Weekly Reports from Jordan

Choose Year: or Choose week

July 17-23, 2004

Larry G. Herr and Douglas R. Clark

SiestaBig Finds, Little Finds

It’s the penultimate week, a time when the rhythm of discoveries moves toward the final, climactic week. It’s a time of mild panic, when we begin to realize that we have only a few short days left but so much to do. According to Kent Bramlett, the supervisor of Field B, the big find there is the LB building (14 th-13 th centuries BC), which we may soon have to call a temple (remember last week’s call for modest interpretations?!). It has consumed us all week in two squares (those with Janelle Worthington, Matt Vincent, Carolyn Waldron, and Monique Acosta) and has beckoned another square (that of John Raab and Janelle Lacey) with enticing pottery and stratigraphic indicators, while Shawne Hansen and Cynthia Temoin may have found the northern wall of the structure.

The LB Room Is Much Deeper Than We ThoughtThe room is much deeper than we had thought. Soundings have not yet detected a floor, even though we are already about 2.5 meters below the tops of the surrounding walls. The search for the floor has moved rapidly (even with the interruption of a mostly complete LB lamp under a stone ), but tracing the mudbrick niche surrounding the finely made standing stone has gone very slowly so as to preserve as much of the original niche as possible. The standing stone is probably on a Janelle Worthington with Late Bronze Lamp beneath Stoneplatform or there may be steps approaching it. Only the excavations of this next week will tell. The Field B crew is determined to answer these questions. However, they may have to work evening shifts to finish everything.

Partially Excavated Standing Stone in Late Bronze Age Brick Wall NicheThe standing stone with a domed top looks like it will go much deeper. About 50 cm of it has appeared so far, but its girth is still getting larger as we go down. It is held fast to the mudbrick niche behind it by a generous dollop of plaster. It looks like it will be a major installation. Stay tuned for the climax next week.

Noni Zachri and Cynthia Temoin Propped up by Brenda AdamsLikewise, the team in Field L, supervised by David Hopkins and Mary Boyd, keeps uncovering one honkin’ stone after another, especially in the square operated by Tony Sears and Greg Kremer where they have discovered two walls made with these massive stones. (One definition of a “honker” going around the tell is that it must be a stone at least 1.5 meters long.) Some of our “honkers” approach two meters in length. The Hellenistic farm (2 nd century BC) seems to have reused them, but no one yet knows for certain when they were built. We have them as well in Field H, but there they are also of mysterious origin. Ruth Kent and Noni Zachri may be helping us answer this question, but we cannot be certain, possibly until the end of next week. They have found the “Archaeologist’s Delight” (Herr has been known to vow that it’s better than a piece of gold jewery): an earth layer that answers several questions at once. It goes beneath a normal wall and runs up to a “honkin” wall, while still containing enough pottery to allow a dating to the late Iron 1 period (11 th century BC). That means the “honkers” are at least late Iron 1, maybe earlier. Megan Owens is tracing the tops of a similar layer in her square, too. Answers could come soon. Stay tuned.

Several Sifters Sifting for Fields A and HThe other two fields identified smaller finds, but also of great importance. In Field A, supervised by John Lawlor, John McDowell and Juliette Syamando, with help from Myken McDowell, uncovered one of our first surfaces connected with architecture that dates to the early Iron 2 period (9 th-8 th centuries BC). We have found many potsherds from this period, but architecture and living spaces have eluded us until this year. It’s not a large patch of surface and the architecture is only fragmentary, but we’ve got to start small! Likewise, the complex stratigraphy and interesting architectural problems in the square of Christine Shaw and Ralph Kneller may seem small in their limited location, but they have significant implications for the whole site. Then there is the complex balancing act of Brenda Adams and Andrew Curtis as they traced a surface up to a huge wall constructed of “honkers.” Ho-hum, they only found another toggle pin this week (that makes four so far this season!). It may be small, but it was beautifully preserved.

