Banner 2013

Banner 2013

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Day 2 - back to the deep south of the country

An earlier start today with breakfast at 6.00 am to enable us to get away by 7.00. This is because where we are working local circumstances dictate we have to leave the site by 3.00 pm, so in order to gain the maximum working time we were piling into the bus at 6.45 this morning.

Two and a half hours later we reached the site and walked the several hundred yards from where the bus was able to park to where the features lie. Fortunately we have access for a 4x4 vehicle which carries the tools and equipment, together with our personal packs and the much needed supplies of water and food, over to the site.

In our several groups we began. Some excavating, some walking the landscape, some recording and planning areas we have already worked on. We are learning about what went on here and unable to piece the whole thing together at present, so there is much discussion and many theories abound. 

This is a very sandy desert location and the landscape has large areas of windblown sand above the hard packed base layer, together with some regions of crusted surface which sinks like crisp snow when walked across. 

The detectorists, working in roughly the same area as yesterday, were able to confirm a definite portion of a static firing position, by virtue of finding more expended 303 cartridges along a section of a ridge. It now seems almost certain that an attack took place from this ridge into the small valley below, having found a total of around twenty fired 303's now in a matter of 40 metres or so. This probably represents a much larger number as the terrain where we are digging is sloped and has very large quantities of wind blown sand, sometimes many feet in depth, above the level of the land at the time of the attack.

Elsewhere three of our team began the formal planning of a range of standing buildings to the south east of the site. These are substantial structures and are presently piled high internally with wind blown sand. This involves the accurate identification of structure and materials, the measurement of the dimensions of the buildings and drawing them in detail and in their location.  This work is vital as we can never be sure if such buildings will last long in this rapidly developing environment, so we do this to provide a record for future archaeologists and historians as well as contribute towards the knowledge base of our project.

We do not know if these buildings are of the exact period in question, so tomorrow, together with more accurate recording, a team will be tasked with clearing out the sand from one of the buildings to enable further archaeological investigation, which we hope will provide us with insight to their association with the period.


  1. Clearing wind-blow sand out of buildings? I still have the scars to remind me of that job - I don't envy you that task.

  2. We could do with you and Michael here mate - sand, sand and more sand. I dug the biggest hole I've made in 7 years today to find a railway sleeper. It was going back in at about 95% of the rate it was coming out.

  3. When recording a building, how much of it do you have to draw? How big a part can photographs play in this recording? Also, do you record the inside as well as the outside - I note you are planning to dig out part of one building.
    I was surprised when I found out what the terrain was like further north as I had always thought of desert as sand, not a kind of rubble: this seems more the kind of desert I had imagined. I hope the wind doesn't blow!
    Thanks for the interesting to see the landscape.

  4. Hi Anthea - great questions! I will ask one of the team with standing buildings expertise to reply tomorrow as it's something I'm no expert on. The terrain is often mixed between the igneous basalt and sloping sand, but because much of the region near the railway is flat we have tended to work on the hard packed or basalt fragment covered bits. There always has been some sand nearby, and some places, like Wadi Rutm, have great sweeping sandy vistas across the wadi. Also as Brian above alluded earlier we had some features in the past completely buried where he and others have excavated them by hand using much brute force. Here though the sand is banked in places up to and into the features and hard packed or crusted in others.

    1. Thanks Roger - I look forward to learning more when someone has time: you are all having very long, hot days....Was it in the areas of basalt that you had mud? I remember thinking what a difference that was, whichever year it was, as you'd had rain: it made me realise that the troops fighting in the desert were sometimes encountering similar conditions to those on the Western Front, even if it wasn't so intense or so frequent. What extremes of temperatures and conditions those fighting in Trans Jordan would have suffered!

  5. Roger is it possible to locate bullet strikes on the buildings or has the sandblasting effect of the wind caused to much natural pitting in the stones? Also, any finds of food or liquid urns?

  6. Lying down while drawing !!!

  7. Would love to Rog, just the slight issue of cost Vs cash.