The directors of the Madaba Plains Project excavations at Tall al-`Umayri want to extend a warm welcome to you as we plan for an archaeological field season this summer in the central part of the Royal Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. If you are accepted as part of the team, you are in for the experience of a lifetime and we want you to know how much we appreciate your participation. Ahlan w' Sahlan — Welcome!
|Full Season||Wednesday morning, 25 June through Wednesday evening 30 July 2014|
|1st Half Season||Wednesday morning, 25 June through Wednesday 16 July 2014|
|2nd Half Season||Wednesday, 9 July through Wednesday evening 30 July 2014|
While the 2014 expedition will last from Wednesday 25 June to Wednesday 30 July 2014, all participants are expected to arrive by Tuesday 24 June to attend the orientation and instructional meetings which will start first thing Wednesday morning. MPP-`Umayri staff will do our best to pick up groups arriving on Monday; otherwise you may be on your own (see UPON ARRIVAL: DIRECTIONS below). We try to pick up everyone, but this is not always possible, so be prepared with directions and maps in hand. You are welcome to arrive in Jordan earlier or stay longer than the dates of the dig, but you will need to provide for your own accommodations before Monday 23 June and after Thursday 31 July.
Note: All MPP-`Umayri forms are now entirely digital and need to be submitted online, including digital signature forms. Look these over carefully. If you are not as online-savy as you would like to be, get someone to help you. In the process, use the dating system of Day (numerals) Month (spelled out in alphabetic letters, abbreviated if you wish) Year (full, numerals) -- for example, 1 March 2014.
1 MARCH 2014 for Security Form (NO EXCEPTIONS).
15 APRIL 2014 for application form and deposit.
15 MAY 2014 for all other forms and final payment of dig fees.
Dig Fee --
Full season of five weeks
$2595 US - regular (covers board, room, texts, mid-season trip)
$2350 US - consortium-affiliated (covers board, room, texts, mid-season trip)
Half-season option (either first or second half)
$1595 US - regular (covers board, room, texts, mid-season trip)
$1450 US - consortium-affiliated (covers board, room, texts, mid-season trip)
UNIVERSITY STUDENTS REGISTERING THROUGH LA SIERRA UNIVERSITY -- There are package plans available which allow you to register for several courses; if this is 8-12 quarter units of credit, the tuition covers virtually ALL expenses (except personal ones), including international airfare from LAX, the dig fee, insurance, board and room, some travel in Jordan.
Apply for a CAP or ACOR fellowship to assist with dig expenses:
Deposit for Dig Fee --
Pay online (see below) or send deposit (checks made out to La Sierra University-MPP) to:
- Douglas R. Clark
- Madaba Plains Project
- La Sierra University
- 4500 Riverwalk Parkway
- Riverside, CA 92515
The deposit must be submitted in time to arrive at La Sierra University at the same time as the the application form is due -- 15 April 2014.
(Note, however, that the Security Form must be received by 1 MARCH due to Jordanian government security requirements; fill out the Security Form and send it in whether or not you are sure you will actually end up coming.) In the case of non-acceptance, a full refund will be returned. If an accepted applicant cancels his/her participation, all funds will be refunded, minus $100.
BETTER, make all payments online at the secure La Sierra University URL:
Tuition charges vary among the consortium institutions, some offering package plans. Email us if you have questions.
IN ANTICIPATION OF THE DIG
Eligibility / Acceptance
Applicants are typically college age (upper-division is best) or older and should be in GOOD HEALTH. The work is not easy nor always enjoyable and allows little free time during the week. Given the dormitory-style living conditions along with the hard work which an excavation demands, a pleasant, congenial attitude on the part of participants is always helpful, in fact, necessary.
Qualified applicants are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. However, we cannot process applications until the deposit is received (see Costs). Full acceptance is given only after receipt of the total fee. In order to make the project research as efficient and productive as possible, applicants for the full season will be considered over half-season applicants, especially if the number of potential participants is large.
For the 2014 season, we encourage full-season participation. While one can choose a half-season option (either first or second half), the project and participants are typically better served with the full five weeks. Please direct any questions to the director.
All travel arrangements and costs are the responsibility of the participant, although some university students may be part of a package plan in which travel is covered and arranged. For travel arrangements you need to make, you may wish to check with an agency we have often used for international travel:
Academy International Travel Services, Inc.
125 Clairemont Avenue - Suite 500
Decatur, GA 30030
Phone: (800) 476-6943 or (404) 687-2080
FAX: (404) 687-0390
All participants must be in possession of a valid passport issued by their respective government, which will not expire within a period of six months of your departure from Jordan. Applications for United States citizens are usually accepted in federal buildings of large cities (where it may take up to six weeks to obtain) or county seats (where it may take up to two months). The fee for a U.S. Passport (valid for ten years) is $65. Passports for U.S. citizens under 18 (valid for five years) cost $50. Do not delay in the process of obtaining your passport if you do not have a valid one.
The Jordanian visa costs 40 JD (approximately $56 US) and can be obtained extremely easily and quickly for American and Canadian citizens at the Amman airport (go first to the exchange desk to get Jordanian currency and then to the customs lines marked “Visa”) or participants may wish to contact the Jordanian embassy or a consulate office and procure a visa before arrival. However, those who travel both ways in a group of fifteen or more people and who make advance arrangements might be able to waive the visa costs. For answers to specific questions, please consult a Jordanian embassy or consulate at your very earliest convenience.
Volunteers and staff members must arrange for their own medical/accident insurance (Students on certain package plans through La Sierra University will have insurance coverage). This kind of INSURANCE IS REQUIRED of all participants. Students and faculty from consortium institutions should inquire about the type of coverage their school carries. In addition, there are organizations that provide inexpensive insurance coverage for varying periods of time, some with a specific focus on traveling college/university students. Check with a local insurance or travel agent. We will have a physician and/or nurse on duty during the summer, of course, and expect no major problems.
Vaccination certificates are no longer required in Jordan. For your added safety, however, you will need to have a recent Tetanus booster (good for three to eight years) because of excavation activities and we stongly advise you to be protected by the following inoculations: Cholera (good for six months) and Typhoid and Diphtheria (good for ca. three years). Some physicians also recommend gamma globulin shots (good for four to six months) as a protection against hepatitis. For any or all of the above, follow the advice of your physician. See below for more health information and online links to the Centers for Disease Control.
What to bring
- Luggage: On international economy flights the baggage allowance is two suitcases plus one carry-on. Airlines have begun tightening up on luggage limits, so pack light! Some are also charging for checked luggage. It is advisable to use lightweight but sturdy suitcases which can withstand rough handling by baggage guerillas. And be sure to check the latest luggage stipulations from your airline company online.
- Clothing and Personal Supplies: Those who have had no experience in overseas travel and/or archaeological work may not be certain what clothing and sundries they should bring with them. Following is a list of general items to keep in mind as you plan for your trip, but it is obviously subjective and will need tailoring to your specific needs. Most people are prone to take more luggage than they need. Pack light!
- Work clothes (brown tones show dirt less than do some other colors like extremely light or dark shades): For example, two pairs of work pants (no shorts, which may be offensive to Arabs with whom we work) and three or four light-weight shirts or blouses (with long sleeves for protection against the sun).
- Dress and sport clothes. Archaeologists are honored guests in Jordan. Staff members are invited and often expected to attend social functions of the Jordanian government and foreign embassies. Plan to have lightweight clothing suitable for such occasions. You will also want to have some sport clothes for weekend trips. Likely you will not need more than one set each of dress and sport clothes.
