Return to Tall Dhiban


The countryside around Dhiban is greener than last year–it may be because I’m here earlier or I might have gained a bit of perspective from wandering around in the desert beforehand.  It was the same dusty Madaba bus station though, then the same twisty road through the wadi, then Dhiban’s tiny fruit stands and claustrophobic streets.  The businesses were about half-shut, as it was noon–nap time in the civilized world.  There seemed to be a couple more shops though, so maybe things are looking up in Dhiban-land.

I was a little anxious re-visiting the site.  Would I see some of the workmen? Would I even be welcome? I had a particularly harrowing conversation the night before at a coffeeshop, where I had just finished watching the first game of the World Cup.  It was the dawning realization that I was talking to a staunch anti-Semite who thought that we were digging for “Jewish inscriptions” to allow “the Jews” to take over that particular part of Jordan.  No amount of talking could convince him and I was left pretty shaken.  It was a pretty stunning example of the “full-contact community archaeology” that seems to typify work at Tall Dhiban.

None of these fears materialized–it was a hot and quiet afternoon in Dhiban and very still. After a very nice tea with our colleague Feras, we walked down the hot asphalt hill and up onto the tall.  The thistles had grown up thick around the trenches and the stone walls were conserved–filled with mortar and even patched in places.  It looks like the site held up pretty well, with a bit of pre-season “help” from what I assume are the local kids:


I was a bit cautious–the tall was overgrown and it was hard to see the wadi dogs that like to lurk around in packs.  Sure enough, near the Meesha trenches, there was a dun-colored shaggy dog.  She seemed content to sleep on a low wall and didn’t bother us, even after we found what is surely the newest addition to the site:


Puppies! Part of me aches when I see baby animals around site–we can’t really care for them or keep them, and sometimes being friendly invites disease or makes the animals less suspicious of people.  I’ve also seen the broken creatures that they turn into–I had a particularly haunting experience with a kitten at Catalhoyuk, but that story is saved for over beers. Lots of them.

Author: colleenmorgan

Dr. Colleen Morgan (ORCID 0000-0001-6907-5535) is the Lecturer in Digital Archaeology and Heritage in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. She conducts research on digital media and archaeology, with a special focus on embodiment, avatars, genetics and bioarchaeology. She is interested in building archaeological narratives with emerging technology, including photography, video, mobile and locative devices. Through archaeological making she explores past lifeways and our current understanding of heritage, especially regarding issues of authority, authenticity, and identity.

2 thoughts on “Return to Tall Dhiban”

  1. Oh man, I remember the devil dogs of Dhiban! Don’t let the cute faces of those puppies fool you, friends. They grow up to be evil and vicious. I spent quite a bit of time driving all over that plateau in ’96 doing a regional survey — the most interesting bits of which never made it into the pages of ADAJ — and packs of wild-eyed, snarling dogs would try to eat the tires off the car as I was driving along.

  2. Everything was greener when I arrived too, but I believe it is because they faired rather well in the water department this winter. Let’s not forget the sprinkles of rain we had last weekend!

    We have a few vicious dogs at al-Mudayna, and one really nice one who guards us from the others. It is so hard to just turn your back on these little puppies and kittens because they are not treated the same as they would be if they were domestic pets in North America.

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