Arts & Culture / Mosaic / September 30, 2009

Professors, students travel to Jordan

In the summer of 2009, Professors Danielle Fatkin and Katherine Adelsberger took four students to Dhiban, Jordan so the students could gain experience on a real archeological excavation. On Thursday, September 24, the group spoke about their experiences over the summer. The History Club and Classics Club sponsored the talk.

The presentation was titled “Knox Archaeologists: A Symposium”. Professor Fatkin first worked in Dhiban in 2005 and 2006 while working on her dissertation. She described archeology as an intersection between classics, history, anthropology, and geology. Proof of this is the interests of the people involved in the Dhiban dig. Professor Adelsberger works in the environmental studies department and focused on tying people from the past to their landscape. She says there are lots of ways to look at how people interact with their environment. Adelsberger was the project director this summer.

Student participants were Sara Patterson, an ’09 graduate with a major in chemistry and history, Anne Ford, an ’09 graduate with a major in theatre and a minor in ancient Roman and Greek culture, Abigail Harms ’10 and Courtney Tichler ’11. Everyone—professors, graduate students, current students, and past students—had a common interest, but they looked at this project from many different perspectives.

The focus of the excavation was a place called Tall Dhiban. Fatkin and Adelsberger came up with plans for this past year’s excavation project. They explained they wanted to excavate the medieval part of the site to the construction phase. They also wanted to work on the Iron Age part on the acropolis of the site, map the whole settlement, start to look at the paleo-environmental aspect of Tall Dhiban, and work to conserve past and present efforts.

In Tall Dhiban the two areas of focus were Field L Shallow and Field L Deep. Field L Shallow has what looks to Fatkin to be one large medieval house. Fatkin believes it was used constantly from the 12th to 14th century, and then periodically used from the 15th to the 16th century. There are also groups of stones for which, Fatkin said, they have been unable to find the meaning.

Field L Deep contained Iron Age structures. That is one of the main areas Fatkin and Adelsberger hope to excavate next year.

The on-site work that students participated in included picking up glass, pottery fragments, and collecting soil. Anything they could find on top of the site was picked up and dated in the lab.

Knox graduate Sara Patterson worked on making the museum in Dhiban more attractive to tourists. There was very little to work with artifact-wise, so Patterson did what she could to make the displays more appealing. That included new signs and a poster Patterson worked on with a timeline of Dhiban for tourists and Jordanians.

Current students Courtney Tichler and Abigail Harms got up at 4:30 a.m. every morning to start their day. Every week they helped with a new aspect of archeological fieldwork. They had two lectures a week, which Harms says were very interesting and informed them about all the different archeological specialties. “Watermelon time” was at 11am. “That was our favorite time in the day,” said Tichler. They also went on weekly excursions. Harms’s favorites were Jerash and Umm Queis.

Students were allowed to work in test pits, which are 2 by 2 ½ meter pits. In one of the pits they found domestic Roman pottery. “I was really excited about this find,” said Fatkin. “Now we can get more of a knowledge about how the average person in that area lived.” Fatkin really wants to better understand how the rural people of Dhiban related to Rome in Ancient times.

Adelsberger looked at how the people dealt with life on the edge of the desert, right on the edge of where food can grow. She also examined how they dealt with water stresses. To solve this problem, they had a lot of cisterns; some are still in use today. Goats then and now cause erosion on the land. Erosion makes it more difficult to know exactly how the land looked in ancient Dhiban, Adelsberger said. One of Adelsberger’s most exciting finds was limestone, which was not native to that area of Jordan. Adelsberger says now the job is to find out how the limestone got there.

The graduate student from Liverpool University went up next to explain his participation in the Dhiban dig. The first thing he said was, “I do apologize for the accent; it is one of the most difficult to understand.” He described his specialty as computer-based archeology. They used a machine which measures and records dimensions of any object. He used his experience with making 3D models to create replications on the computer of everything from the remains of a building to a broken pot. Twenty thousand points were collected to create a computer-generated illustration of the site. He also reconstructed the medieval building from Field L Shallow and several pieces of pottery. Although the computer archeology is very clear and easy to manipulate, he says artist illustrations are still more important.

Jennifer Lloyd

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