Saturday, 13 November 2010

Aside - an essential tool...

Anyone want to buy a hat?



Saturday, 6 November 2010

Day 12 - Rest day and plans for the future

Some pictures of Wadi Musa, the town in which we stay and the entrance to the ruins at Petra.Wadi Musa means "Moses' Wadi' and is supposed to be the place that he struck the rock and water came out.

 Having more or less completed our investigation of the war along the railway line between Ma’amn and Mudawarra, this season sees the effective conclusion of the first phase of GARP’s fieldwork. In relation to it, we will now moving, slowly but surely, towards final publication in the fm of a full monograph. 

So where do we go from here in the field? There is much discussion to be had. But preliminary thinking is this. The old road from Aqaba to Ma’an represents a different landscape, a different kind of war, and yet one which was heavily contested and is well recorded in written sources. To investigate it comprehensively, and to use the material evidence in the landscape to build a full picture of the nature of the war, is likely to require another five years of field work. Bring it on!

At the same time we would like to develop a strong relationship with our new Turkish colleagues who have the skills and opportunity to support the field research with archive based research in Istanbul. In Jordan, a missing element so far has been the involvement of Jordanian students and ordinary Jordanian communities. We hope to put right these omissions in the second phase of the work.

Finally, we hope to engage the Jordanian authorities in developing new heritage tourism assets related to the Great Arab Revolt and Lawrence of Arabia’s war. 

Interim blog - some pictures of Wadi Musa, the town in which we stay and the entrance to the ruins at Petra.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Day 11 - Last day in the desert

A fast day of recording completed our season with work at the Southern encampment at Tel  el Shahm and the northern most of 3 forts north of Ramlah.  This turned out to a better constructed fortification than anticipated with deeply cut stand-up trenches which allowed the Ottoman soldiers to shoot from exterior ground level loop holes. Also the central feature turned out to be a deeply cut dugout where finds including cigarette papers implied that soldiers had used this as living quarters. 

Our Turkish colleague Adil etc joined us for our last day in the field to get  a sense of the landscape and the Ottoman military features  within it. Being a historian he declined to excavate the sand out of his forbear’s trenches but disappeared into the desert in a search for other forts. Who should he bump into but our landscape archaeologist coming in the other direction. This minor combined forces expedition successfully located yet another lost late Ottoman fort in the desert.

At Tel el Shahm the wrap up of the work continued with much recording of the excavations. The brick structure was cleared and photographed together with many other completed features. The mule lines, although producing no finds in the excavation itelf, had a wealth of iron material just to the north, including a large number and variety of nails and a pole hanging hook which clearly showed the signs of being worked by hammer. This looks like it was probably the site of the blacksmith for the force stationed there.

Further south towards the station a rocky outcrop which was full of wind blown sand and modern debris yielded no new finds for the detectorists. However just beyond that on the plain several faint features, tent rings and smaller circles, produced Ottoman coins. Also across the whole of the site a number of incoming 303 rounds have now been found, indicating clearly British/Arab forces attack.

Everyone is now really tired. Also a certain amount of desert madness has set in evidenced by the formation of the First Goofa Rifles outside the brick structure. Having shifted several cubic metres of sand this splendid team deserved their success being preserved for posterity on this blog. 

First Goofa Rifles (This pic won a prize at Past !)

Tomorrow is a rest day and many of the team are going on a site seeing trip to the battlefield at Tafilah and the crusader castle at Kerak. There will be a final blog from this season tomorrow, and we will report on future plans for the development and continuation of this project.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Day 10 – Work continues and a new colleague

Excavation continued at the southerly tent rings site at Tel el Shahm. Further identification of Ottoman pottery found here took place. Opposite the site and to the east on the top of a high plateau on a rock outcrop is a definite firing position, and in the lea of the plateau looking east is rectangular structure which looks Ottoman in design. Further investigation of these tomorrow if time permits.

