Weekly Reports from Jordan

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Amman

• Visited the DoA to accomplish the following:

â—‹ Talk to Mr. Fares Hmoud, acting Director of the DoA, and Jihad Haroun, in charge of excavations done with permission of the DoA, about the long search for a Director for the DoA and a Minister of Tourism and Antiquities (nothing yet on those fronts), and land-ownership issues at Tall al-`Umayri. Land issues cannot be solved permanently until both of these positions are filled, according to most observers. We explored where things stand in Jordan regarding `Umayri, reviewed the topographic map of the site with property lines and line sets marking out the options for the preservation of `Umayri, settling for the most part on two options: 1) the larger area which covers the entire tell system to the bottom of the site on all sides (10 hectares = 25 acres) as first choice in an ideal world, and 2) the acropolis (ca. 2 hectares = 5 acres) as a fall-back solution (in either case, we are talking millions of dinars, which equals millions of dollars times 1.41). We also discussed two options for helping ensure a 2014 excavation season: 1) talk with the land owner who gave us permission in 1984 to excavate here (for about ten years everyone agreed!) to see if, even for a fee, he would allow us to excavate along the southern edge and slope of the site next summer and 2) talk with the land owner who holds title to most of the entire acropolis of the site to see if, for a fee, we might continue excavating along the western part of the site, as we have been doing since the beginning.

â—‹ Visited Jihad Haroun about the permit for this season’s mini, mini, mini season (five days of subsurface mapping with Bilal, David, and me – 30 June - 4 July) and the assignment of a DoA representative. Because I was already in conversation with Ms. Huda Kilani, in charge of DoA museums in the country about another project (see below), it was decided that she would be our representative for the season. Huda was a DoA representative once before for a full season, in 1996. Jihad and I also talked about several other matters about which we have corresponded for several months, including a paper I am giving in an ASOR session in November in Baltimore on, of all things, cultural preservation and land ownership, and the possibility of his coming to La Sierra University during winter quarter to take several graduate courses in biblical studies. He wants this kind of information to enhance his own portfolio in order to be better informed about textual, especially biblical, materials as they relate to the archaeology of Jordan. In his words, attempting to translate an Arabic line: To understand the world you need knowledge; to understand heaven you need knowledge; to understand both the world and heaven you need knowledge. So, he is setting out on a quest for more knowledge. I am working on a proposal to La Sierra to fund this education and Jihad’s board and room as a gesture of cross-cultural engagement with Jordan in the modern world as well as in the ancient.

â—‹ Talked with Ahmad Lash about the return of `Umayri objects from last summer and a few objects we have had on long-term loan for several years in order to complete research on `Umayri’s model shrines and the LB cultic niche ceramic assemblage. These will also be returned next week, giving us time to reconstruct the main model shrine at ACOR with the help of Nayef on staff at ACOR.

â—‹ Visited Huda Kilani, our new DoA representative who, as the person in the DoA responsible for overseeing DoA museums in Jordan, is working with me on a long-standing project of at least partially renovating the Madaba Museum to make it more appealing and accessible to the public. We will spend some time in Madaba hoping to restart what several of us whose artifacts end up in the Madaba Museum set out to do years ago, only to lose momentum with the loss somewhere in one of the country’s official ministries of $200,000 from USAID for which I had applied and which had been set aside for restoration of the museum.

22 June 2013

• I went to the Citadel Museum to visit with Abdelrahim Al-Dwikat, who is director of the museum and our DoA representative in 2012, about installing the `Umayri LB cultic niche, altar, and standing stones in the Citadel Museum. This would serve as the featured exhibit at the end of the main corridor one sees upon entering the museum, in order to highlight the religions of ancient Jordan. Abdelrahim suggested not only this desired location for the `Umayri LB temple display, but the entire space behind the dividing wall for all things `Umayri. That could be very interesting. We are working on display site preparation, a timeline, and costs. Could be ready in a few months.

LB temple cultic nicheLB cultic niche and altarDisplay drawing


• Early afternoon a few days later found David and me back at the Citadel Museum with its director, Abdelrahim Al-Dwikat, finalizing plans for the construction of the new exhibition for part of the Late Bronze Age temple found at `Umayri. He had reviewed the proposal I submitted the day before, talked with a technician who will help transform the current exhibit into ours, calculated the costs, and shared them with me. We agreed on the proposal and will submit it to the DoA for final approval. If the proposal is accepted, construction on the new exhibit will begin immediately following Ramadan (August 10) and be completed before the end of August. Expenses will be covered by the excavation, as will the addition of a huge photo backdrop, assorted small photos, and a narrative description of the temple and its importance.

Ahmad Lash, Cesar, Abad, Doug with pithoi• Also today, two of our famous large storage jars (pithoi, singular is pithos), made their way back to the DoA from ACOR where they have undergone masterful restoration at the hands of Nayef who works for ACOR. These came to him last summer in hundreds of pieces, but because they were nearly complete when discovered in 2012, it was easy to keep all the pieces together. The two pithoi were discovered next to each other in a small room dating to around the second century BC. One dated to at least a century and a half earlier, maybe even earlier yet. This means that householders, always on a budget, made use of ceramic storage vessels for generations, even, as in this case, centuries. Even more interesting to the story of our ancestors who lived here over two thousand years ago was testimony, in the form of five rat skulls in one of the jars, of the fierce competition our forebears experienced just to survive. The grain they so painstakingly planted, tended, harvested, threshed, and stored was divided among themselves, their animals, next year’s planting seed, mildew and rot, bugs and beetles, and small critters like rats. Estimates vary as to what percentage of grain humans actually enjoyed, but most likely it was less than half. Now these two witnesses to the severe efforts of ancient families to keep food on the table have returned to their home, the custody of the country of Jordan.

Principal Husam Shahroor, ATC• Stopped by ATC (Amman Training College where we stay during excavation seasons) to congratulate Husam Shahroor, long-time operations officer at the school who was awarded an MBA from La Sierra and a PhD in finance from a Jordanian university, and who was recently appointed Principal of ATC! He will do anything in the universe to be helpful to our project. I also went to the storeroom to retrieve a few tools to take to the site in order to remove huge thistles from pathways up the western side. The rainfall was good this year, meaning that thistles were massive and ubiquitous. I was preparing for a visit by 100+ members of a tour group led by Larry Geraty. Most of the participants belong to the Loma Linda University Church in SoCal.

27 June 2013

• Visited the storeroom housing our tools, supplies, and some of our artifacts at ATC today. I needed to take an inventory of all the artifacts (virtually all stone) still kept there. When dealing with hundreds of artifacts each excavation season, there are bound to be a few glitches. We are working on understanding some of these and bringing records up to date. After making my way through the bright pink hallway with stand-out purple curtains, and unlocking the storeroom, I took about three hours to:

• Move a tall pile of sifts in order to get at the crates with stone artifacts from the 2008 and 2012 seasons

• Move a high stack of guffahs for ease of access

• Move rolled-up ground mats that we use in our goat-hair tent

• Squeeze into a space the size of a crowded one-holer outhouse to access some of the red crates containing heavy stone artifacts, shifting eight-crate-high stacks back and forth in the crowded outhouse

• Replace some of the red crates whose bottoms had broken because of the weight of heavy stone artifacts

• Check every single card number against the numbers on every single heavy stone artifact

• Record every single number, all 209 heavy stone artifacts

• Re-arrange eight-crate-high stacks of heavy stone artifacts in the crowded outhouse

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