- Work shoes or boots. It is essential that only shoes with smooth soles be worn on the site while excavating. Patterned soles easily disturb fragile earth surfaces we have excavated and contaminate soil layers. Check local shoe stores for something comfortable and suitable for our work.
- Sweater or sweat shirt for cool mornings and evenings (several thin layers of clothing are better than fewer thick layers — this allows for shedding throughout the day)
- Hat or cap as essential protection against the harsh sun. Local headware, the kefeiyeh, can be purchased anywhere in Jordan.
- Work gloves, usually cotton
- Knee pads, which are extremely helpful as excavation, like prayer, takes place mostly on one's knees
- Laundry soap, which is also available anywhere in Jordan
- Clip-type clothespins for hanging laundry out to dry
- Suntan lotion with high sun-block factor
- Insect repellent and mosquito netting – an absolute necessity (this may not seem right for a desert country, but mosquitos there are at our dig camp, as much as we try to control them)
- Bedding like a light sleeping bag and pillow or sheets and blankets for use on the bunk beds (some blankets are available, but it would be best to bring your own)
- Drinking mug. Bringing your own personalized plastic mug for coffee or tea will ensure that you will have one when you need it and will prevent the mysterious disappearance of cups from the dining room.
- Medications: your standard mediations / skin moisturizers / Imodium A-D (or equivalent) to be taken preventively against or for occurrences of intestinal problems / antibiotics for intestinal problems / standard pain relievers / sunburn treatment / lip salve / Band aids / cough drops / cold medicine / three-inch ace wrap bandage (many of these items will be available in Jordan, although not necessarily your favorite brands, but it will save you time, hassle and expense if you bring them with you)
Excavation equipment: If you are to work as a square supervisor or volunteer, as most participants will, you will want to bring your own tools. We recommend the following, mostly available from good hardware stores:
- small pointed mason's trowel (5"-blade maximum), ideally a Marshalltown brand
- metric steel tape (3 or 5 meters) if you can find one
- plastic bags, especially for cameras and computer equipment
- fine-point red, blue and black ball-point pens
- a few indelible markers, such as sharpie ultra fine point and fine point
- loose-leaf, three-ring binder notebook (1-2 inch)
- smaller notebook
- a fabric carrier for the above to use at the site
For archaeological methods, the Excavation Manual: Madaba Plains Project, prepared by Dr. Larry Herr, Director Emeritus at `Umayri, and others, will be sent to all core staff members and volunteers in May. We are in the process of updating and revising the Manual, however, and it may be available online for preview. All volunteers are advised to read and study these instructions carefully in advance of arrival in Jordan. Veteran staff members would do well to review the Manual as well. You should not expect light and engaging reading here; not much of a plot develops in the course of the book's unfolding pages, but even a general acquaintance with the material in advance will go a long way toward preparing you for the experience of excavating and will give us all a head start on what is really a short expedition season.
For an introduction to the archaeology of the Madaba Plains of Jordan, you will need to read two pieces: Ancient Ammonites and Modern Arabs: 5000 Years in the Madaba Plains of Jordan, edited by Glorida A. London and Douglas R. Clark, published in 1997 by the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman, and "From the Stone Age to the Middle Ages in Jordan: Digging up Tall al-`Umayri" by Larry G. Herr and Douglas R. Clark in the June 2009 issue of Near Eastern Archaeology (72/2, pp. 68-97). If you do not have a copy of the book or article, please notify Douglas Clark ASAP and you will receive a copy at no added cost. For those taking academic credit this summer, these two sources are required reading. Also, the 40th anniversary volume on the Madaba Plains Project was released in May 2011 and provides an analysis of all three major MPP sites as well as articles by former MPP participants who now direct their own projects -- The Madaba Plains Project: Forty Years of Archaeological Research into Jordan's Past, published by Equinox.
For a cultural orientation to the Middle East in general and Jordan in particular, one of the best sources is the Revised Edition of Margaret K. Nydell's Understanding Arabs: A Guide for Westerners, published in 1996 by Intercultural Press at P.O. Box 700, Yarmouth, ME 04096, U.S.A. (207 846-5168). You may also want to consider the Business Traveler's Handbook: A Guide to the Middle East (available from Facts on File, Inc., 460 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016, U.S.A.). Besides specific up-to-date information on each country, it has general sections on Muslim social customs, health, conversion tables, temperatures, etc.
The specific situations which you will find on the tell with your workmen, etc., will be discussed during the orientation meetings before excavations begin.
For a travel guide of Jordan (with good archaeological information), the Blue Guide: Jordan, published A & C Black in London and WW Norton in New York, is the best choice. It contains a wealth of information about the country of Jordan—its history, culture and people.
For a brief introduction to Arabic for archaeologists, we would encourage you to purchase the inexpensive new booklet by Robert Schick, Arabic for Archaeologists, available at ACOR for JD2. We may also have some available in the States -- Please email us. The booklet provides a nice collection of terms and phrases which will prove helpful to you in getting around the country and communicating with workers on our project. Whatever efforts we put into learning another person's language will be richly repaid; it is one of the steps toward understanding culture and making friends.
For further details see the Academic Credit Syllabus
There is undergraduate and graduate credit available only through Madaba Plains Project consortium institutions (La Sierra University, Andrews University, Canadian University College, Mount Royal University, Pacific Union College and Walla Walla University [Mount Royal, Pacific Union, and Walla Walla students will register through La Sierra for fully transferable credits]). The archaeological fieldwork offerings include up to 8 quarter credits (6 semester credits) for a full season and up to 4 quarter credits (3 semester credits) for a half season and are easily transferable to other institutions. Some schools offer additional courses with pre- and post-season requirements -- click on the Academic Credit Syllabus link below. All enrolled students will be required to perform their dig-related tasks and responsibilities with care and completeness; read and report on Ancient Ammonites and Modern Arabs: 5,000 Years in the Madaba Plains of Jordan and "From the Stone Age to the Middle Ages in Jordan: Digging up Tall al-`Umayri" (cost of materials included in dig fees); attend all lectures/symposia in camp; attend two of the lectures sponsored by the American Center of Oriental Research (if the lecture series happens this summer); visit archaeological sites in the country; and pass an examination, part of which involves an evaluation of all aspects of the dig and the contributions the student made to the project. Be sure to check with the Director of the dig for any prerequisites and for registration procedures and costs. It is essential that students seeking academic credit register through their own (consortium) schools and do so in advance of the dig.
- Cameras and film: While most people use digital photographic equipment, those who want to use film will need to bring it along with them. Color film in the Middle East and in Europe is quite expensive and its usable life may have been significantly compromised depending on its storage environment, so bring at least a modest number of rolls with you. Getting film through airport security checks is becoming more and more challenging. And bring along some strong plastic bags to keep the dust away from your equipment.
- Policy Concerning Photography: Participants are welcome to take their own pictures of the excavations and of objects found. However, it must be clearly understood that such pictures (including videos and slides) should be used ONLY in connection with articles or books written by staff members themselves (if no remuneration for the use of such pictures is received) or for lectures given by staff members. Pictures needed for articles or books for which payment will be received must be obtained from the Director.
- Policy Concerning Publications and Publicity: Preliminary reports of each season of excavation, the final report of the expedition at its completion or reports of material found will be published by the Director, or by staff members authorized by the Director. This policy includes articles to appear in both scholarly and popular journals (but not church papers or popular magazines of a limited circulation). News releases to the public press are to be made only by the Director.
UPON ARRIVAL: DIRECTIONS
Here are directions for getting to our headquarters in Muqabalayn, a southern suburb of Amman, Jordan. If you are traveling with a good-sized group of MPPites and will arrive on the day before the dig, you will likely have someone waiting for you at the airport—in the large arrivals lobby after you have cleared customs with your luggage. Watch for "MPP" on a sign or lots of foreigners huddled together who look like they might be archaeologists. The new Queen Alia International Airport terminal may be completed by the beginning of the 2014 season, leading to a change in these instructions.
