Dhiban Excavation and Development Project


Life and work from a tell site in Jordan

New Dhiban Website!

Check out http://www.dhiban.org/ for updates regarding the Dhiban Excavation and Development Project.


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Dhiban, the Photo Show

One of my goals this season was to hold a photo show, highlighting photos from work on the tall and in the community to show some of the people of Dhiban what we were doing.  We rarely get visits from local folks so we thought it’d behoove us to bring some of the tall to them.  I intended to do something similar last year, but ran out of time.  It was a priority for the 2010 season.

After a couple of meetings with the mayor, he allowed us to use the Dhiban town hall, a building in the middle of the town that is used for community functions.  We had the photos developed in Madaba, and bought frames there as well.  Hanging them was rough as the town hall, like almost every other building in Dhiban, was made out of cinder blocks.  But after much preparation (including runs to buy sweets and tea) we held the show last Thursday.

Along with the photos on the wall we ran a slide show with a lot more of the images taken from the season.  This seemed to be the most popular part of the show, and people sat and watched until photos of themselves or of people they knew appeared on the screen, then cheered.

A lot of town dignitaries showed up, but not as many of the regular townsfolk.  It was disappointing in that respect, but a good first step.  I’ll have a lot more details in my dissertation, if you care to know!

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A Day in Dhiban


Saleh and I moved 123 qufaf today, 80 of them before breakfast. A quffa (pronounced goo-fah) is a bucket made out of an old tire–they’re great for hauling dirt around, cheap, and relatively easy to repair. I hope to never use another plastic bucket. Anyway, I swung the pickaxe for most of the day, bashing through a layer of undifferentiated collapse inside my trench. There was a really late (I’m talkin’ TPQ 1970s here–modern screws and some bottle glass, along with a pull tab) pit cut into the eastern extent that was full of cobbles and very dark dirt that was pretty easy to boost out and once that was gone I was able to see that it cut into a relatively homogenous matrix. So, out came the pickaxe.

It was good to finally be able to move on my trench–I had been spending too much time on things like defining the big wall in the western extent and digging this late pit. I worked from known to unknown, removing the dirt where I could see spatial relationships to other architectural elements and moving out from there. A cluster of stones in the northwestern corner became an installation against the western wall, and I carefully cleaned around it to define the architectural aspects versus the stones that came in through the collapse. Soon, I came down to a nice flagstone paving for the room. Well, relatively nice, as it had been bashed up from the stone ceiling collapsing on it. The room terminated much more quickly than I had guessed–only two courses of stones remaining before the ground level. Some nice finds surfaced right above the floor–a nice fragment of a molded oil lamp, a bracelet fragment, and a whole lot of Mamluk-era pottery.

It’s surprising how none of the above description really does justice to excavating on a terrace over a wadi in Jordan. A hot wind whips up through the wadi, blowing your paperwork and any light artifacts. Little gazelle-like ants pause then scatter over my dustpan, too fast for my camera. Late in the day your tools become too hot to touch and any water left in the sun becomes tea-hot. I try to save most of my slow tasks for after our watermelon break, so I can draw or write up paperwork or bag artifacts instead of slinging dirt during the hottest part of the day. Sweat drips down your nose and splashes whatever you are working on, making dark spots on the ground that dry almost instantly. At the end of the day my arms are covered in swirls of white salt crystals that wash over my tattoos like a second skin.

So, today was a better day. I had some nice archaeology come up and was able to work out a few of the grad-school kinks in my back. Tomorrow I’ll finish revealing that nice paving, then photograph, draw, and otherwise fully record it.

Oh! And we found the missing rebar in a dip in the tell about 20 meters from the pit. So my hypothesis was correct: orneriness was to blame.

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Meet Saleh

<a title=”CLM_2872 by Miss_Colleen, on Flickr” href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/colleenmorgan/4757407899/”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4074/4757407899_8689d336e0.jpg” alt=”CLM_2872″ width=”334″ height=”500″ /></a>

Saleh has been working with the Dhiban Excavation Team since 2009 and is back this year to help with excavation.

Saleh graduated with a degree in archaeology, but he has had a hard time finding steady employment, much like other archaeologists in the world.  He knows some English and helps me learn Arabic, while I help him with the finer points of English grammar.  He’d love to study Hebrew for his PhD, but would also like to get married.

Saleh’s family is from the local Bani Hamida bedouin and he sang his family-specific song today as we cleaned off a section in the hot sun. He also has blingin’ shoes.

He asked me to post about him today, and I did! Marhaba, Saleh.  See you tomorrow.

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Photos from Dhiban