Banner 2013

Banner 2013

Thursday 31 October 2013

Day 3 - last day in the deep south

When we left at our usual 7.00 am this morning, the weather had changed. Much cooler, with a breeze and misty skylines prevailed as we headed down the road towards Mudawara. We stopped at Wadi Rutm station, a site we have visited many times before, to stretch our legs and show some of the newer team the station buildings.  As you can see we were in a happy mood and looking forward to the day.

We had a couple of great questions in the comments last night, so here's an attempt to answer them.

Archaeology employs a range of very traditional techniques throughout the discipline, and the recording of standing buildings includes examples of these. Generally traditional drawing techniques provide the bulk of the record, with photography being an accompaniment to these. More recently computer aided photography techniques have become more widely used, but the bulk of recording is still traditional. 

There are four varying scales of recording numbered one to four, with 1 being scaled or sketched plan with measurements and a general photographic survey, up to level 4,which is much more detailed annotated scaled plans and sections which can include a cross-section, much more detailing looking at joints, internal structural furniture and a far more detailed photographic survey including every face and feature, internal and external. Our building surveys tend towards the higher levels.

In the recording of buildings in general we use 1:100 up to 1:50 for plans and sections, because of the scale of the building, and then detailed sections looking at specific areas of the building like windows and their construction or wall detailing at a scale of 1:20.

For these buildings we have completed scaled plans, showing a birds eye view of the buildings structure, and scaled external wall facings on each side. Internal sections can be completed if sufficient detail is required. Basically what we are trying to achieve is preservation by record of the historical building. The aim of the recording is essentially to enable it to be reconstructed from the record of drawings and measured plans, together with the photographs. 

If the buildings had been fired upon, we would almost certainly be able to see evidence of this in the walls. Also, if the buildings had been used defensively in this theatre they might well have been built or modified with slits or holes for allowing rifled to be fired out. These are known as loopholes, and are apparent in many of the buildings involved in the conflict in this region. These buildings have neither loopholes nor any signs of impact projectile damage, so it's likely they were not around during the time of our conflict, but by their construction and style they may well have been constructed very shortly afterwards, perhaps in 1918 or thereabouts.

A small assemblage of incoming 303 bullets in varying states of survival after hitting sand, rocks etc.

 Tomorrow we are scheduled to revisit an earlier site, provided our bus is repaired in time. Some sort of wheel damage occurred on the way back today and we hope it can be fixed either later tonight or early on Friday, which is of course locally a holy day, so we may be unlucky.

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.

Tuesday 29 October 2013

Day 1 - A new site in the far southern Jordanian desert

We boarded the bus at 7.15 this morning to head off down the main arterial road south out of Wadi Musa. Our destination represented the furthest we have ever travelled to dig for this project, being a few kilometres further away even than last year's site at Mudawarra.

This meant a bus journey of around 2.5 hours before we could even begin to look at the site, decide what could be done, and begin working. The highway was fortunately fairly traffic free, and the time soon passed, with old friends catching up and new ones eagerly looking out of the windows to get their first experience of this arid, desert landscape.

Brief stop on the way to Mudawarra

Travelling south
On arrival at the site Neil gave an overview and we split into teams to make preliminary examinations of a few different areas.

Research had indicated that there had been some form of battle in the area we were studying, although as is generally true in all these situations, precise locations are very difficult to confirm for a variety of reasons including miss-remembering by authors of accounts after the event, the passage of time allowing wind and other weather altering the landscape and the activities of military and other human influences. Consequently  we were keen to find evidence supporting the idea that we were in the right place. Fortunately this wasn't long in coming, with around 10 spent 303 cartridges turning up along a ridge, together with a clip for the same weapon, and an incoming round fragment fired back at those who had let loose the 303's. 

Walking across the desert landscape to the site

First day briefing

Site landscape

Mark VI 303 cartridge case with trowel and detector

So - we are in the right sort of area at least. We will continue with our investigations here tomorrow,  hopefully uncovering more pieces of this little part of the jigsaw.

Today was hot. Very hot - in fact in the 7 years I have been associated with GARP this must be one of the two hottest days I can remember. With no local shade, almost no breeze or clouds and the sand reflecting the sun it was a challenging and harsh environment for us all to work in. We drank many litres of water but the conditions took their toll and I for one found it very difficult today. We were very pleased to complete the long walk across the desert back to the bus, and then take the opportunity to recover a bit in the long journey home. I'm not sure what the forecast is for tomorrow. I secretly yearn for an overcast sky with light drizzle. 

Images today include some from the bus travelling to and from the site, showing the desolation and scale of the desert landscape.

Monday 28 October 2013

All arrived safely

The group travelling from Heathrow have all now reached Wadi Musa and are safely making themselves at home in the Edom Hotel. The incoming Air Jordanian flight into London was delayed which meant we embarked much later, arriving at Queen Alia airport in Amman at half-past midnight, local time. We then suffered more delays as initially our bus wasn't allowed out of the airport, and subsequently we broke down an hour or so into the journey to the hotel. After a wait of around an hour and the assistance of a passing goods lorry we we eventually arrived at the hotel at 5.00 am.

Keys were swiftly distributed and we headed off for a few hours sleep, before our orientation meeting at 12.00.

At this all of our party were present together for the first time this season, including our local Jordanian friends and academics and those who have travelled by other means to be part of the team.

Susan - our brilliant and vital administrator!

Path up to the Edom Hotel

A camel in the land opposite the hotel

The view left of the camel up towards the main part of Wadi Musa

Introductions, housekeeping, health and safety and a background to the project were the order of the day together with a summary of the major achievements during the 8 years of  activities so far. Then lunch - flat bread, unidentifiable cylindrical meat, cheese triangles and humus reminded the old stagers and warned our new members what to expect for the next few weeks.

Some of the group then visited the nearby crusader fort for an insight into the history of the region and first views of the stunning Jordanian landscape. Tomorrow we begin in earnest, with an early start and a trip to the far south of the country.

Keep checking in to this blog for updates and images of this amazing project.

Many thanks to the Edom Hotel, Wadi Musa for providing us with WIFI internet access, enabling the blog to be completed each day.