A Better 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.

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.

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