However, please be prepared to find your own way to ATC (the Amman Training College of UNRWA). The photo-ID card you will have in advance and will use in Jordan has directions on the back in Arabic for getting to ATC. If you do not receive this before your arrival in Jordan, please download and show the following (in Arabic) to taxi or bus drivers, and show them a map!:
Directions to ATC (in Arabic)
In English: (View Maps)
ATC is located in the southern Amman suburb of Muqabalayn, approximately 25 kilometers from the Queen Alia International Airport. For a taxi ride, best to join up with other wanna-be archaeologists if you can spot any on your flight, but it is not difficult to get there. The taxi will (should) travel the airport freeway from the airport to the Naur/Ras al-Ayn turnoff, taking a right turn from the freeway toward downtown Amman (toward Ras al-Ayn). Approximately 2 kilometers and through one stop light, at the very top of a gradual incline on the road, the cab will (should) angle off slightly uphill to the right toward the center of the town of Muqabalayn. The ATC is at the top of the first small hill on the right, between 200 and 300 yards from the right turn you just made. ATC has a white arch marking its entrance and the guard will give directions to our headquarters inside the compound (down the narrow roadway to the right). The cost of a taxi will be around 20 Jordanian Dinars (JD), which is about US $28. So if you can find someone with whom to share a ride, you will be ahead. It would be a good idea to exchange some money at the airport (getting small bills) so you can pay for the taxi in local currency (they won’t take anything else). Agree on the price before you get in. There are plenty of taxis, so you do have choices. A small tip is normal.
DURING THE DIG
Camp and Camp Life
The MPP staff will be housed at the Amman Training College in southern Amman which provides reasonably comfortable, but somewhat primitive dormitory-style living accommodations. There will also be a few rooms for married couples/families. We are expecting participants from around the world to be a part of the team living in camp. Facilities for food, sleeping, and sanitation are, even if spartan, quite adequate for our needs as archaeologists. Travel to work each day is by bus, `Umayri being approximately 10 minutes away.
Camp life is enriched by the cosmopolitan nature of our community. Individuals of diverse backgrounds, cultures, areas of specialty, and religious persuasion make up the group of dig participants. Everyone has daily camp and/or lab responsibilities, but there is also time for recreation, touring (on weekends, especially), and academic, cultural and devotional enrichment.
Although our first week in Jordan will vary somewhat from the normal daily schedule because of orientation events and activities in camp and in the field, the typical week day looks like this:
|4:30||first breakfast at ATC|
|5:00||departure for work site|
|5:30||work commences at work site|
|9:00||second breakfast at work site|
|12:30||close down field work/return to camp|
|1:00||main meal at ATC|
|2:00||quiet time (silence strictly enforced)|
|4:00||lab work - pottery, artifacts, recording, etc.|
|6:00||supper at ATC|
|7:00||lectures, work on notebooks, etc.|
|9:00||bedtime (silence strictly enforced)|
Weekends are free for travel, recreation, catching up on notebooks, etc. Worship opportunities include a vespers service on Friday evenings, Saturday morning worship at the Amman Seventh-day Adventist Church, and a number of options for worship on Sunday. Visits to mosques might be possible, as well.
Travel in Jordan
There are many things to see and do on weekends in Jordan. MPP arranges several relatively inexpensive tours for participants, often including one major trip to sites in the north (Jerash, Umm Qays, Pella, Umm el-Jimmal, etc.) and one to the south (Heshbon, Nebo, Madaba, Dibon, Wadi Mujib, Kerak, Petra, etc.). Although the temptation to travel to surrounding countries might arise on occasion, the dig director strongly discourages international travel during the season. People might want to coordinate travel arrangements in order to visit other countries after the excavation season is over.
The American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) is an international research institute in Amman. In many ways it is also our "home away from home" while we are in Jordan. We will receive and send mail and fax messages here this summer. ACOR also provides hostel accommodations at reasonable rates. If you are planning to come early to Jordan or stay after the dig ends, ACOR may be able to accommodate you (subject to extremely limited space availability during the summer) or to suggest other possibilities.
P.O. Box 2470
Phone: (from the USA) 011 962 6 534 6117
Fax: 011 962 6 534 4181
When telling friends and family about staying in touch with you by snail-mail, make sure they use the ACOR information just listed (but not the ACOR email address except for emergencies) and place YOUR NAME and MADABA PLAINS PROJECT at the top of the address.
Phone access is available everywhere in the country via cell (mobile) phones with foreign SIM cards; one can purchase these easily in Jordan and use pre-paid cards.
Email: At ATC we set up our own wireless system, so if you have a laptop or iPad, bring it.
Other Things to Consider
- Arabic: Although many people in Jordan speak English and a knowledge of Arabic is not required for your work on the dig, you will get along better with your workmen and enjoy your visit to the Middle East so much more if you try to learn some basic Arabic. Resources are available for introductory Arabic in a number of places, but we may be able to find local help for conversational Arabic at the basic level. There will also be available a new Arabic for Archaeologists booklet by Robert Schick, which can be purchased at ACOR for JD2.
Electric Appliances: Electricity is available, even if through a limited number of outlets, for small appliances like shavers and hair dryers (although these draw a large amount of current and need to be used sparingly) and for recharging the ubiquitous batteries we need these days for equipment like cameras. The current in Europe and the Middle East, however, is 220 volts at 50 cycles per second (rather than 110 volts at 60 cycles, as in the USA and Canada). You will need to keep two things in mind: 1) appropriate voltage/wattage/current and 2) the appropriate plug adapter.
Current: Many appliances can be adjusted externally for use with the Middle Eastern electrical system; others like most newer laptops adjust automatically. This is important as appliances will fry quickly if not set correctly. Small transformers which often come in traveler’s kits will work only with appliances which require low wattage. We do have in camp several larger transformers, but most of these are used with (western) power strips for dig equipment. You can recharge batteries using these, but space is limited.
Adapter: There are two types of outlets in Jordan, one for use with plugs with two small round prongs and the other for use with plugs with three flat prongs arranged with two in a line and the third (ground) centered perpendicular to the other two, forming a triangle. Many choose a travel kit with several options, but you really only need these two.
- Laundry: There will be an opportunity to have work pants, cotton shirts, towels, sheets, etc., washed at ATC where we stay. These articles should be marked with the owner's name in indelible ink. It would be wise to bring clothes which you can wash out yourself by hand. These will dry surprisingly quickly in the dry, hot breezes of afternoons in Amman.
- Licenses: Most of you will have no occasion to drive while in Jordan. If you do, many car rental businesses will require an international driver's license, available through AAA offices everywhere in the U.S.A.
- Personal Funds: It is advisable to carry at least a small amount of money in one dollar bills (U.S.) which can easily be exchanged for local currency at most any place. While traveler's checks were used in the past for larger amounts, these are no longer acceptable in most of Jordan. Personal bank checks are not advisable for use in Jordan at all since companies, money changers and banks which do allow them require up to four weeks for them to clear. Credit and debit cards are becoming more acceptable and there are lots of ATM machines around, but you often may pay a surcharge for use of the cards and virtually always for cash withdrawals, depending on your home bank.
- Communication: There are several ways to maintain communication throughout the summer—snail-mail, faxes, phone, email.
