Wedding season is in full swing here in Umm Seihoun, the Bdul bedouin village within which we currently reside. The days leading up to the weekend during the summer normally are chock-full of wedding parties, and this year even more so since the holy month of Ramadan begins the latter half of July, cutting short the typical season. Goats are being slaughtered – often by the tenfold – for the traditional celebratory dish, mansaf. A typical wedding can last 3-4 days, with parties every evening that culminate in the main event.
Weddings are happy and festive events, but for archaeologists who must wake up at 5 am – not so much. Noise is the main factor, with joyous music and singing and tabla drumming lasting well into the night. In addition, as the village is small, most of our field employees are closely involved in the preparations, and thus have to miss one or two days of work, leaving us without their valuable expertise and extra hands.
These extra hands have been essential in uncovering some of our latest finds, such as the beautiful wall collapse in Trench B.2 – the wall of well-carved ashlar sandstone blocks fell in one cataclysmic event (an earthquake, perhaps the famous 363 A.D. tremor that leveled much of Petra?) and lie horizontally across the trench. We’re excited to see what lies beneath – will it show a glimpse of the structure immediately before its destruction, with grinding stones, ceramic vessels, and other artifacts forming a tableau of daily life?
The adjoining room to the west in Trench B.1 also seems to have suffered the same fate, and the colorful fragments of painted plaster that covered the walls have been found scattered in the layers of collpase and debris. Tomorrow our conservator, Kate, a recent Master’s recipient in ECU’s Maritime Studies program, will venture into the field to try and stabilize and recover some of the larger fragments.
The tombs continue to produce a fascinating array of ceramics and other artifacts, with three complete or reconstructable 1st century A.D. bowls turning up in the robber debris in Tomb B.6. We selected tombs with varied stages of intrusion for excavation to compare the differences in artifact composition in more vs. less disturbed tombs. Tomb B.5 showed no recent attempts at tomb robbing; Tomb B.4 only had disturbance in the eastern third of the shaft, and Tomb B.6 had the greatest evidence of disturbance, involving almost 3/4 of the northern chamber. With this evidence, we hope to demonstrate to funding agencies such as the NSF that robbed tombs still contain valuable information and a representative sample of what we would expect to find in a less-disturbed funerary feature.
Today we had khamaseen conditions – the result of a low pressure system that comes in from the Sahara in northern Africa, bringing it with it warm winds and lost of dust. This makes sifting dirt or trying to keep a clean trench a very dirty, frustrating process. The benefit is that usually cooler conditions follow – although I have to say that even at its hottest, Jordan is nothing like the muggy, oppressive heat of North Carolina!