Large Cobbled Sacred Precinct over Which Were Found Pieces of Several Model ShrinesField H, supervised by David Berge, saw the departure on Friday of our Polish contingent, Marcin Czarnowicz and Magda Kamionka, who were tracing the northward extension of an expansive cobble surface. Only a small portion remains for Don Mook and Larry Murrin to complete as they perform a similar operation to the west. The courtyard may turn out to be about ten meters square with a large round stone in the middle. It is so large that we may have to merge two photographs to give a good final presentation.

Stone-lined Pit Containing Several Spherical Pounders and Grinding StonesBut the small find of the week was a stone-lined pit about 50 cm deep, patiently excavated by Andrea DeGagne and Kristy Huber . It was only about a meter in length and 60 cm wide, but because of its cramped situation, the presence of many artifacts, and the unforgivable fact that it crossed the boundary between two squares (making recordkeeping a nightmare for Andrea), it took over two days to excavate. At its bottom was a very hard plaster surface, but only the fill contained the objects—lots of pottery and

Drawing Balks inside Stone-lined Pitsmall basalt grinding stones like pounders and handgrinders. When he helped Andrea and Kristy draw the balk inside the pit, Dave decided to test whether the pit was used as a bathtub. His conclusion: “No way!”

Almost Crossing the Red Sea

Aquamarina 2 from PoolsideOur trip to Aqaba over the last weekend was a delightful break from the regular activities of excavation and the daily rigors of life in camp. The air conditioning in the hotel (the Aquamarina 2) worked wonderfully, though Aqaba experienced a bit of a cool spell with midday temperatures that rose no higher than about 99 F (38 C)—normal temperatures hover around 105 to 110 F. The pool was delightful and, when we finally found the right beach, it was great, too. A few of us went to the Wadi Rum (where the movie Lawrence of Arabia was filmed and where Lawrence spent much of his time during the Arab Revolt of 1917 against the Ottoman Turks toward the end of the first World War) on Saturday morning, but more (18 of us) went in the late afternoon and evening, when we could watch the sun set over the spectacular cliffs and mountains of this unique place and rest in the sand while the stars came out on a moonless night. Although the lights of Aqaba and Eilat obscured the view to the west somewhat, we experienced a brilliant Kristy Huber Taking in the Expanse of Wadi Rumnight sky that few of us had ever seen before. Some of us were wondering why there appeared to be clouds in one giant arc that never seemed to move. Of course, it turned out to be the Milky Way. At the same time four others had taken a long camel trip all day Saturday, camped overnight, and then returned on Sunday. The main miracle was that they seemed to be able to walk after the experience (a camel saddle is terribly unforgiving!).

Then it was snorkeling on Sunday AM. We went out in a boat and stopped at two places where the coral was at its best. One stop was along a shoreline reef, while the second was at an old shipwreck site. Unfortunately, the sea was slightly choppy for the most comfortable snorkeling, but the Red Sea is one of the best places in the world to snorkel.

Snorklers Ready for Snorkeling
Snorklers on the Boat
Glass-bottom Boat off the Coast of Aqaba

Next Week

This next week is our most difficult one. The finds come in thick and fast, processing and record keeping reach their highest pressure points, things we have been putting off suddenly MUST be completed, the hospitality vortex finds us with many extra-curricular appointments we can’t avoid (as in the wedding of a sister of one of our workers in Field L, which all the women in Field L attended), and the directors try to move everyone toward closedown with new demands that break our normal rhythm. Although next week will be climactic, this week has been an exciting prelude.

Bride and Women of the Village
Four Field L Women (from the left, Ruth Kent, Noni Nachri, Megan Owens, Mary Boyd)
Megan and Wedding Attendees


“I’m going to have my head checked.” Larry Herr

This means (choose all that apply):

  • Larry would like a sanity check, since only mad dogs and Englishmen do archaeology in the hot sun
  • Larry needs an examination of stitches he received on his head
  • Larry needs stitches examined because of something that hit his head
  • Larry needs an examination because of a stone that hit him in the head from the balk
  • Larry says it’s really no big thing and just a few stitches, no problem

Website Update

You may wish to recheck the photos section of this webpage in order to see the faces of those who have joined us mid-season.

Sunrise over Sift

© 2024 Madaba Plains Project. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized duplication of images or content on this site is strictly prohibited.