Reports from the Field
Northern Jordan Project 2012 Season
The Upper Wadi Shellaleh survey – al-Shajrah and Kharjah villages
Week Three (June 3 – 8 )
The exhausted but happy feeling of accomplishment …..
On this, the students’ last day in Jordan, most of the team members are taking leave of new friends and doing last minute shopping for many of the loved ones reading this blog. As for me, I sit quietly at “home” in Irbid, report-writing and reflecting on what has arguably been the best field season to date for the Northern Jordan Project.
It was short field week, but an intense work week “at camp”, as we registered thousands of artifacts and completed reports. In the three days we were in the field, we completed the sample coverage of the lands of Kharjah and identified and documented two new sites. One day we were joined by a member of the Jerash team, who is doing research on ancient water systems. We used the opportunity to reexamine with him our storage and transport facilities, with an eye to alterations that may reflect shifts from imperially organized systems to localized ones. It was a good week for classical-era cemeteries and ancient watch towers; a poorer one for anything Islamic. The results of this week’s fieldwork provided further evidence for a major change in settlement in the Middle Islamic (namely Mamluk) period. Making sense of the reasons for the move to the eastern highlands in this period will be a focus of research this next year.
Wednesday was devoted to research-support activities. Some students worked on inventories, photos and drawings, while others visited museums in Irbid with comparative ceramic collections, in an effort to find good parallels for some of the pottery we picked up on survey. I spent the day in an archive, reading through Ottoman-era land registers relevant to our study area. Prof. Muhammad Shunnaq, the project Co-Director for Ethnography, gave the evening lecture on ethnographic methods and the promise and limits of community memory for researching modern history.
Thursday was tour day: visits to two of Jordan’s “desert castles”, Qusayr Amra and Mshatta.
We feel good about what we accomplished this season. As a group we processed, registered, and “read” over 7000 pottery sherds and dozens of lithics and ground stone objects; discovered two previously undocumented archaeological sites; successfully piloted new mapping initiatives with innovative technologies; and witnessed the culmination of efforts to integrate environmental and archaeological/historical methods in studying the history of land use and settlement in the later historical periods.
Archaeological research doesn’t end with the close of a field season. There is no “science” without post-season analysis and dissemination of results. The next two years will be devoted to publication – a full monograph on the last decade’s work of the Northern Jordan Project – supported by the implementation of our new multi-media database (which will be accessible on-line) and forthcoming lab results by our soil and plant scientists. Our students will be actively involved in these efforts, as they will continue to work in the “lab” at home as part of their academic programs. The fieldwork is only the beginning!
Report submitted by Prof. Bethany J. Walker,
Department of History
Missouri State University