Weekly Reports from Jordan

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June 20-25, 2004

Larry G. Herr and Douglas R. Clark

Welcome to Jordan

We're all here! We've come from the United States (26 participants), from Canada (10 participants), from Poland (3 participants), and, of course, Jordan (3 participants). At home it may be rainy, there may be fog, even hail. But here in Jordan there is always a blue sky; the cooling breeze blows from the west (many days); and the birds chirp in the pine trees outside our windows. At night, as we sit in the courtyard drinking in the fresh evening air, two owls fly overhead between the tall Cyprus trees that flank two sides of our part of the UN school compound where we live.

The weather has been cool, probably staying well below 90 degrees at noon today (Friday)-sorry, we have no thermometer, so we can't be exact. But it is warming up. Many of us felt comfortable this morning at the tell only when we put on our sweaters or light jackets. When we took showers after work most of us were shivering from the rapid evaporation caused by the dry air and the relatively cool temperatures. If it stays like this for the rest of the season we will all be happy. Most of our friends at home think we work in terribly hot conditions, but we are almost 3000 feet above sea level and the dry air combined with the constant wind keep us from becoming too hot most of the time. Although we are at the same latitude as northern Florida and we cast almost no shadow at midday, it's probably cooler here than in some parts of Canada.

If we didn't have newspapers or internet news services, we wouldn't have any idea that there are problems in some of the nations surrounding us. Of course, Iraq is far, far away-about as far away as Cleveland is from New York-and there's a very secure border between Israel and Jordan, while a huge desert separates the populated parts of Saudi Arabia from the inhabited areas of Jordan. Those of us who come to Jordan year after year notice no difference in the way people treat us. Yes, they complain about some of the policies some of our governments have, but they very carefully distinguish between governments and individuals. It's a real education for many of us, especially when one of our dig people is an Iraqi woman named Juliet.

Welcome to the Dig

Thirty-nine of us are here so far and another two are expected in the next couple of days, with a few to follow about mid-season. First to arrive was Co-director Doug Clark on June 18, followed quickly by the other Co-director and his wife, Larry and Denise Herr, in the early morning hours of June 19. For some reason most of our people have arrived in the wee hours on the 20th-23rd of June, but our time clocks are all skewed with jet lag, so it doesn't really matter. We sleep when we can! But it is difficult when we have to sit through long orientation sessions and would rather be napping! Or at least out on the tell digging. So far everyone has arrived safely, only two people arrived with missing luggage and those arrived the next day, and we have been able to pick up almost everyone at the airport.

We have had three days of orientation, most of it sitting in camp, learning about the culture of Jordan, how to dig in the MPP (Madaba Plains Project) way, how to live and operate in our camp at the Amman Training College, a school operated for Palestinians by UNWRA (United Nations Welfare and Relief Agency) in the southern Amman suburb of Muqabalayn, and how to keep ourselves healthy during the six weeks we will be digging.

We Dig in Teams

The first day up the west side of the tellWe finally got out to the field today (our third day of orientation) and began cleaning our areas of excavation and learning how to excavate without the pressure of workmen present. Next week we will start in earnest with the local workers. We were welcomed by our representative from the Jordanian government, Aktham Oweidi. Then we divided into four teams excavating four different fields on the tell.

Field A is supervised by John Lawlor who has been with MPP since 1974 at Hisban. The square supervisors (those in charge of single units of excavation-6 X 6 meters in An introduction to the tell by Larry Herr and Doug Clarksize) are Brenda Adams, Gary Arbino, and Cynthia Temoin, assisted by Audrey Shaffer, Myron Widmer, Christine Shaw, Andrew Curtis, and Juliet Syamando. They have already begun breaking and removing rocks as they attempt to dig down to our very impressive early Iron 1 (ca. 1200 BC) town destroyed in a massive fire around 1150 BC. But to do so, they will have to examine and carefully separate later remains from the Iron 2 and late Iron 1 periods. It will be an exciting time for them.

Field B, otherwise known as Little Walla Walla (because most of the members in the field come from Walla Walla College), has a very definite aim: find the northern limit of the Late Bronze Age palace dating to the 14th and 13th centuries BC located in the northwestern part of the tell. To do this, Field Supervisor Kent Bramlett has four squares supervised by John Raab, Ellen Bedell, Shawne Hansen, and Janelle Worthington, assisted by Virginia Gonthier, Matt Vincent, Monique Acosta, Janelle Lacey, and Daniel Hantman. They have already begun removing some of the balks (the soil left standing between squares) above the two northern rooms of the palace and starting the probe to the north where the outer wall should be-if our calculations are correct.

Field H (Fields C, D, E, F, and G were all excavated in earlier seasons) is supervised by David Berge with square supervisors Don Mook, Marcin Czarnowicz, and Andrea DeGagne. The others excavating in the field are Kristy Huber, Larry Murrin, and Magdalena Kamionka. In order to trace the extent of an exciting open-air sanctuary they will have to remove two large walls from a much later period. They will have a good time taking their frustrations out on the large stones with the sledge hammer! But we hope they will find more of the model shrines and ceramic statues that have been found in previous seasons.

The final field, Field L, is supervised by David Hopkins and Mary Boyd with the help of square supervisors Megan Owens and Ruth Kent. Rumor also has it that David and Mary will operate a square themselves. They will be assisted by Greg Kremer, Billy Fitzhugh, Tony Sears, and Noni Zachri. With the exciting Iron 2 (ca. 600 BC) remains found here last season with huge, huge stones (called "honkers" by Herr-that's the next largest size of stones after "boulder," according to an unofficial comment made by Herr) they hope to define the building in more detail and to a larger extent by opening a new square. In order to do this, some of the Hellenistic remains will have to be removed.

All of us, including those who work in camp, Warren Trenchard (administrative director), Denise Herr (pottery registrar), Karen Borstad (object registrar), and Ela Dubis (artist), are eager to do more digging and we can't wait to see what we will find. Some of us try to predict what we will find, but most of the time we are wrong and the ancients succeed in fooling us. Like life, archaeology is one grand puzzle. With 39 people working together, we think we will successfully put that puzzle together.

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