Dhiban Excavation and Development Project


Life and work from a tell site in Jordan

Jordanian Hospitality and Touring

An update from Sara, a Knox student:

I have been overwhelmed by the hospitality I have experienced.  While shopping in Madaba twice after chatting and looking for a while with the shopkeeper my group and I were presented with small tokens of Jordan (tiny olive wood crosses and small Jordanian flags).  We were also offered tea and seats in one shop.  I am not particularly naive and these were the shops in which we spent the longest time and spent the most (mostly my companions, I plan to spread my souvenir purchases out over my stay here especially considering we have a number of weekend trips planed to the high points of Jordanian Archaeology, but I digress).  Indeed more than one shop keeper mentioned tourists were few and far between this time of year.  However, I think the hospitality went beyond trying to secure a sale.  At all times I felt that the shop keepers were equally friendly when we didn’t buy something.  Upon arriving home I mentioned this to the directors and they said that the Jordanians were quite proud of their reputation as one of the most hospitable people.  And I can see that.  Further examples on Jordanian hospitality spring to mind.  On Thursday the girls on the excavation were invited to the wedding celebration of the sister in-law of the Jordanian liaison and translator on the dig.  Even though we were strangers, who spoke very little Arabic, the women, who spoke very little English, made every effort to make us feel welcome and to make conversation with us.  Even walking in Dhiban we have been invited into total strangers’ houses to take tea. 


Sara Patterson

Hello all again,

Sorry about the delay with the last post.  There were a few difficulties to overcome before the internet could be reached.

This past weekend we took an educational field trip to Jerash and several other sites.  The reconstructed Jerash was wonderful.  It was my first experience with a classical temple.  Wait I tell a lie…I saw the Pantheon, which while awesome is not quite typical so I amend my statement it was my first standard temple (ie big steps, alter area, rectangular, big pillars etc.) Anyway, having studied Rome and Greece I had a vague idea how monument the temples were supposed to be, but I had never considered that they would be so huge.  The temple of Artimus was completely massive the entrance started 100 m to the right of the cardo road, continued for another 100m plus  up a massive reconstructed staircase, up to the alter with its well and then in to the temple proper with place for the cult statue in the far back.  Even though much of the decoration, statues, walls and roof was missing it was impossible to not  feel overwhelmed with the majesty a deity is supposed to inspire.  It felt very much like I was walking into on of the great cathedrals of Europe.  Also the scale inspired awe was augmented by the realization that this site was two thousand (at least) years old and that I was standing where the ancient Romans had stood (and a lot of other people too, but I’ll admit I have a thing for the Romans so I tend to think of them first).  I’ll admit one of my favorite things to do at a site like that is to imagine that I am a Roman striding along the streets, visiting the nymphaeum (monument to important ie wealthy people), the theater, the baths etc. Of course then my practical side kicks in and I remind myself that I am currently walking in the street and that if I was doing that in Roman times I would be ankle deep (or deeper) in muck, everything would smell, and that I probably would be a slave, being of Eastern European origins.    On a lighter note, the reconstructed theater is pretty nifty as well and I saw something there I never expected to see in Jordan; a two man bagpiper and drum band.  They were playing in the orchestra of the theater and when I entered there was a group of young men doing Middle Eastern style dancing to the music.  The other sites were well worth the visit as well, the ovoid agora, cardo (main street) with standing pillars, temple of Zeus (which we couldn’t go into because it was under construction), the hippodrome (sports area), Arch of Hadrian and churches with mosaic floors.  The mosaics are really quite beautiful and it is quite tragic that some of them had their human figures replaced with plain white tessera  during the iconoclasm debate (ie the debate in Christianity over whether it was ok to make  human images or not. By the way I apologize for those of you who find my explanations unnecessary.  You see I’m not sure who is reading and I want to make sure most things are accessible to everyone).  So that was just the briefest taste of Jerash and I am afraid I will not be able to write about the rest of the sites because of time but let me write a brief note on driving in Jordan.  As one of our team observed, unlike driving in the US, Jordanian driving is organic.  Lanes are only suggestions, if there is space between two cars you obviously should put your car there.  Passing should be done when ever necessary not just when road conditions allow clear vision ahead.  And you should go at the speed that is right for you.  I have also seen entire Jordanian families (father, mother and 5 children in one small car.  The cars are everything from old VW bugs to shinny new hummers.  And even though it seems to be mass chaos most of the time I have only seen one accident.  It really is quite remarkable. 

Well break is over and its time to wash another round of pottery. Take care all.


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2 Responses

  1. Kathy Patterson says:

    Sara, I like your description of the temples and the sites you visited and really enjoy how you describe it all.
    It is amazing to imagine how long the sites have been used and how many people have been in and around them over all the years. You are like a time traveler, and because you are so far away from us, we can imagine you have gone back centuries, not just physical distance from us, while you are gone.

    But meeting the modern people sounds interesting too, and seeing the culture up close. I’d like to hear more about the wedding.

    Be careful driving-I will try not to think too much about you driving on roads where lanes are “only suggested” and cars fill up any empty spots in the line of traffic, regardless of danger and distance!

  2. Erin Warford says:

    You hit the nail on the head–that’s why I love doing archaeology, the feeling that I’m walking in the footsteps of thousands of years of history. I love imagining the people who were there, what it would have looked like, etc. And not just in the big places like the Forum, either. One of my favorite sites in Italy, we found an inscription on the wall of a basilica, and the person mentioned in the inscription was an actual historical person who is mentioned in our records. And just walking the streets of the most humble town, or picking up a pottery sherd you’ve only just dug up…I love that feeling, the way it sparks your imagination.

    I will continue to be jealous of your experience, both with the dig and with Jordanian culture. Please, don’t let that stop you from posting even more, though! I can’t wait to hear more.

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