Dhiban Excavation and Development Project


Life and work from a tell site in Jordan

Geology at Tel Dhiban

From Katie, our most excellent geoarchaeologist:

As the excavation moves into its last three weeks, most of the team members are feeling more confident, now very familiar with the daily schedule and day-to-day life up on the Tel. And then there are a few of us down in the Wadi Dhiban, dodging wadi dogs and goats in an effort to get a look at the sediments at the bottom of the hill. A wadi is a seasonal river valley, generally dry during the summer and subject to flash floods during the rainy season – most are fairly deeply incised and the larger ones in Jordan approach Grand Canyon proportions. Although a wadi is not a particularly good place to find intact archaeological features, it’s a great place to look for evidence of erosion, and the Wadi Dhiban also preserves a number of architectural features that we’d like to understand more fully. The rock walls may have been agricultural terraces or they may have been built in an effort to stabilize the hillside; finding out what lies behind and beneath the rocks is the first step toward understanding their construction and purpose. A few dedicated and long-suffering workmen have been wielding picks and shovels for several days, and we’ll soon be drawing, describing and sampling the sediment they reveal.

Other geologic efforts have also been going forward at Dhiban this year as well, as we try to incorporate a more specific environmental aspect to the research agenda. A few students have been lucky enough to end up as “geology assistants” as we’ve explored some of the local wadi systems in search of sedimentary records, mapped the local bedrock beneath the Tel, and done some preliminary mapping. And even if they didn’t appreciate the repetitive limestone and chert layers in our area, they got a taste of more exciting geology while exploring the fabulous sandstone at Petra this past weekend!

The geologic investigations here are brand new, but we’re already excited about the initial data and we’re hoping to pursue more extensive regional investigations next season. In the meantime, if you’re looking for some geology at Dhiban, head up to the main excavation and then turn left. Head west over the hill, and try not to fall as you navigate the scree slope. Don’t worry if you don’t see us right away – there’s a fairly large cliff that you’ll have to get around, and then another steep slope. You’ll find us eventually – and if you get lost, the barking of the wadi dogs as they protest our presence will probably help you find your way. See you in the wadi!


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Photos from Dhiban