Excavation is now well under way in all three areas. The team drives down to the field at 5:45 AM in order to beat the heat. This has been hard for the last couple of days, with the weather reported to have been over 110 degrees on Sunday and Monday.  Because of the heat, we leave the field around noon, after a second breakfast at 9:30.
Everyone is hard at work.  In Area B, Area Supervisor Jessica Walker oversees the excavation of four tombs, two of which – B.5 and B.6 – were partially excavated in 2012. But despite almost a meter of backfill, looters attempted to rob the B.5 tomb, disturbing the sealed contexts and necessitating the use of a sifter. But the B.5 team remains in good spirits and laugh at the amount of dirt which comes back in their boots.

Amie Goerlich excavating in B.5

Amie Goerlich excavating in B.5

Pulling guffahs from the tomb

Pulling guffahs from the tomb

The other Area B trenches are new this year. The teams in B.7 and B.8 have removed almost one meter of sediment and hope to soon reach bedrock.

Sifting in B.7

Sifting in B.7

In Area C, Dr. Duncan oversees three new trenches and one old trench from the previous season. Area C is further south than the excavation areas of previous seasons, but the team has hopes to identify Byzantine domestic occupation in Petra in the new area based on the presence of a Byzantine wall. The three new trenches have yielded several large stones which may be toppled walls.

Hard at work in Area C

Hard at work in Area C

Dr. Duncan’s trench from last season has been completely cleared already.  Trench supervisor Carlos Santiago Marrero and his team are now documenting and drawing, and hope to move to a new trench soon.

Carlos Santiago Marrero explaining the next steps in excavating to Helicia Chiang

Carlos Santiago Marrero
explaining the next steps in excavating to Helicia Chiang

Area D is a completely new area, north along the Nabataean city wall. Russell has three trenches, two directly north and south of the wall and another several hundred meters east along the wall. Excavation in these areas is moving fast, with most trenches at the drawing and photography stage already.

Trench Supervisor Ashley Jones drawing her trench with Tony Scialabba

Trench Supervisor Ashley Jones drawing her trench with Tony Scialabba

Russell Gentry photographing his area with the help of Trench Supervisor Alex Zarley

Russell Gentry photographing his area with the help of Trench Supervisor Alex Zarley

But those in the field are not the only ones at work already. In the house, pottery in being processed, small finds are being documented, artifacts are being conserved, and human remains are being analyzed.

Pam Koulianous and Sarah Wenner processing ceramics in the house

Pam Koulianous and Sarah Wenner processing ceramics in the house

Anna Osterholtz analyzing the bones as they come in

Anna Osterholtz
analyzing the bones as they come in

Now onto the next locus!

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The PNRP 2014 Field School and Excavation has officially started. On Thursday, June 26 the team left Amman to travel down to Wadi Musa, where we stayed the night. The next day we were officially introduced to Petra. Staff went directly to the North Ridge to discuss trench locations while field school students walked down through the Siq. After, Dr. Leigh-Ann Bedal (Penn State Erie) kindly offered a tour of Petra Garden and Pool Complex, visible from the North Ridge on the other side of the Colonnaded Street.

Dr. Bedal gives a tour of PGPC

Dr. Bedal gives a tour of PGPC

On June 28, after setting up camp at Dakhilallah’s house in Umm Saihoun, the entire team went up to the North Ridge for a special tour specifically of the other sites nearby. Dr. S. Thomas Parker (North Carolina State University) provided commentary on the Blue Chapel and the Byzantine Church.

Dr. Parker gives a tour of the Blue Ridge Chapel

Dr. Parker gives a tour of the Blue Ridge Chapel

Dr. Megan Perry (East Carolina University) then gave a summary of the Ridge Church and specifically the tombs found there, known in publication as the Petra North Ridge Tombs 1 and 2.

Dr. Perry gives a tour of the Ridge Church and associated tombs

Dr. Perry gives a tour of the Ridge Church and associated tombs

 

After, the PNRP areas were examined. Dr. Parker spoke briefly about the city wall and how he hoped to further explore it, and Dr. Perry spoke to the tombs excavated in 2012 and the special finds they yielded.

