From the Field: The Tell Madaba Archaeological Project…Artifacts galore!

Posted: July 26, 2011 - 11:14 , by royal

By Daniel Kwan, Gallery Facillitator and Volunteer

It’s been a tiring 6 weeks! With only a week and a half left in the students’ visit to Jordan, our excavation efforts came to a close. Excavations in our new unit, 5M11A1, have yielded an incredible number of objects in just a few days. Although our efforts did not yield any new architecture, aside from the additional courses of Tell Madaba’s fortification wall, the objects and ceramics provide enough data for an interesting interpretation. Unlike my interpretation of 5M11B3/4, which displays characteristics of a domestic dwelling, 5M11A1 may be interpreted as the remains of a storage room. Built against the eastern face of the fortification wall, the “storage unit” seems to have contained implements for food preparation, wheat-containing storage vessels, and the rear-end remains of a zoomorphic (animal-like) figurine! Now you’re probably wondering how a tiny unit like A1 could have yielded such a large volume of data. It’s simple. The “storage area” that we excavated displayed evidence of a destructive event (likely a fire) that would have covered the contents of the room in debris and effectively sealing them in.

Once digging and the daunting task of mapping the visible stratigraphy was complete, our laboratory tasks began. These included floatation (using running water to separate particulates held within soil samples), data entry, pottery registration, pottery drawing, pottery mending, and object drawing. I was in charge of teaching all of the students object drawing, which involves the to-scale illustration of various artifacts found throughout the dig. Although the majority of scientific illustration is completed using computers, we teach traditional methods due to the sheer volume of objects, the number of students, our relatively short dig year (and permit), and our lack of a computer lab. At first, many of the students were hesitant. It can be slightly intimidating having to draw a highly detailed 1:1 illustration. Needless to say, all of the students did a fantastic job with many of them joining me for the rest of the week, illustrating objects that were to be delivered to the Jordan Department of Antiquities. Despite a week of working indoors, our time conducting laboratory tasks was quite tiring but well worth the effort!

As I am completing this article, all of the students have left the country and have either returned home or engaged in further travel. Although I have said this before, I will repeat it once again. This summer gave me the incredible opportunity to work closely with a very talented and dedicated group of students. The students in my square, Arielle, Damian, Kerrstyn and Marishana, were an absolute joy to work with. Their skills, work ethic, team spirit, and overall ability to deal with my eccentricities certainly made my return to Jordan a memorable one. I hope that I was able to make as good of an impression on them as they have on me! There is no doubt in my mind that all of them will have an incredible amount of success in their future endeavors; whether or not they relate to archaeology.

Here’s to further excavations and adventures in Jordan, one of the most beautiful and hospitable places I have ever had the honor of calling home.