Weblog of the March/April 2012 Petra excavation campaigns
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Amman is busy as usual, construction work going on everywhere, a real boom town. Compared to other years, one immediately realises that the country profited from more rainfall as usual, resulting in a much greener and fertile landscape.
As usual, in Amman we stood at IFPO, profiting from its perfect situation near the Department of Antiquities and the city centre of Petra. While Stephan Schmid was paying a visit to the Department of Antiquities, the students had a stroll through downtown Amman.
Since the guys from Basel already did all the administrative work as well as the basic shopping, the Berlin group could leave Amman almost immediately and drive down the desert highway towards Petra.
Arriving at Petra, new installations immediately hit the eye. A series of sun collectors is being installed at the Umm Sayhoun gate. This is great news, since the electricity that will be produced by these sun collectors is supposed to replace the diesel generators inside Petra. Once this happens, it will be of great benefit, not the least for people using Nazzal’s Camp.
Monday, March 12, 2012
As you may know, 2012 is the 200th anniversary of the re-discovery of Petra by Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, better known as Sheikh Ibrahim, who visited the site on August 22nd 1812 and correctly identified it with the city of Petra mentioned in ancient texts. Many events are scheduled in order to celebrate this event. Within others, the Jordan Museum in Amman as well as the Antikenmuseum und Sammlung Ludwig in Basel (Burckhardt’s home town) are preparing a major exhibition.
This is why a team from the Swiss TV, producing a documentary about Burckhardt and Petra that will be shown in fall both on Swiss TV (sf) as well as on 3Sat (German TV), visits Petra. Therefore, from day one of our presence in Petra work begins, on the one hand by preparing everything for the two archaeological projects that start this week, i. e. the Aslah-Project and the Umm al-Biyara-Project, on the other hand by working with the TV team in order to present some specifically Swiss-related archaeological projects in Petra, such as the az-Zantur excavations carried out by the University of Basel.
On the evening of that very same day, the first birthday of the 2012 campaign was on the schedule. We all celebrated Robert Wenning’s birthday with a very sweet and colourful cake.
Since tomorrow we plan to climb up to Umm al-Biyara for the first time, we have to prepare all the stuff that will allow us to spend four weeks of intense work on top of the hill.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
So here we are, climbing up again the roughly 1000 steps to Umm al-Biyara. The first day of that exercise is especially demanding, since not only the body has to get used to it, but also because we have to carry up all the heavy stuff that allows a more or less decent functioning of the fieldwork. The „pièce de résistance“ is, as every year, the notorious sun collector box. Not only the batteries are quite heavy, but the fact that the whole thing is fixed into a Swiss army officer box who is almost indestructible but equally over proportionally heavy, does not really help ... Although we tried hard, there is no way to fix that thing on a donkey, so we have to carry it ourselves. This year, Will Kennedy (who has some experience in carrying it) and Jan Reimann (who had not) were more or less voluntarily devoting themselves to that task.
On top of Umm al-Biyara we started immediately installing the camp site and then went to the different sectors that will be studied and excavated this year. Basically, we are going to continue a highly representative hall-like building known as Morton’s trench and the spectacular bathing installation that kept our fascination since the very beginning of our activities on the site.
Today also is a special day since the FC Basel is playing Champions League against Bayern Munich (we are talking about football, real football, you know, the one that is played with the feet). Since Basel won the first round, some people already dreamed of the quarter finals – the first time ever – for a Swiss team. Therefore, Christoph Schneider and Stephan Schmid, who had to spend the first night on top of Umm al-Biyara, were well prepared. A mobile internet stick provided access to the internet, and after some lengthy experimentation, finally a slightly obscure Russian sports channel was discovered who offered free live transmission of the match.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Today is the first real working day on top of Umm al-Biyara. Squares are being installed and prepared and surface cleaning starts immediately. Water and other goods of daily needs are being brought to the mountain by donkeys and once we start finding substantial amounts of pottery, the finds will be brought back to Nazzal’s Camp by the same way.
Since the excavation at the Aslah complex is starting only tomorrow, the Aslah team had time to do some small excursions around the city centre of Petra. They profited from the comparably good (and not yet too cold) weather and visited some more remote parts of the ancient city.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
The second day of proper excavation work on Umm al-Biyara already produced some results that needed our full attention. Also, Christian Walther and Daniel Leipert from Swiss TV (see above) filmed on Umm al-Biyara today. Therefore, everybody was fully concentrated at work.
Who works hard also needs some rest. This is why during lunch break we try hard not only to recover but also to cook some substantial food. However, some are so hungry that they can’t even wait lunch to be cooked and start eating right away whatever they can grasp.
Today excavation at the Aslah complex started as well and so the team lead by Laurent Gorgerat and Robert Wenning got up enthusiastically this morning and attacked their new squares full of good hope.
This evening our medical doctor, Rolf „Schofegg“ Egli arrived from Switzerland. At the same time the weather started getting quite cold while apparently back in Europe spring definitely started.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Our first complete weekend at Petra and not yet too much documentation work to catch up with or too much pottery to be processed – what an unusual feeling. Therefore, a small group immediately decided to organise a small excursion to Rajif, a few kilometres to the South of Petra towards Ras an-Naqab. The only disadvantage was that Rajif is quite exposed to wind and weather and it was getting really cold (around 5C).
Saturday, March 17, 2012
At least at the beginning of a campaign, Saturdays usually are days off, or at least days with a human work load. Therefore, there was quite some spare time to discover old and new parts of the famous site of Petra. No matter whether people are here for the first time or whether they already had the chance to participate at a campaign in Petra, almost everybody profited and had a stroll through the ruins of the „rose-red city, half as old as time“. The ones being familiar with site show around the new participants. Besides the famous tomb façades, also more remote parts of Petra are visited with scientific interest and curiosity.