Jordan (Some)Times

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THE (Occasional) JORDAN (Some)TIMES

Sunday 11 August 2002
Volume 1, Issue 11

– Extra Edition
Although the last issue of The Jordan (Some)Times (26 May) was indeed the final edition, it just seemed inappropriate, during my last week of an eight-month stay in Jordan, not to crank out an "extra" of the paper, and to do so at no additional cost to loyal subscribers.

My sincere thanks to all of you (discriminating and nondiscriminating readers and non-readers) for putting up with this enterprise. Now it and my tenure in Jordan come to an end. I have thoroughly enjoyed my stint as a research fellow at the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman and will leave it a week from today with seriously mixed emotions. Family ties call, as does my employing institution, wondering where I have been for so long and thinking it best that I get back to do some real work for my salary.

But it will be difficult to leave the country of Jordan and its people. There is no friendlier place in the world, no safer country in the Middle East, no more hospitable and generous people than traditional Arabs. We could only wish them and everyone else in the current vortex of violence and despair a measure of the peace and prosperity - salaam and success - that we enjoy.

– The Weather in Amman
Yesterday - High 32C/90F - Low 14C/58F - clear skies from east of Eden to west of the Pecos
Today - High 32C/89F - Low 16C/61F - early-morning clouds, otherwise sunny
Tomorrow - High 35C/95F - Low 22C/72F - without clouds
[Last rainfall on 14 May. Some partly cloudy days since, but no precipitation ... likely until October or November.]

– Overheard in Jordan

"All that's left is a pitiful remnant." - Patricia Bikai, Associate Director of ACOR, at lunch on Friday, 9 August, looking straight at me after virtually the entire MPP-`Umayri team had already gone home. In a serious gender reversal for this part of the world, she calls me Douglas al-Carmen, to make sure I know who is boss in our house.

"Next office, please." - supervisor behind his desk on the third floor of the old decrepit-looking four-story Parcel Post Office in downtown Amman, where one has to go to collect packages sent from outside the country of Jordan.

"Next office, please." - parcel-postal employee from behind the counter of the next office, located on the fourth floor of the Parcel Post Office.

"Next office, please." - eight more supervisors and postal employees at the Parcel Post Office, happily sending Larry Herr and me to yet more offices on the four floors, in a convoluted order, to receive stamps and pay customs fees in a couple of locations, all to retrieve a manuscript mailed from Europe and a set of MPP volumes sent by Andrews University Press to be given to one of our land owners as a gift.

"Welcome to Jordan!" - virtually every police officer and military checkpoint guard in the entire country of Jordan, most located near the border with Israel in the Rift Valley from Aqaba in the south to Shuneh in the north.

"Give me a break!" - highway patrol officer with limited command of English who had stopped Jeepers for what the policeman claimed was excessive speed, after an extended discussion about the actual speed and the fact that I was in the country doing archaeology for the Department of Antiquities, he holding my driver's license and auto registration form, I holding forth as best I could. Seems he really meant to say: "I will give you a break ... this time." He was very nice.

"You may not do that! No! Please! It's not right! Don't even think about it!" - older female relative of the groom at a wedding banquet in the open-air courtyard of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Amman where 300 guests were enjoying the evening reception and would soon (by 11:00 or 11:30 pm) be devouring the sumptuous buffet meal provided for the occasion - spoken to Larry Geraty, Carmen and me as we were getting up from our table to leave so we could get some sleep before early-morning flights home for Larry and Carmen the next day.

– Letters to the Editor (responding to the 26 May "Final" Edition)
[Screened, as usual, by the censorship committee for content, style and, most important, for attitude.]

"Thanks for a job well done. We've enjoyed each and every one. I have forwarded a number of them to my children in Oregon and California. Your notes concerning Amman have made me both homesick and dismayed. I thought I'd seen most of Amman but each letter reminds me I've come no where close." - Veteran MPPite in the field this summer.

"Please tell me that you're not serious about this being your Final Edition! If so, then :-( ! This decision comes awfully close to ruining our friendship! As usual, I find each issue riveting and captivating. Do consider going back on your professional word, and give us more issues of The Jordan (Some)Times; it's become more than interesting reading -- it becomes OUR adventure along with you. (I need to talk to you about your use of the word "harem", however! :-))" - my personal first choice for circulation manager.

"Thanks so much! Now I understand the graduation gift the Union Theological Seminary Alumni Association gave us. It is a desk clock, "business catalog modern", in which the hours from 3:00 to 9:00 (the bottom half of the dial) are marked with dashes (numbers must be too old-fashioned), but the hours from 10:00 to 2:00 are not indicated in any manner, save for 12:00. I ponder, is this a way to keep me from thinking about time when I am in my office (often 9:00 to 3:00 or so) or is this an effort to move me into Middle Eastern time where things happen insha`allah (if God wills)?" - a busy pastor and veteran MPPite in the field this summer.

