Dhiban Excavation and Development Project


Life and work from a tell site in Jordan

Changing Perspectives

From Courtney:

It’s been nearly a month and a half since I left Dhiban for two weeks of adventures around the Levant and then home. As I think back on the entire experience, the things I discovered both in the world outside of America and within myself continue to surprise me. Tapping into the surface of an entirely different culture and experiencing history from a fresh approach changed the lens through which I perceive American society, as well as the hopes and plans I have for my own future.

I found myself challenged in unexpected ways, and having come through such experiences, I feel like a more solidified and confident individual. As the youngest on the dig, I think I was more aware of the age difference because I felt as if my lack of years somehow implied a lack of intelligence, or perhaps capability is more appropriate. This was especially the case because I was among people whose opinions and ideas I valued understanding, as they were students of a field I was just beginning to unearth (Haha, I have a poor sense of humor). My experience was quite the contrary. The team was willing to share and teach, allowing the newbies to make mistakes and ask all sorts of questions. It was a fascinating and engaging learning environment. I keep thinking back to my first archaeology class at Knox, reading the section about the various soil types and yawning. It was of little use to me when I memorized the information from a text book, but when I was down on my hands and knees, with my face six inches from the ground, carefully scraping at the soil to reveal a tabun, what had seemed like vapid jargon made tangible sense.

My personal growth during those two months continues to surprise me. I learned that I can live in an environment that is completely foreign to me. I adapted to the heat, the rather strict code of dress and behavior, the language barrier, food variants, the insect issues, and the culture differences with a fluidity I would not have expected of myself. I had the privilege of making some fabulous friendships across different cultures that brought me such laughter and happiness.

I am very excited to return to Jordan next summer with an idea of what awaits me. I am already craving some delicious falafel and fatayer. I miss the beauty of the desert and the never ending adventures that go along with placing a bunch of Westerners into a small Jordanian town. I look forward to continuing my study of archaeology and beginning a new dig season in Dhiban!


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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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Ready to Fly!

I’m coming to the Dhiban project out of a desire to excavate and document a comparative site for my dissertation. When the site that I usually work at, Çatalhöyük, decided to have a study season this year instead of excavation (of course they’re still excavating!), I looked around for other projects that would fit well into my dissertation work.  I contacted Benjamin Porter in UC Berkeley’s Near Eastern Studies department, and have worked with him on projects since that time.

My primary role at Dhiban will be photography and video documentation of excavation and finds, but I hope to have some time to excavate as well. I feel well prepared for work in the Middle East, and though I will miss Turkey tremendously, it will be great to explore the history of a new part of the world, as well as take in a few of the regional attractions.  I’ve wanted to go to the Dead Sea since I was a small child, and now I finally get a chance!

So my bags are packed and the last minute preparations are finished–I’ll be flying out tomorrow, SFO -> JFK -> CDG -> IST -> AMM! Wish me luck!

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Thoughts About Dhiban

Here are a few thoughts in anticipation of leaving for Jordan, by Abigail Harms:

I am hoping that the Dhiban Field School will teach me many valuable things not only about archaeology and the history of Dhiban, but about Jordanian culture in general as well. Their way of life will be entirely new to me, and by the end of the field season I am sure I will have a much greater understanding of the people, or at least that is what I am striving for. In the technical aspects, I am excited to learn what it actually takes to be an archaeologist and how this field of study works in the real world outside of college classrooms. Overall, I see this trip as being a life-changing experience and I am greatly looking forward to it!

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Photos from Dhiban