Weekly Reports from Jordan

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June 29-July 5,2002

Larry G. Herr and Douglas R. Clark

It was a momentous week, full of sunshine, archaeological finds, laughs, friendship, and patriotism. July 1 was Canada Day, celebrating the confederation of Canada as an independent nation and a member of the Commonwealth. The five Canadians jovially sang the national anthem and, as is Canadian custom, we all ate a red-and-white cake and wished Canada a happy birthday. We handed out small pins of the Canadian flag, thereby enlisting many honorary Canadians.

Three days later it was the Fourth of July. Again there was a large cake, this time with about 40 small American flags decorating its two rampart-like tiers. The Americans sang the national anthem with considerably more seriousness than the Canadians. It may have been because Americans tend to take their patriotism more seriously than Canadians (except at the down-deep level), but there was also genuine concern for America on a day with so much potential for terrorism. It was probably an honest assessment to say that we felt ourselves much safer in Amman than our friends and families back home.

The Monastery (ed-Dayr) in Petra (photo by Carmen Clark)The visit to Petra was, of course, a glorious weekend. There were very few other tourists there. Four times I walked through the siq and four times I had it virtually to myself. The new cement paving allowed me to look up and to see the great scenery with my eyes as well as listen to the echo of the bird calls and smell the sweetness of the fig trees that sprout in some of the hollows from place to place. Martha Joukowsky gave our group a grand tour of the Great Temple and many of us hiked 'til we dropped, including distant and high destinations such as the High Place, the Monastery, Umm al-Biyara, and Jabal Harun. But no one seemed to overdo it, and there was virtually no sickness the next few days after Petra.

David Hopkins Showing Field L (photo by Douglas Clark)In fact, we have experienced very little sickness this season so far. Three or four people have missed a day or so, but no one has been down for two full days. Maybe it's Abu Faisal's excellent cooking or the boiled water that everyone is drinking. And both local cooks (each named Muhammad) make gluten for the vegetarians.

The weather has remained mild. During our Internet time (3:00-4:15 every day) we read of the 100+ weather back home, often with humidity in the high 90s, and shudder, thanking our lucky stars that we are working in dry, breezy Jordan. Yes, the sun batters us from about 10:30 for the last two hours or our work day, but our shady siwan, given to us last season by our physician, Wayne Jacobson, helps alleviate the stress of working long hours in the sun without respite.

Julie Cormack Showing Field H (photo by Douglas Clark)

Kent Bramlett Showing Field B (photo by Douglas Clark)And the finds keep pouring in. Each Friday provides us an opportunity just prior to leaving the tell to visit all the Fields for weekly updates on current progress.  Field L (farthest from the bus) finds supervisor David Hopkins (right in photo with his hands extended in explanation) holding forth on all matters Hellenistic.  Julie Cormack (right in photo), in charge of Field H, walks us past plaster surfaces and wall lines from the Iron and Persian periods.  Field B receives an explanation from co-supervisor Kent Bramlett (left in photo).

View of Western Portion of `Umayri from Northwest Corner of Tell (photo by Douglas Clark)In Field B Wendell Bowes and James Hanson are still producing thousands of bones. Wendell counted 82 bones in one sift load on Thursday. O yes, they also found another seal in their huge garbage pit dating to around 1200 BC. This one goes along with the four others we found last week, bringing our total since the beginning of excavations here to 89. Other diggers in Field B are finally excavating below sift debris and topsoil, uncovering vast expanses of fallen rocks and wall lines. Howard Munson and Carmen Clark have nicely delineated the northern parts of the city's perimeter wall and John Raab, Gayle Broom, and Pawel Surowka have also found the tops of several walls. Janelle Worthington, Nicole Murphy, and Michal Kurzyk have come down on a vast field of stones, foretelling the presence of serious architecture below. Real archaeology is beginning in Field B.

Franke Zollman and Tony Sears with Plate (photo by Douglas Clark)Field L also is producing very nice finds. Franke Zollman and Ruth Kent spent a day tracing an undulating plaster surface over most of their square. We couldn't have asked for a better learning experience for them. Then, just as Tony Sears joined Franke in the square, they found a beautiful  ceramic plate placed (or fallen) in an upright position between two stones. But Kate Dorsett and Ingrid Wang in the square next to them were not to be outdone. They found several beautiful fragments of Hellenistic pottery from around 150 BC and then flicked up a large, heavy coin typical of Ptolemaic coins from Egypt during this time. Although it is somewhat corroded, a few strokes of a light metal brush brought a muscular, striding figure to light. It seems to be a depiction of Hercules with the lion skin over his back. Meanwhile Mary Boyd discovered an Iron Age surface in a small room that is helping to date several phases of walls in a very complicated square. Diggers who like dirt layers were excited about this find!