A believed Nabatean structure north east of the southerly rings has a sloping floor rising south to north with two well defined stone steps and floor. Cut into that floor surface and stone lined is a much later crude ottoman baking area. It’s worth noting that two of our very best excavators spent two days removing the sand from this structure to reveal it’s detail. Top work! 

A new dimension to the project opened today with the arrival on site of our Turkish colleague, Adil Bakhtiaya from the university of Istanbul. Adil joined us and Jordan colleagues  for lunch at the Al-Hussein Bin Talal University and then visited with us two Ottoman cemeteries in Ma’an. We are exploring ways in which research into the Ottoman archives in Turkey can fill in crucial gaps in our knowledge of the Great Arab Revolt in Southern Jordan. 

Prior to this we were invited by our Jordanian colleagues to give a lecture on progress over the last four years to an audience of Jordanian academics and students. This was followed by twenty minutes of interesting questions from the motivated students.

At Ma’an station cemetery Adil spent most of his time looking at four or five inscriptions and taking photographs. 

One of the inscriptions on a gravestone read:

Date 1914-15
The Son of Hasan of Aleppo, From Damascus
(translation by Adil)

At the second cemetery, which was in several sections one of which was older and one current, we were guided by a local expert and resident of Ma’an, who recounted the history of the town and the cemetery.  At the second cemetery we are fairly certain that we discovered the inner line of trenches forming the last line of defence of the city during the time of the Great Arab Revolt, overlooking the medieval ruinous remains of old city. 

On the way back from the main site of excavation today we stopped at Wadi Rutm, one of the most beautiful sites we have had the privilege to work in. The site is bounded by huge rolling sand dunes forming a stunning backdrop to the valley floor, which itself is the pilgrims caravan and trading route that has been used for centuries. 

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Day 9 - Update...

Nick Saunders, one of our GARP Directors, has a programme on BBC1 on Sunday evening 7th of November.

The First World War from Above

The story of the Great War told from a unique new aerial perspective. Featuring two remarkable historical finds, including a piece of archive footage filmed from an airship in summer 1919, capturing the trenches and battlefields in a way that's rarely been seen before. And aerial photographs taken by First World War pilots - developed for the first time in over ninety years - show not only the devastation inflicted during the fighting, but also quirks and human stories visible only from above. Presented by Fergal Keane.

Day 9 - Ramlah fortification and more at Tel el Shahm

Delayed start today as we had to wait for the bus to have a new tyre fitted before departure. Then, to compound the frustration even more, the bus had another flat tyre on the way down towards Tel el Shahm. The wheel was stuck on the studs, and in the end only the assistance of a passing truck driver together with the skills of Salah and help from team members combined to enable us to free the wheel and replace it.

Onwards to Tel El Shahm, this time south of the fort on the hill where we split into two groups. The first remained there working on the rings and other features discovered nearby, including a larger stone walled structure built into the nearby hill side, which was cleared of years of wind-blown sand for further analysis later. The ring rows themselves were further examined for metal and other finds, and several more were excavated. In the meantime much of this site was traversed by our photographer, systematically recording all of the examined features for the archive.

The second group headed down further south, to take a first proper look at one of the fortifications at Ramlah which had been discovered by the walkers yesterday. On approach this was clearly structured in such a way that none of us had seen before, with crudely made low openings in the stone walls, looking exactly like prone rifle firing positions. However the detectorists found no evidence of these ever being used as such, nor indeed much metal presence of any kind, including rubbish, at the site at all. This is likely to indicate that if the structure was designed as a defensive position on the line it probably wasn’t ever used in anger, as one would expect to find some evidence of expended munitions and the usual lost items associated with military presence, such as buckles, buttons and Ottoman or other coins. 

The archaeologists will continue to excavate both sites tomorrow to see if any further clues can be found to uncover the purpose off these, their span of usage and their occupants.

Another video from the air now, with the helicopter flying down the Hijaz railway past two static German railway carriages that have remained in position there since World Ward One. A third carriage is now in a museum at Amman, and a trawl back through previous year’s blogs will show three at this place, and also photographs of the German manufacturers makers plate from the side of one of them.