Weblog of the March/April 2012 Petra excavation campaigns

Week two (Sunday, March 11, to Saturday, March 17, 2012)

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.

Fig. 5: Green fields along the desert highway from Amman to Maan.
Fig. 5: Green fields along the desert highway from Amman to Maan.

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.

Fig. 6: Humm, we better don’t tell who’s bed this is ...
Fig. 6: Humm, we better don’t tell who’s bed this is ...
Fig. 7: Sebastian Hoffmann, Lydia Kappa, Jan Reimann, Will Kennedy, Jana Falkenberg and Nadine Bürkle (from left) having a break downtown Amman.
Fig. 7: Sebastian Hoffmann, Lydia Kappa, Jan Reimann, Will Kennedy, Jana Falkenberg and Nadine Bürkle (from left) having a break 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.

Fig. 8: In the foreground Polly Agoridou, Jan Reimann and Lydia Kappa (from left to right), in the background Jana Falkenberg and Sebastian Hoffmann (from left to right), all posing for a sunglasses commercial.
Fig. 8: In the foreground Polly Agoridou, Jan Reimann and Lydia Kappa (from left to right), in the background Jana Falkenberg and Sebastian Hoffmann (from left to right), all posing for a sunglasses commercial.

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.

Fig. 9: In the centre the sun collectors being installed near the Umm Sayhoun gate to Petra.
Fig. 9: In the centre the sun collectors being installed near the Umm Sayhoun gate to Petra.

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.

Fig. 10: Christian Walther (left) and Daniel Leipert (right) from Swiss TV turning inside the Nabataean mansion on az-Zantur.
Fig. 10: Christian Walther (left) and Daniel Leipert (right) from Swiss TV turning inside the Nabataean mansion on az-Zantur.

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.

Fig. 11: Robert Wenning (standing on the right) numbers the ingredients of his birthday cake only by tasting.
Fig. 11: Robert Wenning (standing on the right) numbers the ingredients of his birthday cake only by tasting.

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.

Fig. 12: Andreas Voeglin (left) and Laurent Gorgerat (right) can’t await their turn to be served the birthday cake.
Fig. 12: Andreas Voeglin (left) and Laurent Gorgerat (right) can’t await their turn to be served the birthday 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.

Fig. 13: Sebastian Hoffmann and Jana Falkenberg preparing computers for the Umm al-Biyara project.
Fig. 13: Sebastian Hoffmann and Jana Falkenberg preparing computers for the Umm al-Biyara project.
Fig. 14: Lydia Kappa, Jan Reimann, Polly Agoridou, Nadine Bürkle and Thomas Kabs (from left) getting the paper stuff for fieldwork documentation ready.
Fig. 14: Lydia Kappa, Jan Reimann, Polly Agoridou, Nadine Bürkle and Thomas Kabs (from left) getting the paper stuff for fieldwork documentation ready.
Fig. 15: Will Kennedy (hiding behind a very beautiful drawing), Polly Agoridou and Andreas Voegelin trying to make sense of last years documentation.
Fig. 15: Will Kennedy (hiding behind a very beautiful drawing), Polly Agoridou and Andreas Voegelin trying to make sense of last years documentation.

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.

Fig. 16: Jan Reimann (left) and Will Kennedy (right) carrying the sun collectors up to Umm al-Biyara.
Fig. 16: Jan Reimann (left) and Will Kennedy (right) carrying the sun collectors up to Umm al-Biyara.

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.

Fig. 17: Will Kennedy and Jana Falkenberg inspecting that part of Morton’s trench where you better don’t make a wrong move.
Fig. 17: Will Kennedy and Jana Falkenberg inspecting that part of Morton’s trench where you better don’t make a wrong move.
Fig. 18: In the middle of the luxurious bathing installation overlooking the city centre of Petra (in the background).
Fig. 18: In the middle of the luxurious bathing installation overlooking the city centre of Petra (in the background).

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.

Fig. 19: Christoph Schneider, in full FC Basel dress, when even at a score of 0:7 he had high hopes.
Fig. 19: Christoph Schneider, in full FC Basel dress, when even at a score of 0:7 he had high hopes.

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.

Fig. 20: Lydia Kappa, Jan Reimann and Will Kennedy (from left) getting started at Morton’s trench.
Fig. 20: Lydia Kappa, Jan Reimann and Will Kennedy (from left) getting started at Morton’s trench.
Fig. 21: Christoph Schneider cleaning his square and working his deception away.
Fig. 21: Christoph Schneider cleaning his square and working his deception away.
Fig. 22: Nadine Bürkle (left) and Polly Agoridou (right) doing the first drawing within the bathing installation.
Fig. 22: Nadine Bürkle (left) and Polly Agoridou (right) doing the first drawing within the bathing installation.
Fig. 23: Stephan Schmid starting excavating at the outflow of the defecation channel of the latrine excavated in 2011. What exactly does he hope to find there?
Fig. 23: Stephan Schmid starting excavating at the outflow of the defecation channel of the latrine excavated in 2011. What exactly does he hope to find there?

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.

Fig. 24: Sebastian Hoffmann sitting on top of the Snake Monument.
Fig. 24: Sebastian Hoffmann sitting on top of the Snake Monument.

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.

Fig. 25: Christoph Schneider and Nadine Bürkle (left), trying to produce some shadow for Stephan Schmid taking a picture of the huge bathtub.
Fig. 25: Christoph Schneider and Nadine Bürkle (left), trying to produce some shadow for Stephan Schmid taking a picture of the huge bathtub.

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.

Fig. 26: Will Kennedy, being really hungry.
Fig. 26: Will Kennedy, being really hungry.
Fig. 27: The beginning of a delicious Clint Eastwood style lunch.
Fig. 27: The beginning of a delicious Clint Eastwood style lunch.
Fig. 28: Jana Falkenberg having a break.
Fig. 28: Jana Falkenberg having a break.

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.

Fig. 29: Thomas Kabs (left) and Robert Wenning (right) discussing excavation strategies.
Fig. 29: Thomas Kabs (left) and Robert Wenning (right) discussing excavation strategies.
Fig. 30: Laurent Gorgerat preparing tea for his team members.
Fig. 30: Laurent Gorgerat preparing tea for his team members.

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.

Fig. 31: Laurent Gorgerat (left) and Christoph Schneider (right) trying to put on enough cloths in order not to get a cold.
Fig. 31: Laurent Gorgerat (left) and Christoph Schneider (right) trying to put on enough cloths in order not to get a cold.

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).

Fig. 32: Jana Falkenberg, Will Kennedy, Rolf Egli, Christoph Schneider and Laurent Gorgerat (from left), trying to resists to the cold on a site above Rajif.
Fig. 32: Jana Falkenberg, Will Kennedy, Rolf Egli, Christoph Schneider and Laurent Gorgerat (from left), trying to resists to the cold on a site above Rajif.

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.

Fig. 33: Our Greek dream team, Lydia Kappa and Polly Agoridou in front of the Khazne.
Fig. 33: Our Greek dream team, Lydia Kappa and Polly Agoridou in front of the Khazne.
Fig. 34: Nadine Bürkle, Jan Reimann and Thomas Kabs discovering remote parts of Petra.
Fig. 34: Nadine Bürkle, Jan Reimann and Thomas Kabs discovering remote parts of Petra.