Plaster Mixing Basin, First with Contents and Then Empty (photo by Douglas Clark)The great finds this week came from Field H. Dick Dorsett and Jonathan Francisco carefully excavated a major plaster floor in a large room from the 11th century BC, carefully delineating and excavating the foundation trenches along walls that were built into the surface several centuries later around 550 BC. As part of the plaster floor, a concave plaster mixing basin came to light with globular chunks of plaster still in it, telling us a lot about ancient construction techniques.  The basin and its contents were covered over as the final step in the finishing process of the floor.  Excavators have come down on the cobble underlayment for the plaster surface. This is going to make a great picture early next week.

Dean Holloway with Figurine Fragments (photo by Douglas Clark)

Closeup of Figurines (photo by Douglas Clark)In the square next to theirs Dean Holloway made the find of the season so far when he uncovered parts of two tall figurines that seem to be parts of a ceramic shrine model. They appear to be counterparts to the figurines found on another shrine model last season in Field H, while demonstrating more modesty and likely a gender shift. You can view the older shrine model, reconstructed at Walla Walla College, on the website (www.wwc.edu/mpp). Although Dean has been digging with us for four seasons, he has never found anything as good as these figurines. But Dean's excitement probably won't stop there. We suspect there are other parts to the new model shrine for Dean to discover next week. Stay tuned.

Disputed Ring (photo by Douglas Clark)

Snoz Figurine from Field L (photo by Douglas Clark)Also in Field H, Don Mook and Marcin Czarnowicz are working carefully to date the large wall that may be part of the perimeter wall of the site during Iron I. They also found a small, delicate bronze ring about a centimeter in diameter from the Iron I period. Doug Clark thinks it is a ring for the pinky finger. I think it is a nose ring. I would ask you to register your vote for one or the other of our views, but I'm afraid you would side mostly with Doug, so I'm not going to do it. Although Doug is a gracious and long-suffering loser, he's just about the worst winner I've ever met. [Larry has not a nose to MPP-`Umayri Internet Cafe in Use (photo by Douglas Clark)stand on (unlike the figurine from Field L!), as anyone can judge by the photo of the ring and decide easily in my favor.

This wager is not unlike one from 1984 when Larry lost a bet to me over an earth layer (we think) and has yet to come through with a meal at the Amra Hotel in Amman.]

Some notes of gratitude are in order.  Our appreciation to everyone for your continued kindly thoughts and prayers on our behalf for our well being and the success of our work.  We also want to thank those of you who contributed (perhaps out of funds previously dedicated to coming to the field this summer) to the ATC high-speed computer line, which, next to the popularity of the siwan on the tell, has taken over top spot on the charts (contributions still welcome!).

Larry Murrin, Sometime Archaeologist and Full-time Computer Specialist (photo by Douglas Clark)If in the late afternoon ATC appears as empty as Petra last weekend, it is likely because everyone has headed for the campus computer center for the daily hour-and-a-half shot of internet adrenaline.  Our gratitude as well to ATC principal, Dr. Saleh Naji, for providing a session on colloquial Arabic terms which should help us get around town more easily.  Kudos too to Wendell "Bones" Bowes for supplying those of our team under 30 with a basketball (at least these are the ones we see using it).  Larry Murrin deserves our gratitude as well for the fine work he did to get us up and running on our computer system for the dig before returning home to Canada.

It should be a restful weekend for us with a Sunday tour to the Baptism Site in the Jordan Valley (where tradition claims John the Baptist baptized Jesus), Mt. Nebo, Madaba, Mukawir (Herodian fortress where tradition claims John the Baptist lost his head), Umm er-Rasas and Lahun overlooking the spectacular Wadi Mujib. We anticipate more sunshine, laughs, discoveries, and friendship.

A few object photos:

Cuboid Pendant Seal (photo by Douglas Clark)

Scarab Seal (photo by Douglas Clark)

Lion Head Vessel Attachment (front) (photo by Douglas Clark)

Lion Head Vessel Attachment (side) (photo by Douglas Clark)

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