Dhiban Excavation and Development Project


Life and work from a tell site in Jordan

Thoughts after the Excavation

From Abby:

As I am sitting back at home in Topeka, KS, I realize what an impact Jordan had on my life. I miss the constant conversation that is always taking place between people on the streets and their usually welcoming personalities.  There is such a great community environment in Dhiban that you can’t get in many American towns.  The way men greeted and interacted with each other was something I will never forget.  They were not uncomfortable showing affection to their friends and while they could not show the same affection to female friends, it was still very refreshing.  They have a great respect for their elders, family members, and friends.  Relationships are extremely valuable to people in this part of the world.  While outsiders may be considered less valuable and sometimes treated with less respect, as an outsider, I was still able to see the compassion that went into their interactions.  But even to foreigners (or ajinab), most people are overwhelmingly friendly.  They invite strangers to tea freqeuntly, and one of my most fond memories is sitting with a Bedouin woman at Petra, drinking tea and talking about her children.

I am also deeply grateful for the skills I acquired this summer.  The field school provided me with hands-on experience as an archaeologist, which is not possible in a classroom setting.  I was given the opportunity to be a trench supervisor for a week of the season and I learned the process that each supervisor goes through, including the measuring and drawing of the trench, finding elevations, and completing paperwork for each stratum.  With the knowledge I gained, I have no doubt in my mind that if I chose to be an archaeologist, I would be well prepared.


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2009 Season Summary

From Danielle Fatkin:

Tall Dhiban is located on the northern edge of the modern town of Dhiban, approximately 35 kilometers south of Madaba on the King’s Highway, on the northern edge of the Wadi Mujib. The Dhiban Excavation and Development Project conducted its third season of fieldwork in the summer of 2009.

Based on previous seasons’ work, four primary areas of research were identified for this summer:
1) Continue excavation and conservation of the Ayyubid-Mamluk complex on the acropolis to reach construction phases
2) Continue excavation and conservation in William Morton’s Field L to identify undisturbed Iron Age contexts
3) Initiate a paleolandscape study focused on hydrological resources and long-term human impact on the environment of Dhiban
4) Map the extent of habitation at different periods through surface collection / on-site survey and test pits.

On-Site survey. The surface collection conducted on the middle terrace of the site included the southern, western, and northern extent of the terrace. While the Roman / Byzantine period is well represented throughout the terrace, with greater visibility in the northern and southern sectors, the extent of the Ayyubid / Mamluk settlement appears limited to the central portion of the site, running in an elongated east-west shape. We began to test the correlation between the surface collection and the most recent period of habitation through the excavation of test pits.

Test pits. Excavating ten test pits was originally planned, yet excavations took place in four units this season, only two which were completely investigated. In those two units — one chosen as a control unit without previously collected surface material and one chosen for its predominantly Roman / Byzantine material — a strong correlation was found between the surface collection and the most recent period of habitation. This relationship will be tested further in future seasons by completing the excavation of the rest of the test pits.

Field L Upper. Our goal in this area this season was to reach the construction phase of the Ayyubid-Mamluk structure and to bring the architectural complex into the same phase. Excavations inside the buildings revealed several floors. Some areas were excavated more deeply, revealing earlier phases of habitation. As of now, the complex’s construction phase has not been securely identified. Based on ceramic analysis of this year’s finds and radiocarbon samples taken in 2004 and 2005, the uncovered surface likely dates to the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century CE. At the end of the season, the walls were conserved with a reversible mortar.

Field L Deep. Our goals in this area were (1) to clean and re-expose the Iron Age levels excavated by Morton in the 1950s and (2) to cut back Morton’s eroded sections and identify in situ Iron Age remains. The team undertook a large scale clearance, cleaning, and remapping of the walls from Morton’s excavations in Area L. These walls are all founded on bedrock and form a central rectangular room that is clearly part of a larger building. This was particularly evident on the west side of Area L (Deep) where our excavations traced portions of two additional Iron Age walls associated with this same building and defining several more rooms. Re-exposing the Iron Age walls excavated by Morton has proven the general accuracy of Morton’s architectural plans, which is now integrated into the GIS map created for Dhiban during the 2009 season. This re-exposure has also provided an opportunity to consolidate a substantial Iron Age building for the purposes of site interpretation. Over the next several seasons we will continue to expose, consolidate, and interpret (via signs and pathways) this important Iron IIB building.

Paleolandscape Study. The 2009 season was the beginning of the paleolandscape assessment, focusing on the site itself as well as the wadis immediately adjacent to the site. Sinkholes on the northwest side of the tall were identified as possibly man-made. Terrace walls were identified along the edges of Wadi Sakran and large geologic sections were cut through them in order to elucidate the depositional history of colluvium behind the walls. Our initial results confirm the highly erosional environment of Dhiban. Moreover, the sediment deposited within the terraces suggests that terrace construction was motivated by different factors in different locations around the site. A careful study of the terraces may reveal new information about the timing and nature of human activities at Dhiban.

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Photos from Dhiban