR lectures of the summer and the delicious finger food at the reception made us glad we had not eaten much at supper. We met many new people from other excavations, re-affirmed old friendships with colleagues we had not seen for two years, and basked in the cool breeze wafting over the ACOR terrace overlooking the University of Jordan.

Some of the Scores of Jar Stoppers from the 2002 Season

At the reception many of our group were able to meet His Highness Prince Raad ibn Zeid, the Royal Chamberlain, who has been a fan of archaeology for many years. He used to come to the excavations at Hisban in cognito

and dig in deep squares so the local people could not come to him with requests. Perhaps one of his favorite observations is a fitting way to end our season: "To excavate helps me feel a part of my ancestors; it gives me a connection with the past." Indeed, although it is fun to "mess around in the dirt," the real thrill is to see the people behind what we find, to realize the continuity with our ancestors.

And now it's time to put a stopper to this season. The best to all!

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