Dhiban Excavation and Development Project


Life and work from a tell site in Jordan

A Day in Dhiban

A post from Alan Farahani:

A Day in Dhiban

Like many other archaeologists, my day is largely structured around the flow of the team work schedule. My name is Alan, and I am the team “environmental archaeologist”. As members of the team, each of us has distinct but complementary roles to play in excavation, processing, and analysis. As I am involved in environmental archaeological research, I am interested in understanding the physical and cognitive aspects of how people have managed their lives in their immediate surroundings throughout time. In the modern world we have become increasingly aware of our own impact on the environment, and my research here at Dhiban will aid in uncovering just exactly how local communities managed to make ends meet. Although these aren’t my only interests in the field of archaeology (the study of languages is an important part of my research) there’s only so much you can do in one season!

I typically wake up every day around 4 or 4:30 am. If my roommate’s alarm doesn’t wake me up, the call of the muezzin (the individual who makes the Islamic call to prayer) will. After shuffling my largely unconscious body through the process of brushing my teeth and getting ready, I put on my excavation clothes and head out to our team lab. From the lab I gather my materials for the day, which include notebooks, artifact cards, the daily top plan of my square, and other odds and ends.

The tell which are excavating is only a short walk from the lab, and I am usually there working at about 5:15 or 5:10 am. Despite the fact that outside of excavations I have trouble waking up at 9am, this is a great time to be out as the sunrise over the tell is breathtaking and the air is cool. With the aid of Karl Toomet, I then begin drawing and excavating. Our square is pretty exciting as we have what seems to be a Mamluk era building with some potential Byzantine and Iron Age layers. This usually continues on until 8:30 am, at which point we head off the tell for breakfast.

After a usual rowdy breakfast, most of the team heads back to the tell to continue working until about 1:00 PM. Depending on the workload, however, I head back to the lab to start the analysis of dirt samples known as flotation. Flotation is an archaeological technique that allows archaeologists to recover carbonized remains. It seems rather odd to be chasing after burnt trash, but I like to think of it in terms of the American show CSI. In CSI, crime scene investigators are able to piece intricate stories using scientific analyses of small traces of rubbish. Maybe it only helps me sleep better at night, but the recovery of these remains allows me to do the same things, except for the reconstruction of past cultures often thousands of years old. In the days to come I will probably explain flotation a bit more.

After either floting or excavating, we then head to lunch at 1:00 PM. After lunch, we have free time until 4:00 PM. Many people go home and take a nap, relax, or have some tea. Rather than that, I usually work out for about 45 minutes much to the amusement of the rest of my team members. I then shower, and head back to the lab around 4:00 PM to finish either floting or any remaining paperwork that needs to be addressed. If the situation calls, I may also process artifacts like pottery.

We do this until about 6:00 PM at which point we have dinner. Then around 7:00 PM we usually have a lecture to attend. Finally, at around 8:30 we are done for the day. No one can say that archaeologists don’t work! I am usually in bed around 10:30 PM for another day.


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Photos from Dhiban

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