From the Field: The Tell Madaba Archaeological Project… Weekend Off!

Posted: July 2, 2011 - 20:00 , by admin

By Daniel Kwan, Gallery Facilitator and Volunteer

Our first week of digging is finally complete! My students and I have uncovered the remains of what may be an Iron Age storage room. Excavations have yielded the remains of a stone wall, which would have served as a foundation for a mud brick superstructure (we’ve found evidence that supports this theory). Additionally, we have also found several jar stoppers, a stone grinding tool, hundreds of pottery sherds, and a ridiculous amount of animal bone. Amongst the ceramic fragments, my students have discovered several pieces of rare Moabite pottery. This type of Iron Age pottery is characterized by the beautiful painted designs that adorn the body of the vessel. Needless to say, I’m very impressed by all of the students participating on this dig, and the enormous amount of progress that we’ve made during the excavation thus far.

Back to the actual topic of this post! My day off! Unlike some of my other colleagues, I like to use my time off from the dig (two days) to explore the many “off the beaten path” sites that Jordan has to offer.

During my first day off, I did a five-hour hike through the arid/desert canyons of Mount Nebo with a few of my fellow supervisors (Zack, Kristen, and Abby) and students. Mount Nebo, and its associated regions, is best known as the place where Moses saw the Holy Land. Venturing away from the constructed areas designed for tourists, we trekked into the rocky canyons, resting in caves created by long dried out rivers, and dodging venomous spiders and scorpions. The primary goal of our long hike was to find Neolithic (new stone age) burial markers called “dolmens”. Approximately 3.5 hours into the trip, we found one! However, the rest of our journey was cut short due to the fact that we were nearly out of water. Rationing what we could, and using my compass, we found the correct path (and urban road) that would take the students to the main road where they could grab a taxi.

Zack and I broke off from the main group to deliver some photos to a group of Bedouin living in the valley. Using almost all of our remaining water on the hike over to their camp, we were greeted with open arms. Exhibiting famous Jordanian hospitality, they offered us tea, food, and spring water for our journey back to the main road. In broken Arabic we discussed the other Bedouin living in the area (one that Zack met during our trip to Jordan last summer), binoculars, and where we lived. All of this happened while their goats became more curious of our presence, coming right up to me in their tent and sniffing my clothing. After that long trek, I’m absolutely certain that my clothing didn’t smell overly appetizing. After about an hour of lounging in their tent, they pointed us in the direction of the main road and our journey began once again. Tired and slightly dehydrated, we hiked for a little bit less than an hour before we found the road. Once again, we encountered classic Jordanian hospitality when a group of men in their mid to late twenties, lounging in the shade on the side of the road, invited us over for some cool soda and to smoke shisha (or mu’assel, flavored tobacco). Zack and I later caught a bus and safely returned to Madaba.

What an adventure! In addition to our duties on the excavation, some of us are planning a camping trip in the Wadi Rum valley. This site is commonly known for its beautiful landscapes, petroglyphs, Lawrence of Arabia’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, and most recently the filming location for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen!

Here’s to future adventures in Jordan!