Week 2, Saturday
The second week of an archaeological project often hums with positive activity. It marks the point at which features become more defined, critical strata are reached, and project members have become accustomed to the daily routine. Glitches in artifact processing have been rectified and all crucial pieces of excavation equipment have been purchased. Bonds begin to emerge between students and their local workers, and friendships between staff have been established.
This week was no exception. The debris and tumble within the Area B domestic structures have revealed their relative architectural richness in the form of carefully-carved voussoirs and cornices. Area A, particularly the ash dump in Trench A.3, continues to spit out a gargantuan amount of ceramics, including a complete lamp, and the architectural relationship between the domestic structure walls and the city wall soon may be within reach. And – surprise – our first skeleton has emerged in one of the tombs, laid out within a rectangular niche cut into the tomb chamber wall.
Many of the staff and students were fresh off of a day trip to the Dead Sea, spent bobbing in the viscous, salty water and covering their bodies with its famous mud. Another group had gone to the Roman legionary fortress of Udhruh, ca. 20km east of Petra, originally excavated by British archaeologist Alistair Killick in the 1980s and more recently by Fawzi Abu Danah, Mansour Shqiarat, and Hani Falahat of al-Hussein bin Talal University and the Department of Antiquities. Despite these explorations, a large majority of the massive fortress remains obscured by tumble and later reuse of the structures, including the construction of a well-preserved Ottoman fort at its southern end.
I know enough not to be too optimistic this early in a field season, but I am starting to feel that our hard work and planning will definitely pay off!