Reports from the field
Tall Hisban 2010 Season
Week One (Saturday, May 22, 2010)
Our team of twenty-three Missouri State University students and faculty arrived in Amman last Sunday evening for the fifth Phase II excavation season at Tall Hisban. Located on the Madaba Plains of central Jordan, the site commands a view of the extensive grain fields of the Balqa, and on a clear day one can see Jericho and the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem to the west. This is the first season MSU joined Andrews University at Hisban for collaborative fieldwork. Together we are over fifty strong in students, faculty, staff, and workmen. This season brings to a close Phase II excavations, which began in 1996 and have focused largely on the summit of the tell. The 2010 season is a short one (only three weeks), designed as a limited excavation-study season to answer very specific questions related to site history for final publications of Phase II work.
Fieldwork began mid-morning on Monday, starting several hours later to give our team a chance to acclimatize to the time difference. In unseasonably cold weather, and fighting jetlag, we prepared four fields for excavation and introduced team members to the site through tours. The four fields offer very special challenges to our team, and the students chose where they wanted to work on the basis of the nature of the fields and the research objectives there. The four fields are:
1. Field Q – three squares on the summit of the tell, at the top of the staircase from which one enters the medieval citadel. Here we hope to document how and when the summit was militarized and transformed from sacred and domestic space. Our second research objective is to date with more confidence the bathhouse in the citadel, a structure that is a bit of an anomaly for Mamluk-era castles in this region.
2. Field M – three squares in and around the northeast corner tower of the citadel. Here we hope to better understand the ancient use of the summit, date more securely the original enclosure wall, map what appear to be industrial installations on the north slope, and better understand the extensive cavernous systems that underlies the tell.
3. Field G – the “Hardy People Cave” (a.k.a. “Abu Noor Cave”). We return this season to the largest of the cave systems at Tall Hisban, which was first investigated in 1998. Our aim is to understand the cultural and natural processes that transformed these natural caves into massive water systems and subterranean dwellings over the course of millenia.
4. Nabulsi qasr – This fortified farmhouse, originally built, we believe, in the mid-19th century, is being restored for use as an on-site museum and visitor’s center, under the direction of a newly-formed local NGO (Non-Government Orgnization). Exploratory probes this season have as their aim the elucidation of the history of one particular structure in this complex (one of the stables), which appears to have been built on and incorporated parts of a much earlier building of some antiquity.
Our work days are longish and structured. We get up at 4:30 a.m. and are in the field until noon, returning to artifact processing and pottery washing and reading at 4:00 in the afternoon. Twice a week we have our academic program, which consists of evening lectures by project faculty and staff. This week students attended lectures by Professors Øystein LaBianca (Project Senior Director, Andrews University, Michigan) and Bethany Walker (Project Co-Director and Chief Archaeologist, Missouri State University) on the community outreach and scientific objectives of this season, as well as the history of excavations at the site (which span over 40 years!). Later in the week the Andrews University Media Team presented their work on the production of a book on Hisban, with contributions by communications, film, art, and social science faculty. The lecturers demonstrated the various technologies available for the study and presentation to the public of a multi-period site such as Hisban.
The tour this weekend is a 3-day excursion to the Nabatean capital of Petra – the “rose-red city” and newest “Wonder of the World”.
The pictures in this blog were taken by our students, in the field, at camp, and on tour.
Report submitted by Prof. Bethany J. Walker
Department of History
Missouri State University