Dr. Parker stands on top of the Petra city wall

Dr. Parker stands on top of the Petra city wall

Finally the three trench supervisors – Dr. Carrie Duncan (University of Missouri at Columbia), Russell Gentry (North Carolina State University), and Jessica Walker (University of Pittsburg)—introduced their respective areas and trenches.

Russell demonstrates where his trenches will be placed in Area D

Russell demonstrates where his trenches will be placed in Area D

Dr. Duncan introduces Area C

Dr. Duncan introduces Area C

On June 29 – the first day of Ramadan – field work officially begins.
Staff
1) Parker – co-director
2) Perry – co-director
3) Grieve Rawson – conservator
4) Lowrey – faunal
5) Kanellopoulos – architect
6) Hendrick – architect
7) Duncan – area supervisor
8) Gentry – area supervisor
9) Walker – area superior
10) Osterholtz – human osteo assistant
11) Koulianos- ceramics assistant
12) Rucker – geologist and camp manager
13) Wenner – program assistant/ceramics assistant
14) Brigham – trench sup domestic
15) Jones – trench supervisor domestic
16) Karlis – trench supervisor domestic
17) Tews – trench supervisor domestic
18) Marrero – trench supervisor domestic
19) Zarley – trench supervisor domestic
20) Eno – trench supervisor domestic
21) Garcia-Putnam – tomb supervisor
22) Falls – tomb supervisor
23) Smith – tomb supervisor
24) Roepe – tomb supervisor
25) Rosenwinkel – assist tomb supervisor /small finds
26) Ramsay – archaeobotanist /first guest lecturer
27) Hedges – archaeobotanical assistant

Our 2014 field season is now underway!  We will be excavating until August 3 – stay tuned for new information!

Dear Petra North Ridge Folks of the past, present and future,

This is Pamela Koulianos here, and I just wanted to share with you guys a website that my friend Jayd Lewis created in order to discuss formal subjects informally. Our goal is to provide students, non-students, anyone really, information about history through archaeology without the pressure of a classroom. We encourage people to ask questions about the topics we discuss or our research we share. It is important for everyone to gain a better understanding of what and who we were. And this is our small contribution 🙂

Enjoy!

http://www.antiquorumetpraesentis.com/about-us/

 

One of the most exciting parts of field work is getting to discover objects that haven’t been used or seen for thousands of years, but the second best part is getting to preserve them so that they can be used for research or appreciated as part of human history. Artifacts often require some degree of stabilization once they are excavated. The process of excavation introduces oxygen which can also accelerate decay and corrosion. Because of this, it is important that each object is examined and its condition noted to ensure we can prioritize which artifacts require treatment first.

One of the most exciting finds this summer were several bells that were excavated from a burial context. These were brought back to the East Carolina Conservation Laboratory for further examination and preservation.

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Two bells from a tomb context. The left bell is conserved and the right is untreated.

Photo by S. Grieve.

Conservators complete a thorough examination which documents areas that may be damaged or look for signs of use. We then go through a process of mechanical cleaning to remove surface dirt which could also be masking features. We often look for evidence of maker’s marks, surface decorations or residues; therefore, extreme care must be used to only remove material that will cause deterioration in the future! This is often done under a microscope to ensure we have a thorough understanding of the metal surface.

Microscope

Conservators using a microscope to assist in cleaning the bells.

Photo by East Carolina Conservation Lab. 

 Since the bells were made of such thin copper alloy metal, we had to be careful during handling and cleaning. Early metal processing of copper alloys, in particular bronze, often demonstrate characteristics such as cracking and fragmenting. While we have confirmed that the bells are copper based, we suspect that they may be alloyed with tin to produce a bronze-like metal which was strong and easily cast. Further analysis with X-Ray Fluorescence may reveal the exact composition and assist archaeologists in determining the origin of the metal production.

During the mechanical cleaning process, we discovered a strange substance in the bowl of the bell. The substance resembles an inorganic material to the naked eye, but upon manipulation, it behaves like an organic material. We also didn’t find any evidence of a clapper that would have been present in the bell (based on our type of bell). These two factors indicate that perhaps these aren’t bells at all! If they are not bells, what are they?

