UJ14 Field Season Report

Inside the 'Nabataean' Temple
Inside the ‘Nabataean’ Temple

Phase II of the Umm el-Jimal Project’s 2014 AFCP preservation field work capitalized on the Phase I clearing of the House XVII-XVIII Complex courtyards, with excavation ten small trenches to get fuller understanding of its construction and use history.

In addition to the excavation, further documentation of the structure included the completion of 3-D digital reproductions of all the wall surfaces of the House XVI-XVIII Complex using PhotoModeler software. Extensive still and film photography was also done in order to present the House XVII-XVIII Complex on the project website.

The design of a pilot set of six interpretive signs was also completed in order to help guide visitors through the site. The signs will be produced and installed on the site during the summer of 2014, the first of a series of signs along the planned interpretive trail.

During the May-June 2014 field season UJP excitedly launched work on a second project, the Preservation and Reactivation of Umm el-Jimal’s Water System. In this early stage the work focused on conducting a descriptive survey of the system, collecting background information and bibliography, and developed a work plan and schedule for the anticipated four-year duration of this project.

In planning of the water project, the UJP added Ivan LaBianca to its long list of contributors. Ivan conducted stereoscopic low-altitude photography of the Byzantine town and immediate surroundings using a remote controlled unmanned miniature airplane. The resulting photomap, a compilation of hundreds of photos, will be very useful in creating a digital elevation model for further planning of the water project.

Also during Phase II, a sister project, the Umm el-Jimal Women’s Empowerment Project, was further organized after its January 18th launch with UNESCO and UN Women. Twenty members of the Umm el-Jimal Women’s Cooperative Society enrolled in a training program, in which the Umm el-Jimal Project will teach the women the basics of the archaeological and traditional heritage and Al Hima will train them in craft production and business management. One of the most exciting aspects of the field season was an effort to familiarize members of the cooperative with the archaeology of Umm el-Jimal, by hiring two women as assistants in the excavation of two of the trenches.

Dr. Morag Kersel of DePaul University, joined the project for several days to investigate looting at Umm el-Jimal as part of her comprehensive research on the trade in Middle East antiquities. She interviewed a number of persons including mayor if the municipality, members of the archaeological team, local residents, and even some known looters, in order to assess perceptions of the relationship between illegal excavations and the sale of antiquities.

We especially thank the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation, who made all this possible.

We thank all the people of Umm el-Jimal who are increasingly interested in their ancient heritage, and constantly show us their goodwill and hospitality! Finally, this project is a collaboration of many people with different talents and background, ranging from the visual communication skills of the Open Hand Studios team to the specialists’ expert analysis of ceramics and samples, the stratigraphic skills of the archaeologists, the engineering skills of both Jordanian and foreign staff, the enthusiasm of students and the energy of the workers; ultimately this teamwork was marvelous because it involves an equal number of Jordanians and foreigners working shoulder-to-shoulder at all levels of expertise. In this collaborative sense at least the UJP has truly become a post-colonial project in which all are happily working together both as equals in talent and equals in status!

Text by Bert de Vries and Jobadiah Christiansen. Photography by Bert de Vries and Jeff DeKock.

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