Weekly Reports from Jordan

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June 26 - 30, 2000

By Larry Herr, Doug Clark, and Warren Trenchard. Photos by Warren Trenchard

Tall al-'Umayri from the highwayAlthough the first week of every excavation season is normally taken up with cleaning debris from interseasonal erosion, we have had to do very little of it this year. The primary reason for this delightful (for us) development is because of the on-going drought which the Middle East has been experiencing for the last several years. Water is in short supply and all of us are participating in various water conservation strategies in the country by taking shorter showers A resting placeand even reusing our shower water to help flush toilets! Don't you wish you were here!?

The weather has been average with a few cooler-than-normal days when the highs were in the low to mid 80s, although the last couple days have been in the mid-to-upper 90s. Normal highs are in the upper 80s or low 90s. Lows are in the 60s and 70s. So far we have not seen a cloud in the sky, night or day. That means the sun is intense and, Nicole Igboji with trowel thanks to our physician Wayne Jacobsen, we have erected a siwan, or large shelter on the site for us to rest in the shade

Our finds have been quick to come. The very first find was made by one of our youngest participants, 13 year-old Nicole Igboji, the daughter of our cook, Nancy Igboji. Maybe it's those young eyes. She found a very nice example of a bronze fibula or pin in the shape of an elbow (hence its name). Fibulae are about 4 Four women in a squareinches long and were used to hold up garments, operating much like safety pins. They first appeared in the 8th century BC.

The next day in the midst of a particularly strong showing of estrogenic expression (!) four women moved more than three cubic meters of earth (that's a lot!! -- 320 guffas for you experienced readers)

In the process they also found three complete oil lamps from the Hellenistic period, the 2nd century BC.

The three Hellenistic lampsThe first was found by Kate Dorsett, then Megan Owens found another, and the last one was found by Alexandra Kreutzer. Alas, Mary Boyd, the supervisor, found herself bereft, but, of course, veteran that she is, she was thrilled for the others.

Almost everyone has found surfaces, new walls, new corners of walls, and even several foundation trenches (holes dug as foundations Megan Owens with pickfor walls) which are surprisingly otherwise quite rare at `Umayri. Yet other diggers have answered several of the archaeological questions we asked at the beginning of the season. We've taken out a troublesome pit (and found a huge jar from the 6th century BC in it). We've dug deeper in the two-room Late Bronze Age building (13th century BC). There is still no sign of a surface even though the walls are now 2.75 meters (about nine feet) high above the level of our excavation.

Nick Jones brushing away.More of the Hellenistic building is being found in Field L on the southern lip of the site and more surfaces around the Early Bronze I (ca. 3000 BC) dolmen have been located to the east of the structure. Parts of the late Iron II administrative complex from about 600-400 BC have been clearly defined and we are coming down on more walls of an early Iron I house (ca. 1200 BC).

For many of us the first glimpse of the site this season caused us some surprise. `Umayri co-director Doug Clark has been hard at work between last season and this one on a partial reconstruction of a Dave Hopkins and crewmarvelously preserved house from the early Iron I period, around 1200 BC. In fact, it is the best preserved house from that time period anywhere in the Holy Land. The reconstruction and the other features of conservation work Doug and others have been doing in cooperation with the Jordanian Department of Antiquities have turned the site into an arresting sight both from afar and from up close [photo 10 -- Houses old and new]. Congratulations to all for their hard and creative work.

Doug Clark and crewApproximately 70 people have joined us for the season and we will mention many of them in these weekly notices. But for those readers who have been with us before, many of our core staff have returned. Warren Trenchard, who has been with us twice before, is the administrative director. John Lawlor still supervises Field A and Dave Berge still holds forth in Field H. Doug Clark is being helped by Kent Bramlett in Field B because Doug serves as Co-Director along with Larry Herr. David Hopkins is directing a second season in Field L and Ela Dubis has brought five students from Poland to continue excavations around the dolmen in Field K. Gary Christopherson is leading a small survey team that is testing GIS (geographic information systems) projections for Iron Age sites. Karen Borstad is the new object registrar and also oversees the computer database. Joan Chase oversees the processing of our botanical and zoological finds.

Larry Herr was successful in obtaining an Alberta grant of several thousand dollars which allowed us to purchase a new digital camera, a flat-bed scanner, a Pentium III laptop and a color printer for a cooperative endeavor with the Jordanian government. While excavating this summer, we will be training two employees of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan to use the equipment and the MPP database. At the end of the season, all the equipment will go to the Department permanently to be used by the Department. The new Director-General of the Department was ecstatic about this and promised to become acquainted with our database, especially since so many projects are using it or something like it in the area.

This weekend is our Petra trip. Because of a series of unforeseen surprises, we will all be staying in the Petra Forum Hotel and enjoying the pool with a view. Don't stay at home. Come join us!

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