The Dig Experience
- Duties of Volunteers: Assignments to various duties will be made by the Director and Chief Archaeologist, in consultation with the core staff. Tasks may change according to needs. Most volunteers will spend a major part of their time excavating and thus receiving practical training in field work and in the recording of finds. Volunteers may also be asked to work on the drawings of sections or balks, and help with the registration of pottery, bones, and seeds. They are expected to attend all staff meetings, and, if earning academic credit, all lectures/class sessions.
- Weekends: Weekends are usually free from late Friday afternoon through Sunday evening. Staff members can travel in Jordan on trips arranged by the dig, sight-see or spend their weekends at leisure in Amman. Expenses for all such weekends spent away from ATC (with the exception of the mid-season trip to Petra) are borne by the staff member.
- Mid-season Trip to Petra: For those participants with the project at mid-season (and this should include full-timers and most half-season volunteers), the dig sponsors a weekend trip to the Rose Red city of Petra for rest and relaxation, Friday (mid-day) 11 July through Sunday (13 July). The dig will cover expenses for travel to and from Petra, hotel lodging and two meals per day. (Veterans, who receive dig discounts because of previous excavation experience will be charged a pro-rated amount for this trip.) Bring sun protection for this trip.
- Worship Services: There are churches of various denominations in Amman which hold their services on Sunday morning and evening. Seventh-day Adventist church services are conducted in Amman on Saturday mornings. The dig chaplain will organize ecumenical services at ATC for those who wish to participate. While the consortium institutions of MPP-`Umayri are Christian schools, the Director is anxious to foster an atmosphere where people of all persuasions (or of no persuasion) can work together and enjoy the kind of cross-fertilization such a setting might provide.
Water in Jordan
A quick note about WATER. While we will talk more about this on your arrival in Jordan, the subject of water is worth a few words before you get there. There may be no more precious commodity in the Middle East than water and it is usually in short supply, sometimes in extremely short supply, especially in Jordan. This means that as visitors to the country, we resist our normal patterns of luxurious water usage and do our best to conserve local natural resources. We will have water to drink and clean ourselves, but we will also need to exert extra intentional effort to be frugal. The immediate significance of all this has to do with two restroom fixtures—showers and toilets.
For showers, please use as little water as humanly possible: 1) turn water on to get wet, 2) turn water off and suds up, 3) turn water on to rinse, 4) turn water off. One can learn to take a shower with a gallon of water or less and feel rather smug about it! Maybe even clean, too.
Most toilets in Jordan, including those at ACOR, use a sewer system which cannot take paper products—of any kind. You will find a basket alongside the toilets for any and all paper products. This will take some getting used to, but will become quite natural after a while. Some have been known to return home with this newly acquired habit.
Clothes and Comfort While Digging in Jordan
Clothes and Comfort While Digging in Jordan by Larry Herr
First timers on excavations to the Middle East often anticipate returning home with a great suntan. They arrive for work in shorts and a T-shirt, or less. The tan is fantastic, but surprisingly the health and gusto of the excavator have suffered to some extent. This is especially true at Tall al-`Umayri. Here's why.
The sun itself can be an enemy. Because Jordan is dry and lacks a protective humidity shield, many Westerners are surprised at the intensity of the sun. Sunstroke is not impossible, but avoidable with careful planning. Clothes, especially hats, protect from this intense solar radiation.
Daily winds at Tall al-`Umayri can be quite strong, howling over the mound at up to 20 miles per hour and more, particularly later in the day. It is wise to wear clothing which covers most of the body to protect against sun and wind.
Strong winds in hot, temperate climates are pleasant for their cooling effect. They are pleasant for the same reasons in arid conditions, such as that at our site, but there is a major difference. In temperate climates there is sufficient humidity in the air to keep your perspiration from evaporating too quickly and to forestall dehydration. In arid climates, however, it is so dry that you don't seem to sweat and your skin can dry out and crack. In reality your body is pumping out perspiration furiously in an attempt to keep your body temperature down, but the dry air picks up the moisture almost as fast as it can be produced. A strong wind added to this scenario means that heat stroke and/or heat exhaustion is a real possibility when your sweat glands tire and your perspiration output declines. In such cases your body temperature rises and you collapse. Serious physical damage can occur to the body.
While you are digging, you may not feel too hot because the wind and the dry air minimizes apparent sweating. On many such days, however, although you drink over a gallon of liquids, you may sometimes not urinate at all. Super bladder? By no means! All that water has simply gone out through your pores! Some workers' shirts can become covered with white marks deposited by body salts which come through the pores with quickly evaporated sweat. That's why dig members are advised to partake heavily of electrolytes, such as salt, to prevent water loss and to replace the body salts when they are lost.
When little clothing is worn, this prodigious amount of perspiration may be evaporated so quickly that the normal cooling effect of perspiration is lost, especially late in the day as the sweat glands tire. This then leads to a rise in body temperature and possible heat stroke. Clothes delay the evaporative process which allows the wind to cool your skin and keep your body temperature down while working your sweat glands less. Have you ever wondered why the Bedouin wear such heavy clothes in the desert? They have learned from long experience that such garb is best in the hot, dry and windy desert.
It's a bummer to over-sweat, however, and the following clothing suggestions are designed to help you maintain a balance between too much and too little protection for the excavator who is used to a warm and humid summer climate. To dress like the Bedouin would be to overdo it, but the following suggestions should prove helpful to you for your own comfort and safety. Every body system is different, however, and you may wish to make modifications.
- Long pants made of a light yet strong material. A polyester/cotton fabric is good and a light brown or tan color shows dirt the least. Ordinary work pants are perfect (and cheap!). Long pants are best for protection from the hot, dry wind and the thorny plants that abound everywhere, but they are also taken for granted when appearing in public in Muslim cultures. This is true for both men and women. Certainly, no shorts! Because there will be a few Muslims on our dig team, this last sensibility should probably be observed for attire most of the time, even in camp.
- A loose-fitting, long-sleeved cotton (light-colored) shirt. This should act basically as a mild windbreaker, protecting your body from the wind and evaporation. The aim is to attain a mildly humid (but pleasant) micro-environment next to your skin similar to a delightful summer day in North America. The long sleeves will protect your arms. Loose garb, moreover, fits the local Muslim sensibilities nicely. Basically, any clothes which fit tightly around the body are considered immodest for both men and women, but especially for women. The Madaba Plains Project respects these sensibilities.
- A more tightly fitting T-shirt for an undershirt. This will wick the sweat from your body and keep you from feeling clammy, but it will also evaporate your sweat at a more-or-less constant, controlled rate which will keep you relatively cool. Obviously, everyone's system is different and this layer of clothing may not be needed, but I find it very helpful, myself, especially in the high winds of Tall al-`Umayri.
- A hat or scarf is necessary for protection from the sun, which beats down unmercifully in the cloudless climate of the Middle East in the summer time. It will also protect your hair from the swirling dust stirred up by excavating. If you don't wear a hat, be prepared to live with dirty hair (long, luxuriating showers are not an option in water-starved Jordan). The hat should be light and cool, but tight fitting around the crown because of the wind.
- Shoes. It is mandatory that flat, smooth soles be worn during excavating. Molded or corrugated soles can quickly destroy a delicate dirt surface. That means most running shoes, gym shoes, and hiking boots/shoes are out for excavation. Persons with unsuitable shoes will not be allowed in the excavation areas. Appropriate shoes may be found by visiting several stores. Do not give up. Some old hands grind down the tread on favorite, well worn tennies.
The success of our excavation depends to some extent on the efficiency of our daily digging schedule and the esprit de corps of the group. Clothes can actually go a long way in maintaining a positive balance to these aspects of a dig.
