Thursday, April 19, 2012

Jordan Challenge 30: Take an Archeology Field Trip with a Professional

Jordan is a small country but it is jam-packed with historical sites.  And these sites are not historical in the American few-hundred-years sense of the word, but in the thousands-of-years of classical civilizations sense of it.  The country is the site of numerous past, current and future archaeological digs, and as a consequence, the government, higher education institutions and non-governmental groups have all created organizations and programs to support the archaeological treasures and places in the country.

Luckily for me, I've had a front row seat in the exploration of archeology via my fabulous fellow Fulbright friend Elizabeth.  As she moves through the year exploring her project on the stolen antiquities trade, she has generously afforded me opportunities to go to talks, experience a day at a dig and most recently, take a day trip to tour different archaeological sites under the guidance of professional archaeologists.

During our day-long adventure we travelled on a bus to first Deir Alla and then Pella, and were led around by an archaeologist who worked for the Jordanian Department of Antiquities before his retirement.  Deir Alla was the first Bronze Age city excavated in Jordan, and the work of excavation was begun back in 1960.  The Big Discovery of Deir Alla is the Inscription of Ballam, a prophecy that was written by the Old Testament Prophet Ballam on a plastered wall sometime between 840 and 760 BC.  The plaster chipped off, but 119 pieces were recovered, allowing the inscription to be reconstructed.

One thing I've learned about this year is the practicalities of doing a dig.  Basically, the team needs a place to live while doing the work.  Here we are in the courtyard of the Dig House that was constructed for Deir Alla and is currently maintained by Yarmouk University.

Elizabeth, standing in front of a very large excavated building foundation at Deir Alla.
After touring the site, including the Dig House where excavators stay (there was a Dutch team there at the time) and the tiny museum displaying artifacts and representations of the Inscription of Ballam, we piled back onto the bus for Pella. Both Pella and Deir Alla are north of Amman, making them fairly close to the Syrian border (which is actually only fifty-some miles from Amman).  It's been a source of never ending puzzlement to me that the whole time I've been here I've been so close to a country in the midst of a revolution/civil war/insurrection (I guess pick your characterization), but only think of it with reference to the thousands of refugees who have come to Jordan, just as they have fled to Lebanon and Turkey.  The other day I read a Human Rights Watch Report about survivors of government torture in the last year, and was startled to discover that the report was written here in Amman with survivors living here as well.  So, it always gives me pause when I go to the north of the country, even though it was a beautiful spring day, and you'd never ever guess that deadly violence was happening so close.

It was a gorgeous spring day and Jordanian families were out in force at the Pella site with portable barbecues and picnics.  You'd never know we were less than an hour away from the Syrian border.
Pella is a larger site than Deir Alla, and has some very striking Roman ruins.  After touring them, our energetic guide deposited the majority of our group at the lovely Guest House at the top of the site and then issued a call for anyone foolish enough to want to join him in a hike up the summit overlooking the Pella ruins for a better view of the area.  While Elizabeth wisely stayed in the Guest House and sipped delicious mint lemonade I rather more foolishly disregarded the fact that I was wearing exactly the wrong thing (black jeans and black long sleeve top) for a hike in the blazing sun. 

Here I am leaving the lovely and cool guest house to go for a hike in the broiling sun.
As is often the case, our hiking trail was enclosed with a locked fence and the Man With the Key was nowhere to be found.  So we had the added bonus of hopping the fence, which further narrowed our ranks, leaving an intrepid and foolish few trying to keep up with a man in his sixties with the vigor of an eighteen year old, calling for the rest of us to "yella" as he charged up the hill at full speed.  He was right, though.  The view at the top was worth it.  And so was the whole day. I never expected to become an archeology fan during my Jordan Fulbright.  But then again, I hadn't known that I'd have so many archaeologically-rich places to explore, or more importantly, such a great guide to this fascinating corner of study in my phenomenal friend Elizabeth.  The moral of this and so many Fulbright stories is, I think, is that when you get an opportunity you just don't know what will come with it.  But you'd be crazy not to jump at the unexpectedly opportunities that come your way.

The view from the top, which made it all worth while.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Trish,

    I have recently written a book called "A Journey to Faith" in which I follow the genealogy in the Bible from Abraham to Jesus.

    I have been looking for photos from the Tell Deir excavation site to select one for use in my book. I came across your blog and thought that you may be able to help me. Any images used will have a credit directly beneath the photo to you as the source.

    I am looking for a landscape view (for example with the ruins in the foreground and the mountains in the background.

    If this is possible, I would be very appreciative.

    I look forward to hearing from you - kind regards, Paul Brunton.