"Thanks for the (Some)Times. I've appreciated your humor and insights and the information about a part of the world I hadn't known much about. I understand the perspective of the Jordanians and other Arabs better from having seen some of them through your eyes." - a nice person.

"Just wanted to let you know that I too appreciate your newsletters. It's very interesting to see that country from the inside track and it helps me to put away my misconceptions. Your sense of humor hasn't changed since Greek or Hebrew. (Ah, that's a good thing :)" - another nice person.

– The Madaba Plains Project - 'Umayri-2002
The Madaba Plains Project-`Umayri excavation season of 2002 is now over. The summer has ended, the harvest is past and we have saved a few things for posterity! The smaller group of 37 participants this year, while limited in the number of specialists and veterans who normally come and whom we missed dearly, did reduce the logistical challenges we always face with large groups of people in a foreign land. Things ran extremely smoothly, especially since the participants were all above average. To get a feel for the people and what they produced in six weeks of excavation, visit the MPP website (www.wwc.edu/mpp) and click on "Jordan Updates."

There you will read about and see photos of our work in Fields B, H and L on the western and southern portions of the tell. You will discover what we uncovered of the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1400 BC) at `Umayri (with its remarkably well preserved and extremely rare [at least] three- to four-room building with walls surviving to over 10 feet high); about the massive Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age (ca. 1200 BC) refuse pit which nearly doubled in size from what we knew previous to this season and contained some 25,000 fragments of animal bones; about the late Iron I (ca. 1050 BC) plaster surfaces of what had to be a sacred site of some kind and which produced remains of at least three ceramic shrine models (see photos of one discovered last season on the website under "Photos") and possibly an incense stand; about the late Iron II (ca. 600 BC) domestic buildings, only remnants of which remain along with nearly completely preserved large storage jars; about the Hellenistic farmstead with long, parallel rooms used about 150 BC, which contained all kinds of domestic pottery for cooking and textiles; about the additional seals and seal impressions found this year, bringing our total for the site to 90 some.

So, the season was extremely productive and pleasant. A nice venue, something fun to do and adequate company always add up to a positive experience; meeting even two out of these three criteria will do, but we had all three.

We also enjoyed visits to `Umayri by numerous people and groups. Ghazi Bisheh, former Director-General of the Department of Antiquities visited more than once, as did long-time Jordanian excavator, Fawzi Zayadine. The Canadian Ambassador, with Pierre Bikai, Director of ACOR, and Arty Joukowsky of the Brown University Great Temple Project in Petra, spent an hour and a half at the site, the ambassador in particular thoroughly intrigued by what he saw, asking all kinds of perceptive questions. Other excavators in Jordan came by: Tim Harrison, Andrew Graham and others from the Tall Madaba Project just down the road; Udo and Ushi Worschech continuing their work at al-Balu` in ancient Moab; John Strange and his wife from Copenhagen who work on a Bronze and Iron Age site in the north (Tall al-Fukhar); Nabil Atallah and Mahmoud Rassan from Yarmuk University with some of their epigraphy students (Nabil brought a couple of his students back to work on a Greek [tomb?] inscription on the eastern slope of the tell, published originally by David Merling); Ben Porter an ACOR fellow working on pottery and clay sources and a nice chap from Baylor University whose name escapes me at the moment since I was at the moment he arrived overtaken by some sort of sudden sickness and had to be picked up from the approach stairs to the site right after he got there (it was a bit embarrassing, I'll have to admit, greeting him with: "I think I going to be sick!" I mean, he did want to talk about participating in the project with some of his students and seemed genuinely interested). We also enjoyed two visits by one of the land owners of `Umayri, whom we had not met personally prior to this summer. His name is Jebril Abu Ayshah and he owns the Yahala Quality Sweet Shops in Jeddah and Amman.

I will give a tour of the site to the Friends of Archaeology of Jordan on Friday, a special group of people interested in and supportive of Jordanian archaeology from the inside. Plans also include a visit and tour next weekend by HRH Princess Sumaya before I leave to return to the US. She has long been interested in our project, encouraging us to continue the work we do and maintain the standards we hold.

Results from our work this season will become (has become preliminarily) available on the web; in short reports we have already given to the Department of Antiquities; in several lectures we have delivered and have yet to deliver in Jordan, the US and Canada; at seminars in the US next year; in presentations to the Annual Meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research in Toronto this November; in short articles for the Newsletter of the American Center of Oriental Research in Jordan and the American Journal of Archaeology section on excavations in Jordan; in longer articles in Andrews University Seminary Studies and the Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan; in a monograph on the 2002 season, published by Andrews University, and finally as part of the final publication of our work at `Umayri at some point down the road, we hope within our lifetime.

We are also making available to anyone who would like to purchase them a set of slides from this season (mostly archaeological remains and discoveries) and a CD with slides of the site, discoveries and people. These should be ready for distribution in October.