Further testing with organic residue analysis techniques may reveal more details about use. Samples will be used from pieces that were already detached to determine what the substance may be. While our analysis and study is ongoing, one thing is for certain: these artifacts continue to tell stories long after they are removed from the ground and we’re here to listen!

 Written by Susanne Grieve, Director of Conservation, East Carolina University

The end of another academic year is approaching and Tom and I, along with other staff members, have been busily analyzing the ceramics, human bones, and other artifacts recovered during the 2012 season.  We will continue our work this summer at our home universities. One of the ongoing activities has been conservation of the artifacts by ECU’s Conservation Laboratory, directed by Susanne Grieve.  Here is a video documenting the conservation of a kohl stick found during last summer’s excavation.

-Megan Perry

Megan Perry explains the analysis of human bones from one of the excavated tombs to some of her students.

Yesterday we began what archaeologists call “close-down”, the critical phase immediately after the end of excavation but before leaving base camp. These days are devoted to final photographs and drawing in the field, processing artifacts, checking and double-checking records, backing up data, and writing final reports.  It is a hectic time but absolutely vital for the success of any field season as it is often impossible to retrieve missing data once the team leaves the site. And as if the team is not busy enough finalizing all the data collection, many other tasks must also be completed simultaneously, such as back-filling the trenches, moving equipment into storage, and paying many bills and other expenses.

Normally close-down takes several days. But this season we need to do it all in just two days because another team from Brown University is coming in to our house the day after we leave to begin their field project here at Petra. Nevertheless at the beginning of our second day things are proceeding rather smoothly and we should complete our work by tomorrow morning and be ready to leave Petra.

Tonight, Dakhalah Goblan, our host and foreman of our workmen, has generously invited us to a traditional dinner here at his house for the entire team. It should be a wonderful way to end the 2012 season.

S. Thomas Parker

Workmen back-filling one of the trenches after completion of the excavation.

True to any archaeological field project, especially one involving large tombs, the “good stuff” turns up at the end. Most of the “tomb team” (Lauren, Lizzie, the two Annas, Rachel, Jessica, Carlos, Gina, and me) have spent our early afternoons (2:30 – 5:30) working on burials in the tombs. I am using that term loosely – really what we are dealing with is a mass of commingled skeletal remains above the floor, including 12 skulls in tomb B.5.  A few articulated skeletons are turning up in the mess, and in the built features within the tomb such as niches and “troughs”.

Today we spent most of our time getting the jumble of remains at the eastern end of B.5 ready for photos and drawing, and tomorrow we will remove them and work our way westward to see if there are more remains laid out at floor level.  After that we will tackle the two remaining niches and one floor shaft burial partially covered with capstones.  The skeletal remains in the “troughs” along the western and northern walls of tomb B.4 had mostly fallen to the floor, probably due to the occasional rainstorm that would wash into an open tomb.  Thus after clearing the “troughs”, we began articulating the bones in the soil below the troughs.  We also found an intact, articulated burial with a complete unguentarium next to its (her?) head.  Tomorrow we will finish drawing this burial and continue trying to find skeletal remains at floor level.

The strangest feature within tomb B.4 was the discovery of a “window” of sorts carved into the northwest corner of the chamber.  Within this space we found large pieces of flat molded window glass, suggesting that a window actually had been installed at some point.  There also is a round “window” opening into the tomb shaft.  It is unclear if these windows are accidental features due to carving the tomb through the bedrock face or were created on purpose.

We decided to close Tomb B.6 and tackle its tomb features in future excavations.  We feared that we would be so rushed that we would not be doing good archaeology.  At this point, in addition to tombs B.4 and B.5, excavation is ongoing only in Russell, Emily, and Caiti’s trench B.1, where they are trying to reach the structure floor but keep finding interesting things that slow them down!  As we are closing trenches, we also are planning our strategy for conservation and backfilling.  Petra’s role as a UNESCO heritage site means that we need to be responsible for leaving the site in serviceable condition.  At this point, until we have, for example, enough domestic structure walls to consolidate and restore, that primarily involves backfilling.  The tombs also will be backfilled, as they constitute a hazard with their deep shafts.  We anticipated this outcome at the end of the season, and so in most cases left our excavation dumps close to the excavation trenches, allowing easy backfilling.  However, the soil from the tombs present a difficult situation.  We sifted almost 100% of the soil removed from the tombs, and logistics regarding placement of the sifters, the prevailing winds, and the nature of the bedrock outcrops limited where we could dump this soil.  Unforunately, it will not be easy to remove the soil to backfill the tombs, or to even remove the soil to protect the integrity of the site.  We hope to come up with a workable solution the next couple of days.

