Prelude: A Warm Return


I arrived in Jordan at around 11 pm last night. The last two days are a blur to me due to changing time-zones and chaotic sleep patterns that go hand-in-hand with international travel.

In addition to exhaustion from being jet-lagged, my body is trying to adjust to the drier climate here, so I have been drinking a lot of water. Lunch will be served soon and I am sure some sustenance will go a long way toward setting me right.

Those of you who kept-up with last year’s archaeo-blog know that this is my second season working with Dr. Andrew M. Smith II on the Bir Madhkur Project. Before I departed the United States I had several phone-conversations with Dr. Smith about the goals for this season. On Dr. Smith’s end, he will be continuing his dialogue with both the Department of Antiquities and with local residents of Bir Madhkur for the purposes of preserving the site as a cultural heritage resource. We will also be identifying and documenting ancient agricultural sites and caravanserai in the vicinity of the Roman fort, which is the main excavation site. Finally, we will be trekking up into the mountains toward Petra in order to identify the actual routes that were used to transport incense and other goods that eventually found their way to the Mediterranean. In essence, the over-arching goal of this season is to begin the process of putting Bir Madhkur in context with its surrounding environment. mountains-5

I am still a little unsure of my own role on the project this summer. Since we will not be excavating, there is no need for area supervisors, per se. Dr. Smith has been doing archaeological survey in this region for the last twenty years, and will divulge how our teams will be structured when he feels the time is right. For now, since I am the first member of our team to arrive (and with a lot of time on my hands), he has tasked me to conduct somewhat of a fact finding mission. Because of the time-difference between the United States and Jordan, it is sometimes difficult to conduct business from a distance. All of our administrative affairs have been arranged long in advance. Still, it does not hurt to have someone who is “on the ground” double-checking that our affairs are all in order. This way we can head-off any problems that may arise before the rest of the team arrives, making for a much smoother transition to the field. I actually feel fortunate to be given the opportunity to do a little extra for the project. There is no better way to “learn the ropes” than by actually climbing up into the “rigging.” These sorts of lessons are invaluable for the future, when I will be conducting my own projects. foothills-2

Our team this year is a small one, consisting of between nine and eleven members. I will write more about them when I finally meet them. The only person who is returning from last season is my dear friend and fellow “Team Hardcore” member, Petra Vaiglova. As some of you may remember, she was a member of my excavation crew on the caravanserai at Khirbet Um-Ghuntera, where she played a vital role in our attempt to excavate the cistern there. foothills-3

Though Petra and I are the only returning members from last year to the Bir Madhkur Project, many of our other cohorts are working in Jordan this summer on other projects. Dr. Jennifer Ramsay, Bill Caccese, and Miranda Angus are all excavating in Petra this summer and Melissa Bailey will be excavating in central Jordan at Dhiban with a team from Berkeley, Knox College, and the University of Liverpool . I have yet to meet-up with anyone who is working in Petra, but Robert Darby and his wife Erin are here at ACOR (American Center for Oriental Research) conducting archival research over the summer. Robert, if you will remember, was in charge of excavating the bath-house at the fort last summer. I found Robert and Erin having breakfast this morning in the dining room. I can tell you that having travelled halfway around the world, keeping nearly silent, it was heartwarming (to say the least) to see some familiar faces and catch up with old friends.

In addition to my old project members, Barbara Porter, Christopher Tuttle, Kathy Nimri, and the rest of the staff here at ACOR have been warm and inviting. I have fond memories of my stay here at ACOR last year and it seems that I can expect to walk away with similar sentiments this year.

This season of the Bir Madhkur Project looks to be very promising, indeed. Now if I could only get over this jet-lag!

  1. #1 by Joe Bickley at June 14th, 2009

    Glad to see things are off to a good start. It sounds like it’s going to be an interesting season. I look forward to reading more!

  2. #2 by Isaiah Moose at June 14th, 2009

    Hi Katty,

    Which issue is that? Also, any questions you may have that I don’t address in the blog, I’d be happy to answer them. My email is:



  3. #3 by andrena neeley at June 17th, 2009

    Thanks for e-mailing me your blog site. It all sounds so fasinating! I can’t wait to read more.
    Stay safe….

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