We want to thank lots of people and organizations for their support of our work: the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, the American Center of Oriental Research, the Madaba Plains Project-`Umayri staff and volunteers, MPP-`Umayri institutions (La Sierra University, Canadian University College, Pacific Union College, Walla Walla College) and several generous souls who have contributed to our work.

– The News from ACOR Amman
Well, it's been a quiet week (or so) in ACOR Amman, my home town. And, it's the beginning of my last week here. The end is near (to quote the apocalyptic town crier). Closure is coming upon us, ready or not, like the final curtain of a good play.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. But, what is ending? What stops at this point? In what way does something cease?

Well, since the dig season is now over - the end of excavation for this summer - there are a number of things we will no longer have or do. The comradery of 37 fine people committed to the hard work of archaeology has been special. So the sense of a shared mission to honor our gracious hosts in Jordan by respecting their culture while attempting to live somewhat normally from a western perspective. We will also miss the "MPP Internet Café" ambiance, created in part by the fact that the campus computer center (whose high-speed line and router MPP donated to the Amman Training Centre in south Amman, our headquarters for the summer and our home away from home) was the only air-conditioned building to which we had access, a factor which seemed to draw us en masse every afternoon for the one to two hours it was open for shoulder-to-shoulder, cheek-by-jowl surfing of the web, writing of reports, keeping in touch with relatives via email, just about anything to stay in the cool of the place.

In addition, this week signals the end of the extremely sharp water restrictions we experienced at the Amman Training Centre. Short-shrift showers are now a thing of the past. Water shortages still persist in Jordan, but those turn-it-on-for-a-half-minute-to-get-wet, turn-it-off-for-sudsing-up, turn-it-on-for-a-half-minute-to-rinse, barely wetable washings are gone.

There is also now an end to "No Paper Products in the Pot," a policy deriving from the sewer systems of Jordan which require placing all used toilet paper in a receptacle alongside the pot, thus teaching dig participants a newly acquired habit which might actually remain with them for a few days upon their return home (please be patient with them if you happen to be related to any and should you find TP in unusual places around the house).

Gone as well is the balancing act necessary for negotiating the Turkish toilets (one-holers with two foot pads on the sides). This too is an acquired habit, demanding careful attention to foot placement and the strengthening of muscles in the feet and legs to provide optimal stability while aiming for that wee little hole (some have discovered that a plumb-bob helps). If anyone happens to spot shoe prints on their toilet seats at home, you can be aware of their cause and know that, with patience, most people, if history is any guide, will bring this habit to an end as well.

This all ties in to the end of what we call the "food-systems" theoretical research design of the Madaba Plains Project. "Food systems" approaches suggest that one way of accessing the meaning and practice of life in antiquity is to consider a factor which lies at the heart of survival: the procurement, production, storage, preparation, consumption and disposal of edible materials. If procurement and production are at the beginning, disposal is at the end. The huge refuse pit signaled the end of the process. So do ancient restrooms ... and modern ones too.

The end of the dig season also signals the end of something else - that consarned set of two rising bells, rung with variations on a theme every morning without fail at 4:15. Threats on the life of the bell ringer aside, these implements of early morning torture just have to go. There is no room, especially in the college dormitories to which many of our dig participants will return this fall, for 4:15-am bells, however delightful or diversified the sounds. This is because in college dormitories student zombies, having gone to bed at 4:15 am, if at all, will sleep through even the best bell-ringing performance if it takes place before noon. Classes should be banned before 1:00 in the afternoon since students don't wake up until then anyway, if at all.

So, although there may seem to be no end to this thing, the end is in sight. The end is also in site - our archaeological site. We will not return to it for another two years. But until then, we will keep working to bring our work to completion with flair and aplomb. Our tools are packed away; our discoveries will be shipped in a large container for land-sea-land transport; our days (daze?) of summer are virtually past; we have completed closedown.

But it really is not the end, only a new point of beginning. Like a college commencement service, the conclusion of our long weeks of hard labor in the sun, sleepless nights on the really hot days, constant re-smudging of our new, soon-to-be-marketed line of dust-based facial cosmetic patinas, balancing acts atop those Turkish toilets - these all set us up to do it again. We will be back in 2004, insha`allah (God willing)!

That's the news from ACOR Amman, where the directors are strong, the office staff is good looking and all the ACOR fellows are above average.

Editor: Doug Clark
Assoc. Editor: Doug Clark
Managing Editor: Doug Clark
Editorial Board Chair: Doug Clark
Editorial Board Member: Doug Clark
Other Editorial Board Member: Doug Clark
Desktop Publishing: Doug Clark
Quality Control: Doug Clark
Proofreading: Doug Clark
Data Entry: Doug Clark
Marketing: Doug Clark
Circulation: Doug Clark
Censorship: Doug Clark

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