Provided by the American Center of Oriental Research (ASOR), Amman
This is quite a comprehensive list – one size fits all – so one need not be overwhelmed by it. Many of the potential problems cited here we have never faced on an MPP excavation. Most important are the suggestions regarding water and food. As is usually the case, prevention is the best medicine! We will discuss these matters more fully once we arrive in Jordan.
You will also note among the forms each participant must submit electronically a Medical Form and a Permission of Physician Form. These are essential for your health and well-being on the dig, so take them seriously and fill them out completely, clearly and candidly.
Preventive Health Care and Information
The following information is provided as a courtesy for informational purposes only. It is not comprehensive by any means and is not to be used as a substitute for qualified medical advice/attention. This information was taken from the Johns Hopkins Travel Medicine handout and a Preventive Health Care & Information booklet from the U.S. Embassy in Amman. ACOR is not responsible for any typos, errors, and misinformation provided below.
- Illness caused by contaminated water is common in Jordan. Traveler’s Diarrhea is very common, and only bottled water or boiled and filtered water should be used for drinking, cooking, and brushing teeth. A filter only is not sufficient to purify water. Freezing (ie. ice cubes) does not kill bacteria.
- Boiling is the most reliable method of treating contaminated water. Water should be brought to a hard, rolling boil, for at least 5 minutes. It is recommended that the water be filtered as well after it has been cooled. Water should then be placed in a clean and closed container. If water is provided on a large scale, it is best to place it in large jugs with small taps at the bottom to avoid contamination by hands.
Traveler’s Diarrhea Prevention:
- Avoid tap water and ice cubes.
- Avoid raw vegetables and peel fruit yourself.
- Thoroughly wash and soak all fruits and vegetables (see below)
- Eat fresh, hot, well-cooked foods; avoid food that has been sitting out for an unknown time (ie. some buffets in restaurants) or has been in contact with flies.
- Avoid unpasteurized dairy products and raw or undercooked meat and seafood.
- Loose or watery bowel movements.
- Potential dehydration from excess fluid and electrolyte (sodium, potassium, and glucose) loss; with dark yellow/orange scanty urine, headache, dry mouth, skin and eyes, feeling light headed or fainting.
- Cramps and abdominal discomfort with tiredness and fatigue.
- It is always best to seek the attention of a doctor. Traveler’s diarrhea may pass on its own or require a course of antibiotics to rid the body of parasites (amoebas, giardia, etc).
- For mild diarrhea (less than 3 bowel movements in 24 hours), eat a carbohydrate diet. Avoid high sugar content drinks. Take plenty of liquids.
- For moderate to severe diarrhea (more than 3 bowel movements or diarrhea of large watery volume), seek the advice of a doctor. Eat a carbohydrate diet. Change to a bland diet of bread, rice, wheat, pasta, corn, bananas, soups, potatoes, lean meat, boiled eggs, clear juices, and weak tea. Avoid caffeine, chocolate, spices, dairy products, high sugar content drinks, alcohol, and greasy foods. Maintain a fluid intake of 2-4 quarts/liters in 24 hours. For severe diarrhea, you may need to take a oral rehydration solution (ORS) to replace the electrolytes lost from the diarrhea. The World Health Organization has developed a balanced salt and glucose (simple sugar) mixture, which when added to water and consumed can replace the needed electrolytes. This mixture is available in pharmacies under the brand names Aquasal or Servidrat. It comes in prepackaged sachets and is reconstituted my mixing one sachet in 200cc of water. The correct amount of ORS to be taken each day is dependent on how severe the diarrhea is. If no commercially ORS is available, a homemade solution may be made according to the WHO ORS recipe: Dissolve 3 grams (1/2 teaspoon) of salt, 18 grams (4 teaspoons) of sugar into 1 liter of potable water.
- Seek medical attention with diarrhea when significant fever persists after the first 12-24 hours despite good rehydration; diarrhea is accompanied by vomiting and you are unable to retain the ORS; diarrhea persists more than 2 days.
Food Preparation and Handling
Fruits and Vegetables:
- There are many green grocers around town, and the longer you are here, you will find your favorite. There is a large variety of produce, from Jordan and imported as well, to choose from during most of the year. Buy only the freshest undamaged fruits and vegetables without broken skins. The U.S. Embassy Health Unit recommends the following procedure before consuming:
- Wash and soak for 10 minutes in warm tap water to which 1 tbsp of detergent soap has been added. The container needs to be large enough that all produce is fully submerged.
- Scrub each piece with a brush.
- Rinse off all soap with cold tap water.
- Follow by soaking them in a chlorine solution for 15 minutes. One tbsp of liquid Clorox in one gallon of water will provide the right properties.
- After fifteen minutes, rinse with potable water, let drip dry and store in refrigerator.
- Leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, parsley, and celery are difficult to sterilize. Amoebic cysts are viable in the soil for over 20 years and can be absorbed into the veins of these vegetables.
- Discard eggs with cracked shells.
- Use only clean eggs, not ones covered with soil.
- Eggs should be thoroughly cooked. The yolks of fried and boiled eggs should be thoroughly firm. Omelets and scrambled eggs should be firm throughout and not wet.
- Do not eat raw eggs or use dishes/utensils that have not been cleaned after being in contact with raw eggs.
- Eat only meat that has thoroughly been cooked. There should be no red meat or juices.
- Dogs, Cats (Rabies)
Rabies is endemic to Jordan. Avoid contact with stray dogs and cats. No matter how sorry you feel for a stray cat, a helpless kitten, a friendly dog, DO NOT put food out for it or play with it because you will domesticate it and it will not leave. This animal may carry rabies or some other disease or be prone to biting. If bitten or scratched:
- Wash the area for 20 minutes with copious amounts of flowing water and soap to remove all saliva
- Apply iodine (Betadine) or Mercurochrome solution, alcohol, or any disinfectant, as available
- Notify a doctor immediately
- Observe the animal for two weeks if possible.
- You may need to undergo post-exposure rabies treatment. Ask your doctor.
- Schistosomiasis (Bilharzia) is a parasitic disease present in some areas of Jordan. It can be contacted by wading or swimming in fresh water canals, rivers, and lakes. For this reason, it is only safe to swim in chlorinated pools, the Dead Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba, or a thermal hot spring. Therefore do not walk, wade, swim, or dangle your hands or arms in any fresh water pools, streams, or lakes in Jordan.
- The presence of arthropod-borne diseases have been reported in Jordan. An arthropod disease is one that is carried and transmitted by arthropods such as ticks, spiders, mosquitoes, flies, and fleas. The diseases under this category are too many to be listed. The symptoms of some are very much like the flu. Symptoms may be characterized by a sudden onset of moderate to high fever which persists up to 3 weeks, significant feelings of malaise (feeling of discomfort or uneasiness), deep muscle pain, sever headaches, and chills. The symptoms may also be accompanied by a rash that is measle-like in appearance. The rash generally appears on the third day of the fever and may spread. The incubation period after a bite until onset of illness ranges from about 3 to 14 days. With prompt recognition of a tick or other bite and treatment with a course of antibiotics, serious and significant disease is usually avoided. Untreated, these diseases can cause permanent damage or be fatal. Scorpions and Centipedes.
- Scorpions may be found both inside and outside the home. There are six species found in Jordan, with the yellow scorpions having the highest toxicity, followed by the black ones. Light and dark brown scorpions are non-toxic. If a scorpion stings you, it is advisable to put ice on the area and go to a hospital ER or other local clinic immediately. If possible, bring the captured or dead scorpion with you. Centipedes are also found both inside and outside the home. Their bite can cause severe local and sometimes general symptoms, but are rarely fatal. Apply ice to the bite and see a doctor.
