Weekly Reports from Jordan

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July 28-August 1, 2008

Merlè Otto-Steenbergen, Canadian University College

Team Photo ATCFirst breakfast on Monday was made a little cheerier when someone (Julie Cormack) drew a ketchup happy face on the egg and potato bake. The food was a bit of a departure from the usual weekday fare of porridge and boiled eggs. Perhaps the cooks are having a last hurrah before we all leave.

Wrap-up preparation continued at the tell for all fields, with closing photos before dawn for Field M. People scurried around brushing the inside of the squares and the outer perimeters as Doug Clark climbed to the top of the 5-meter ( over 16 ft.) ladder for an "aerial" view.

Bates Showing Field AThe ladder has to be "anchored" by several people at the base, and the logistics of moving it can be quite complicated. Who would have thought that dirt could be so "clean"?!

Photos are only one part of the culminating activities. Balks have to be trimmed (scraped flat and plumb), balk drawings have to be made (precise cross-section drawings) and all kinds of locus sheets and reports have to be finished. Some paperwork will continue long after the dig is closed down.

Bramlett Showing Field BThe last personal photos are being taken at the site--the squares, the goat hair tent, the sifts, various dig paraphernalia, and of course, the burlap "biffy." Lynne Fulton took one last commemorative photo of this, complete with the obligatory reading of the newspaper.

Most dig participants gathered on the basketball court on Monday evening for a last little bit of fun. The occasion was the Umayri "Talent" Show (or amateur hour).

Vincent Showing Field HDavid Hopkins with his jokes was the warm-up act as the audience waited for Field A participants to return from final photos at the tell. Acts ranged from poems and songs to skits and acrobatics. Kasey Brandt impressed us all with her acrobatic antics set to music, performed on a concrete surface! During her flawless performance, she did suffer a few scrapes, but nothing that will deter her from future endeavors. Between acts, several Siegfried awards (named after the pioneer Adventist archaeologist, Siegfried Horn, who initiated MPP in the late sixties at Tall Hisban) were handed out.

Hopkins Showing Field LThese are humorous awards honoring such things as most earth moved (awarded to Bethany Reiswig's square), most bioturbation or animal activity (Sean Haskell's square--mole activity!), dirtiest face (Jennifer Ayles, hands down!), most bones cleaned (Lynne Fulton; second was Jennifer Ayles), and a few others. Awards took the form of pottery tags, towels, toothbrushes, etc. Lindsey Hill and Jason Daub, decked out in hilariously appropriate costumes, performed a belly dance "duet" that had the audience in stitches.

La Bianca Showing Field MLarry Herr played and sang the "Umayri Blues," and Garrick Herr dedicated a re-worked version of "The Cremation of Sam McGee" ("The Retirement of Larry G") to his father. Performances were a lot of fun for performers and spectators alike. An Indiana Jones-type slide show and one featuring all the "faces" of the dig rounded out the evening.

The rest of the week will be busy with closing activities and saying goodbye.

GPS Datum PointPeople on the "outside" really have no idea of all the work and organizing that goes into a dig. Acknowledgment should be made of all the people who make things happen and take care of the details: Doug Clark and Larry Herr for organizing and orchestrating the whole event; Rhonda Root and her team of artists- Stefanie Elkins and Kari Friestad; Suha Huffaker, object registrar; Denise Herr, pottery registrar; Larry Murrin, computer manager; area specialists, Julie Cormack, Angela von den Driesch, Nadja Poellath; Matt Vincent, GPS surveyor; Garrick Herr, handyman; Gary Huffaker and Carolyn Waldron, Profilesmedical team; the photographers and videographers who documented the finds and the process; and all the field supervisors and square supervisors who oversaw the daily grind. A hearty thank you!

Stephanie Herr PhotographingAs things draw to a close, we are not only breaking up a dig, we are breaking up a community. Some relationships have begun which will continue, and some will end.

Some people will return for another season, and some will not. Whatever the case, we have made memories that will long remain.Team Umayri

Closure for me invites two lists. One is a list of things I wish I had brought; the other is a list of things I will miss.

Things I Wish I Had Brought

A laptop computer!! (This would have made life so much easier)
A flashlight
Travel towels (These are lightweight and take up almost no room.
Another plus is that they wash like a dream. I learned all this from Ruth Kent, traveler extraordinaire.)
Different clothing (stuff that is really easy to hand wash - or discard!)
Safety goggles, face masks, and maybe even a hard hat - just in case. (Remember that dirt is omnipresent and gets into everything. It is possible to work around the absence of these things.)
A supply of healthy snacks (Seasoned veterans have learned this. Regular junk food and ice cream are readily available, however.)
Charcoal tablets and other preventive or remedial medications (even though the medical team was on call and prepared)

Things I Will Miss

The people!
The people!!
The people!!!
The banter, the spontaneity, and the laughter
The call of the muezzin (Anneliese Weiss says this is strangely soothing, and I may wake up at home expecting to hear these unique sounds.)
Learning strange and wonderful things about previous cultures through found objects
The serendipitous pairing of young and old, expert and amateur

Goodbye Umayri ! Some of us will see you again in 2010!

[Photos courtesy of Douglas R. Clark and MPP-`Umayri]

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