–Megan Perry

Tom explaining our discoveries in the Area B domestic structures to the ACOR board and staff

Last Wednesday and Thursday Tom and I were in Amman for the meeting of the American Center of Oriental Research Board.  In my experience most people at the very least are ambivalent about, or even dread, board meetings – but the ACOR board consists of a lively mix of U.S. and Jordanian archaeologists/academics along with lay members with an interest in Jordan and archaeology – directors of other non-profits, former diplomats and

Chris Tuttle, ACOR Associate Director, discusses the work he is directing at the Temple of the Winged Lions while Director Barbara Porter, Tom Parker, and James Wiseman look on

government ministers, lawyers and financial folks…I look forward to our biannual gatherings.  We share a love for Jordan and supporting ACOR’s mission for Jordanian culture and archaeology.  I personally have benefitted from ACOR through my academic career, from receiving a Jennifer Groot fellowship to assist in travel expenses to my first excavation in Jordan in 1993 (at Tell Nimrin) to various pre- and post-doctoral fellowships to assist in my ongiong research, to their facilitating paperwork and other logistics for setting up archaeological field projects in the country.

Zaki Ayoubi (husband of ACOR librarian Humi Ayoubi), former U.S. ambassador to Jordan Skip Gnehm, and Tom at lunch

This year the post-meeting board trip consisted of a jaunt to Petra to see our excavation site along with ACOR’s ongoing conservation and restoration work at the Petra Church and the Temple of the Winged Lions.  Tom and I had a wonderful ride down with John Oleson (former director of the Humayma Excavation) and former U.S. ambassador Skip Gnehm, gossiping about fellow archaeologists and discussing the current Middle East political situation.

After the tour and some cleaning up, we reconvened at the ACOR project house in Wadi Musa for a wonderful catered dinner in the garden.  Joining the ACOR staff and board were members of the local archaeological community and specialists from the Winged Lions project.

Nisreen Abu al Shaikh, ACOR’s comptroller, former Associate Director (and original director of the Petra North Ridge Project from 1994 – 2002) Dr. Patricia Bikai, me, Petra Archaeological Park head of CRM Tahani Salhi, and her husband Sa’ad Rawajfeh (photo by Qais Essa)

The delightful ACOR house garden (photo by Qais Essa)

Today began of course our final week in the field, with most operations centering on removing the remaining tomb fill and revealing some of the internal features.  In B.4 we cleared the western and northern niches, only to disccover that the skeletal remains had been washed or fallen at some point into the residual soil below (which we had noted while clearing the tomb chamber fill).  The western niche contained an unusual array of very large fragments of Nabataean period storage jars.  Most of the students are now back in camp trying to tame our large backlog of ceramics that need to be washed – and have been joined by four local women (who, frankly, beat the students’ progress at an alarming rate!).  Our conservator is scrambling to catch up on photographing the small finds and special objects, many of which were found in the tombs (which means the flow will remain unbated all week).  Onward!

–Megan Perry

Lucy describing her work in the interior of Tomb 781

Today we were treated to a tour of several Nabataean rock-cut facade tombs in the Al-Kubtha area, southwest of the North Ridge but also within sight of the ancient city center. We were guided by Dr. Lucy Wadeson, who excavated these tombs as part of her doctoral dissertation research on Nabataean tombs at Oxford University in the UK. Lucy visited us for a week to learn more about bioarchaeology and Nabataean pottery. One of our students, Lindsay Holman, will join Lucy in Amman for a couple of weeks after our season to help analyze the  pottery from her project.

Last evening Lucy gave a great lecture at our dig house about her project, which made today’s on-site your much more informative. Knowledge of these monumental tombs is a nice complement to the more humble shaft tombs which are the focus of our project.

S. Thomas Parker

The Petra North Ridge Team outside one of Lucy’s tombs at Al-Kubtha at Petra.