[Although we sometimes see snakes, no one from the Madaba Plains Project remembers any problems with them.]
- Jordan has 32 species of snakes. Most are harmless, but there are a few that are venomous and potentially dangerous. Non-poisonous snakes have a single row of small teeth on both upper and lower jaws. When they bite, they leave a semi-circle of small, even puncture marks. Venomous snakes have fangs with which to inject poison, and their bites are distinguished by two deep puncture marks. Two types of venomous snakes are found in different parts of Jordan that are of particular concern.
- The Walterinnesia Aegyptia. A black snake 100-200 cm long, with a smooth head shaped the same as its body. If bitten by this snake, symptoms may be drowsiness and difficulty in swallowing.
- The Vipera Palestine. Usually found in the Jordan Valley. It is about 60-100 cm long and has a ‘V’ shape of color on its head.
- A good rule of thumb to go by in identifying dangerous snakes is that if it has a fat body and triangular shaped head, it should be regarded as poisonous. Note that the Walterinnesia does not fit into this rule.
If a person is bitten by a poisonous snake, three important steps should be followed:
- Keep the person quiet, have them lie down, and carry them to transportation.
- Take care of the victim’s psychological state. Keep him/her quiet. The more excited the victim is, the faster the venom will circulate.
- Take the victim to the nearest hospital ER or medical center. The nearest clinic may or may not have anti-venom. The Embassy has reported that Al-Bashir Government Hospital and Jordan University Hospital have anti-venom.
The American Embassy in Amman recommends the following immunizations for travel to Jordan. Record of immunizations should be listed in the "yellow book" to accompany your passport. You should also list your blood type in case of emergency. Please check with your physician for his/her recommendations regarding these immunizations.
- Typhoid - required every three years.
- Tetanus Diphtheria - required every ten years.
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B (now on recommended list for all Americans)
- Meningitis - recommended every three years.
- Malaria - no malaria in Amman, occasionally present in the Jordan Valley.
- Cholera - not required.
Poisonous Bites - any bite that provokes an unusual reaction (excessive swelling, soreness, redness, etc.) should be looked at by a doctor immediately. Do not wait “to see what will happen.” Waiting too long may cause serious or permanent illness or physical damage.
Scorpions - Yellow scorpions have the highest toxicity, followed by black. Light and dark brown scorpions are usually not poisonous.
Centipedes - can cause severe local and sometimes general symptoms, but are rarely fatal. The centipede locally known as the "Forty-four," (yellowish-tan, approximately 8 inches long) is the most common poisonous type.
Spiders - Black Widow. The large "camel spiders" are not poisonous, but can inflict a bite. The brown recluse can cause serious damage.
Ticks - themselves are not poisonous but may carry transmittable diseases in Jordan. Ticks are associated with horses, camels, dogs, cats, rodents, small mammals, cave dung, as well as other sources.
Wasps - The big brown and yellow "cow-killer" wasps will cause an immediate reaction even in those not normally allergic to bee stings. Local first-aid clinics will usually have anti-venom shots available. If you are allergic to bee stings, you should carry your "kit" with you at all times.
Snakes - Jordan has many snakes - some of which are not fully known or classified by biologists. Always assume it is poisonous. Local first-aid clinics may or may not have anti-venom shots available.
Doctors, Hospitals, and Pharmacies
Doctors generally have clinic hours from 10:00 am-1:00 pm and from 4:00-6:00 pm, except Fridays or Sundays.
The Jordan Center for Family Medicine takes care of the whole family and is recommended by the U.S. Embassy in Amman. The Center is located on Mecca Street and is open from 8:30 until 12:30 and 16:00 until 19:00. Dr. Mazen M. Al-Bashir. Telephone: 551-3640/1 or 551-3651; Fax: 552-1420, pager: 552-9999 # 03640.
A list of recommended specialists by the U.S. Embassy can be obtained from ACOR’s office.
Hospitals in Amman Al-Bashir Government Hospital Tel: 477-5111 Jabal Ashrafieh Amman Surgical Hospital Tel: 464-1261; Fax: 464-1260 Jabal Amman, 3rd Circle Arab Center for Heart and Special Surgery Tel: 592-1199; ER No. 592-5801 ER No. 592-1199, ext. 750, 751, or 752 Lab ext. 741 Fax: 592-1282 Jabal Amman, 5th Circle Khalidi Hospital Tel: 464-4281/9 (9 lines) Between 3rd and 4th circles, near Hala Inn Hotel King Hussein Medical Center Tel: 585-6856 or 581-5572 Turn right at 8th Circle, 2 km on left Specialty Hospital Tel: 569-3693 or 569-3741 Across from Sports City Jordan Hospital Tel: 562-0777 Hospitals outside Amman (some numbers out of date) Aqaba Princess Haya Military Hospital, Tel: 03-201-4111/6 Madaba Nadim Hospital, Tel: 05-324-1701 Government Hospital, Tel: 05-324-1700 Irbid Government Hospital-Princess Basma Hospital, Tel: 02-275-555 Salt Government Hospital, Tel: 05-552-957/8 Zarqa Military Hospital, Tel: 05-398-0621 Government Hospital, Tel: 05-398-3323/4/5 Kaser Shabib Hospital, Tel: 05-398-2370 Ma'an Government Hospital (Closest hospital to Petra), Tel: 03-213-102/222 Karak Military Hospital-Prince Ali Hospital, Tel: 03-386-371/2-4 Wadi Mousa Medical Center, Tel: 03-215-6434 Petra Medical Clinic (Caravan only nurse in charge), Tel: 03-215-7161 Pharmacies
Check the Jordan Times newspaper for a list of pharmacies open 24 hours a day in your area. Pharmacies are numerous in Amman and can be found easily just by driving around. There is one located in the Tla'a al-Ali suq and several on Gardens St. Most hospitals and medical centers/doctor office complexes have pharmacies located within easy walking distance. Download this document
"The Life of a Square Serf: A Participant's Observations" by G. L. Kremer
Being a sociologist by education and a high school teacher by profession allows me to observe many unique social interactions. None have been more interesting than my experience with the dig at Tall al-`Umayri (Jordan) in the summer of 2004. This observation should be placed in a category I will refer to as the sociology of archaeology.
Like many others I have always entertained the dream of participating in an archaeological dig. As a teacher of history and world religions, I have also harbored a longing to visit the Middle East, the Holy Land. My dream came true on both counts through a circuitous route which led me into the realm of Dr. Larry Herr and Dr. Doug Clark. These patriarchs co-direct the Madaba Plains Project which comprises an impressively diverse number of sites dating from the Stone Ages through the modern period. Being a rookie, I was placed in a role akin to a beast of burden; I became a square serf. This social status ranges somewhere between an unskilled worker and being in the untouchable caste. The role would have been most fitting during medieval feudal times (thus the serf part!). It soon became obvious that if I did not come back to camp filthy then I must not have accomplished much that day. The need for hot showers for aching bones was a constant reality, but that is another story! Serfs go with the land, so once I was assigned to my place I was subject to whoever ruled that area.
As a sociologist, being at the bottom of the status hierarchy has its advantages. Expectations are more reasonable and your position in the group is painfully clear. The first solid piece of evidence of the social structure came in the form of the dig manual. Within the color coded pages of this truly megalithic work was the base structure of dig society. This manual provided precise organization, definition, and legitimacy for the entire system. It was created by the dig directors (rule by decree).
There are many ways to define a social stratification system; the division of statuses as presented in the dig manual was very clear: Dig Director, Field Leader, Square Leader, square serf. The social stratification system is partly a social class system in that the rank is gained by achieved status and experience is most valued due to the complexity of the science, and partly a feudal, monarchical system where control of land becomes the basis for status. I am sure that Drs. Herr and Clark have looked at themselves as no less than Philosopher Kings on many occasions!
Dig Director: In this case Dr. Doug Clark and Dr. Larry Herr. (The informal power structure was directed by Denise Herr, perhaps she was the true director of the dig!) The Directors organize and 'rule' the dig from its inception (emphasize funding), gathering their staff, logistics (i.e. interacting with the local power structure, equipment, housing, transportation, etc.), education of the workers, and most importantly the execution and documentation of the dig. Once in place this position is equal to king in the feudal system.
Field Leader: Field 'L' (where I was in servitude) was ruled by Dr. David Hopkins who was assisted by Dr. Mary Boyd. This position oversees the excavation of a certain area within the dig site. Field leaders consult with the dig directors in planning strategies and interpreting finds. They select members of their team from the volunteers/students and choose laborers from the local workers. They guide the square leaders and make strategic determinations regarding where and how to dig, division of labor, and motivating the workers. They file daily reports on the status of work in their field. The Field Leader would fill the status of noble in the Feudal system. The 'Field' is their 'Fief,' which is obtained through the power of the Dig Director.
Square Leaders: There were three squares in field 'L.' I was assigned to square 99. We would 'open a new square,' a five-meter-by-five-meter area, where no one had excavated before. Square 99 had Dr. Boyd as its leader. Her role was to consult with the field co-leader, direct the workers in the square, and document the location and finds within it. Square leaders would train and supervise the serfs as to the technique to be used to excavate certain areas. They also would monitor the 'sifts' where each container of soil would be separated and analyzed for artifacts, bones and flint. I would liken her to a vassal in the Feudal system. In this case, part of the church (Mary is a practicing minister).
Square Serfs: Last and least in the structure are the square serfs. Our job was to lift, carry, dig, sift, break rocks, pull weeds, straighten balks, wash, and basically follow the orders of all superior members of the dig. We were, to put it in the words of our field leader, "...to work with haste, but carefully!" There were two strata within square serfdom, volunteer/student and local worker. The volunteers and students all paid their way to come half way around the world to have the experience. The locals were paid. It is still somewhat unclear which of the strata should be considered superior! We were most noticeably separated by language and custom. If there was a difference in labor, the local workers usually did not get to do 'fine digging' in areas where there were potential finds to be made, and only a few local workers were allowed to work the sift. We belonged to the square and owed allegiance to the vassals and nobles above us, like all good serfs. My square mates were volunteer Rev. Tony Sears, and local workers Mohammad, Ahmad, and Hamsa. The local workers were shared by the entire field, so they worked with us at various times but were in other squares at times. So Tony and I felt a bit more 'ownership' of the square. Culture shock and jet lag were hard upon me the first day in camp. I was introduced to Dr. David Hopkins. He was in the process of a very important construction project, building the latrine enclosure for the site. This magnificent edifice was made with wood and burlap. Of course I felt compelled to assist. My participation in this exercise would prove to be prophetic in nature.
The normative structure presented was biased toward observing certain cultural imperatives even over the discipline of the dig site. Being aware of local lifestyles and being inoffensive was of utmost importance. Dress was emphasized. We were in a conservative Islamic area where shorts were not viewed as proper attire, and women should be totally covered and not accentuate their figures. Women were much protected. The guards at the facility would be extremely concerned if a group of women, unescorted by men, were to arrive back at camp too late in the evening. The use of alcohol or any other intoxicants was forbidden in camp. It was interesting though that the equivalent of convenience stores did carry beer, and there were areas in Amman and other places in Jordan where alcohol was permitted. Speaking of Israel in public places was not advisable. Time schedules were of ultimate importance and should be followed precisely.
At the top of the normative structure was water discipline. Water is scarce and precious in the arid Jordanian climate, though the high ground around the city of Amman has considerably more water than the southern and eastern desert regions. Water was sold and delivered by truck. The water was pumped to a tank on the roof of the building from which it was gravity-fed through pipes. Running out of water was not uncommon in Jordan. Showers were to be taken in such a way as to conserve (shutting off the water while soaping up). Flushing the 'toilet' was done with a small jug. There was no hot water at our camp. And drinking water was either in bottles or boiled. Wasting water was very offensive. The toilet facilities included Turkish toilets, a porcelain tray with a hole placed in the floor. These facilities were not equipped to handle paper. So toilet paper was discarded into small waste baskets (There's that toilet thing again!) By the end of the dig many of us had become more conservative about water than the locals. (The two 'western toilets' were badly overused.) As for taking drinking water to the site was concerned, a local pottery vessel called an ibrique was the most convenient and definitely superior at keeping the water cool. Drinking plenty of water was a necessity for survival on the dig site.
Behavior at the dig site and at camp was dominated by the normative structure and practices defined in the dig manual. Our day began at 4:15 a.m. when Dr. Clark would chime the bells in the courtyard between the dormitories. Most of us had already been awakened by the call to prayer from the local mosques. We were usually on the site by 5:15 a.m. Our regulations included many directives from identification of objects to digging practice. Clothing should include long sleeves, large hat, gloves, and most useful of all knee pads! Soles of shoes should be smooth. Tools such as a trowel, hand pick, broom and dust pan were the daily instruments of labor. Sometimes we would use pick, shovel, and sledge hammer. The sifts were set up strategically near the squares. Elevations and pictures were taken each morning and at various other times when locations changed. Soil analysis was taken to detect changes in strata. Buckets were tagged for artifact documentation. Sift piles were shoveled out. These and other activities were carefully orchestrated from the top to the bottom of the social structure.
Before long Tony and I strung out the square and began to strip the top levels of soil from the space. The smell of goat urine was very evident. For the next few days we worked through many feet of dirt and rocks that held precious few artifacts. As we dug, the dirt was placed into a rubber bucket called a guffah. Every guffah was dumped in the sift and examined for valuable items. The process of sifting demanded special training. Identification of important objects took a bit of time to learn. While searching the sift for artifacts, we discovered that pottery was by far the most plentiful find. Some pieces were of great value such as portions of rims, bottoms, or inscribed pottery. These were called 'diagnostics' because the type and age of the item could be determined by examining them. Body sherds, small pieces of the wall or body portion of the artifact, were of little value by themselves. Tiny pieces were so plentiful that they had to be 'Mookified,' or sorted out and left on site. (This process is named after long-time square leader Don Mook). Bone and flint were often difficult to see among the rocks. And small objects like ear rings and spindle whorls could easily be missed if too much haste was taken during examination of the sift. Most square serfs preferred this job to all others. Even though it was dirty, it was not as hard as digging and you had a better chance of making a find.
About two weeks into the dig we began to uncover architectural artifacts, in this case walls. One wall ran diagonally along the southern balk of our square. It looked as though it might be the continuation of a Hellenistic era farmhouse. Tony and I were both eagerly anticipating the excavation of this small area, speculating that it would be rich with artifacts.
When the day came to excavate, I took the first turn digging. After a few moments I made a most impressive find. I uncovered the latrine area from a dig 20 years ago! (the ultimate toilet thing!). What was a serf to do? So I continued and dug out the entire area. This most unpleasant task was witnessed by many of my fellow serfs as well as higher ranking dig members. The atmosphere (for them) was jocular while I wallowed in …. After the complete evacuation of the latrine, I continued to dig in the last remaining area. I was spent, and turned over the digging to my companion Tony. Within minutes he uncovered an almost intact Hellenistic juglet! Poetic justice.
This brings me to the discussion of positive sanctions. The most rewarding moment for a square serf is when they make a significant discovery or 'find.' A reconstructible artifact or an intact artifact found in situ is the most exciting moment. All work in the area stops; everyone looks at the find; cameras record the careful excavation and removal; and a slight glimmer of glory surrounds the digger. It is what keeps us coming back every day (unless you are being paid). Unfortunately, my find was noticed just as much as Tony's (but far less respectfully). All of the hard work seems worthwhile when you uncover a significant piece of the past. One thing of lasting value certainly happened as a result of the levity surrounding the 'great latrine excavation,' the creation of a new archaeological term. This bit of genius was the product of one of the student square serfs named Matthew Vincent. The term is Bioturdation: disturbance of the strata by the intrusion of human feces. I feel touched that I was part of such creativity.
The excitement surrounding the find of the 'Whale Shrine' in field B was a definite high point of the dig. A teacher from Pittsburgh, Dr. Ellen Bedell, uncovered the top of an upright stone. Because of the rounded top protruding from the dirt, Ellen and her fellow serfs called the find the 'Whale Shrine' (humped back). When Ellen left for home, Carolyn Waldron and Monique Acosta completed the excavation under the careful guidance of their field leader, Mr. Kent Bramlett. The find turned out to be a shrine and related sacrificial objects were found in the area. The dating of the shrine places it in the Late Bronze Age (circa 1400 B.C.E.). There was far more than a glimmer of glory beaming from the entire team in field B. The analysis seems to point to the stone as a representation of a god (perhaps El?) but there is uncertainty as to which god. The dig was energized by the find and the team developed great social solidarity. One find like this has the capacity to make the entire dig effort a success.
The morning break was called 'second breakfast.' By around 9:15 a.m. just about everyone was ready for some rest, food and water. There was an enclosure made from a large box-like aluminum frame and rugs for covering. It gave shade, but did not protect much from the wind since it was open at each end. We would eat local food, mostly falafel and shwarma and finished with a piece of watermelon. Most days I would stand outside and talk to Mr. Aktham Oweidi, the inspector on site for the Jordanian Department of Antiquities. I learned a great deal from Aktham as to the background of the workers and local customs. After about half an hour we would return to work. Normal quitting time was 12:30 pm. The sun and wind could be brutal in the afternoon. Some of the workers had problems with the sun and heat, but overall they handled the environment well. We would gather our equipment and board the bus for camp usually arriving right on time for lunch at 1:00p.m. Many times I would not eat; rather, I would try to replace fluids.
Since there was no hot water, the afternoon was best for taking showers. The water tank on the roof would be warmed by the sun and the water would be almost body temperature. Not very soothing, but at least you could get a good bit of the dirt off. From 2:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon was "quiet time." Some would nap; others would fill out reports; still others would try to get on a computer and communicate with home. As the dig progressed, more and more of us used this as a rest period. The physical exertion of the dig accumulated over time, making a serf weary by the end of the project.
The last work function of each day of digging was pottery washing and reading. When we got back to camp we would fill the artifact buckets with water and let the contents soak for a few hours. At 4:00 p.m. we met under a covered walkway where we would use brushes to wash the dirt from the pottery sherds and artifacts. This is when you appreciated those that 'Mookified' their pottery. We would separate the 'diagnostics' from the less valuable pieces. Then all of the sherds would be put in white plastic baskets where they would dry overnight. Each day our square leaders would place the finds of the day before on long tables recording how many pieces were in each basket. Then Dr. Herr would come and 'read' the pottery. As he called out information we would hastily write down what he was saying. If a piece was especially interesting it would be identified as 'publish,' or to be used as an illustration in publications. We would be happy serfs if Dr. Herr declared some of our pieces 'publishable.' To me this was the most fascinating part of the day, though I often did not get to see the reading because I was washing pottery.
We would eat dinner about 6:00 pm. After that time we had a few hours for free time. There were no televisions or radios in camp so many of us would sit outside in the cool evening and talk. By 9:00 p.m. it was lights out. 4:15 a.m. would come quickly. Almost everyone obeyed these laws to the letter. The biggest challenge of sleeping was keeping out the mosquitoes. Most of us had netting over our bunks, but it seemed like one or two of the nasty critters would get in every night. Sometimes it remained hot and still at night. But most of the time a cool wind would make sleeping a bit easier. A few of the crew resorted to sleeping on the roof so they could get the breeze.
On the weekends one of the dig leaders or field leaders would take those who were interested on tours of Jordan. We saw many ancient sites and were always treated kindly by the local people and fellow archaeologists wishing to share information about their dig. We also visited many places such as Petra, Aqaba, Wadi Rum, Mt. Nebo, Amman, Umm Qays, Jerash, Shobak, Madaba, Kerak, and others. It was fascinating to see the Bedouin that still lived in what was called a 'tent culture.' We learned that nearly one third of the people of Jordan live this way. The culture and lifestyle itself is thousands of years old. The Jordanians are resilient, hardy, and believe deeply in the laws of hospitality and family honor. Islam is the religion of the state, though they are very tolerant of Christianity. Perhaps the most controversial issue within Jordanian culture at that time was 'retribution killings.' Young females who had been (or had been perceived to be) sexually active before marriage were being killed by their families as a matter of honor.
As I conclude this first series of observations, I would like to focus on one of the most interesting facets of the archaeologist, a social-psychological phenomena I refer to as their 'blended' self image. The participants of our team were, for the most part, academicians and students. Many of the volunteers were involved in anything but rugged, hard hitting, physically strenuous lifestyles. Yet inside of each person was the spirit of an adventurer, the ethic of a construction worker, and the intellectual ability to do detailed scholarly analysis and research. This state of 'mental agility' (with a bit of masochism) made most of the personalities capable, self sufficient, and determined. Many times it was surprising to see these qualities emerge from individuals that did not 'look the part.'
As an overall analysis, I would say that the social structure of the group was well ordered and supervised. Our nobles and vassals were benevolent and clear about their directives. The serfs tried to complete all tasks and fulfill the expectations of their superiors. The targeted areas were excavated and many discoveries made. The group functioned as intended both in the areas of cultural coexistence and archaeology. The directors were competent and professional in their archaeological pursuits. Above all they were compassionate to their subjects and mindful of the locals. They did the best possible job providing for the many needs of the camp and the field. Their obvious friendship and collaboration filtered down to the lowest strata in dig society. All of us wanted to do a thorough and professional job. The group became cohesive quickly and stayed that way for the duration. It can truly be said that the dig was successful on all counts.
It is certainly no easy task to gather together a diverse group and organize them quickly into a smoothly functioning unit. It is even more complex to work this feat half way around the world. The social-organizational skills of the dig directors and their key assistants were worked into a finely honed program that was already a proven success. The cooperation of the Jordanian Department of Antiquities and the American Center of Oriental Research were exemplary. Above all, the camaraderie and esprit de corps of the group was a joy to behold. All of this seems to point to an efficient, competent, and productive execution of multicultural interactions and archaeological science at the dig of Tall al'Umayri.
Quote from the Late Monarch, His Majesty King Hussein
"Jordan itself is a beautiful country. It is wild, with limitless deserts where the bedouin roam, but the mountains of the north are clothed in green forests, and, where the river flows, it is fertile in summer and winter. Jordan has a strange, haunting beauty and a sense of timelessness. Dotted with the ruins of empires once great, it is the last resort of yesterday in the world of tomorrow. I love every inch of it. I love Amman, where I was born, and which I have seen grow from a township. I am still awed and excited each time I set eyes on the ancient city of Petra, approached by a defile so narrow that a dozen Nabateans could hold an army at bay. Above all I feel at home in the tribal black tents in the desert."
[from his autobiography, Uneasy Lies the Head]