Monday, November 28, 2011

Future Digs

Always in my mind I am looking forward to the next dig. When and where that will be I still do not know I only know that I long to go dig in the dirt.

There is a dig in Petra that I would love to finish but it looks like it will take a very long time before another university picks up the license to dig there. As I turn 70 on my next birthday I begin to wonder if I will get that chance. I am encouraged by having worked with others who were digging well into their eighties.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Roman Fresco in Petra

In this picture you see what is left of a fresco on an inside wall of a Roman Administration Building in Petra.

The rather rough wall was covered with very thick plaster to even it out and then had wonderful paintings all over it. To colors were brilliant and the scenes enchanting. 

This was one of many that were being removed for preservation and study at Brown University. Once the fresco's are uncovered the weather would have destroyed them in short order. 

I was glad that I was there to see it in place before it was removed.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Bible in Jesus Day

Before the Roman destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D. there was no one list of sacred books that was considered authoritative. At that time there was, as yet, no clear order between Biblical books and non-biblical books. Even though all Jews accepted the Torah, or the Five Books of Moses, as the scriptural underpinning of Jewish ritual and daily life, the scrolls show that numerous variants of even these key books existed among different Jewish communities of the day.

The Hebrew text were written on loose scrolls and not in any particular order. It would take until the fifth century AD before the biblical cannon was set.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

“Excarnation: Food for Vultures”

Rami Arav argues that the site of Rogem Hiri in the Golan was a special type of Chalcolithic Age sanctuary, built specifically for the purpose of ritual excarnation—that is, exposing the bodies of the dead to vultures in order to divest them of their flesh. Photo by Duby Tal/Albatross.

This is an excerpt from an article in the  "Biblical Archaeological Review."  I have studied this process as it was used in Persia in biblical times but did not know that it was practiced in the Holy Land.

"In “Excarnation: Food for Vultures,” author Rami Arav argues that Rogem Hiri was a special type of sanctuary, built specifically for the purpose of ritual excarnation—that is, purposefully exposing the bodies of the dead to vultures and other birds of prey in order to divest them of their flesh. As Arav explains, excarnation was widely practiced in cultures and civilizations that for one reason or another were interested in saving the bones of the deceased and not their flesh.

Archaeology shows that the Chalcolithic peoples of the southern Levant were very interested in preserving the bones of the dead. Peoples of the Chalcolithic Age throughout Syria and Palestine interred the bones of their deceased in fancifully decorated clay boxes, or ossuaries, which were often decorated with stylized facial features, including eyes, noses and mouths. Chalcolithic Age ossuaries also often have a boxy or “house-like” appearance, with a large opening in the front through which the bones of the dead were inserted."

What an interesting tradition. We have lots of vultures around here. I wonder?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

3500 year old jaw bone.

Dig this jaw Bone!
Netta the anthropologist on the Ashkelon dig is holding a jaw bone from the Canaanite tomb we were excavating. She extracted a molar from it to send to the lab and get DNA for study. It dates from about 1500 BC.

The rest of that skull can be seen in the blue tub. We later glued it back together. So cool!  

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dear Dig Firends

Here are two dear friends from my Petra dig in 2002. Lin Hammond, wife of the Director Philip Hammond and Eudora Struble the Field Supervisor. I am still in contact with both of them. They are sitting on the front steps of the Edom Hotel where we had our headquarters. We were waiting for transportation to the dig site.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Painted Stones

Many of the stone walls of Petra were rough uneven and unsightly. To make them look good the workers put heavy amounts of plaster on the walls and drew in the stone blocks to make the wall look neat. Some of the walls were so uneven that the plaster in places were almost a foot thick. Workmen still do that to some degree.

I had some work done on my house and noticed some big cracks between joints. I asked the workers about the cracks in the wall. 

Their reply was, "That is why they make painters putty." Sure enough they filled the cracks with putty and painted over the error. Some things never change.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Caged Art

Here is a follow up picture of the caged art and you can see  how much has been chipped of and damaged over the years. There is also smoke damage from cooking fires. You can see why it had to be protected.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Take Lots of Pictures

One of the things we do during a dig season is take lots of pictures. I am so thankful for the invention of the digital camera. I took hundreds of pictures and did not have to develop any of them to see them. It was so easy to shoot and then look at the picture. If it was a bad shot I deleted it and retook the photo.

In this picture my friend Eudora is taking a picture of two thousand year old art work. It is behind bars to protect it from tourist who use to remove small pieces of it. Grrrr.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Survey The Dig

The first week of the dig included the job of doing a survey of the dig site. All of us took our turn with the equipment. Our starting point was several survey markers placed by official surveyor's when the dig began. Then we checked the markers placed by the previous dig team.

Only then were we ready to set the markers for our dig.

I chuckle to  notice how clean and fresh our clothes were. That was about to change when we started digging in the dirt.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Digging In Petra for missing pieces

As I look at this picture that I took in 2002 I remember the excitement we felt after we found this column stone in this place. This was actually the base for the column that once stood there. We did not however find the rest of the column so the question is "What happened to it?"

This is not all that was missing. Most of the stones that made up the walls were also gone. But where?

In 363 AD an earthquake shook Petra and this temple shook apart. By that time most of the people in Petra had converted to the new religion, Christianity. Just up the hill from this temple is a big Christian Church That was built some years after the big earthquake. The fact that there were a lot of precut stones just down the hill was attractive to the builders. Much of the old crumbled pagan temple became part of the Christian Church in Petra.

That practice happened all over the Roman empire.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Da Vinci

My darling and I visited the Frazier History Museum on Friday to see a temporary exhibit called “Da Vinci – The Genius.”

This exhibit has models of many of the machines that Da Vinci drew in h is note books. I have seen the pictures in books but it is a very different experience to view them physically. For most exhibits there are signs that tell us not to touch but this one has a group of his inventions that are hands on and we were invited to not only touch but operate. Can I say THRILLED!

If you get a chance to see this exhibit when it visits a museum near you GO! It is worth the time, effort and money. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Roman Admin Building

For many years this ruin in Petra was identified as a great temple. It looked like it could be just that but as the dig progressed the evidence pointed to it being a Roman era administration building.

 In 106 AD the Romans finally conquered Petra and this is what they built to demonstrate their power. The final discovery was in the basement they found a Roman Bath that had to be constructed prior to the rest of the building.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Idol Worship

I have seen a lot of idols that people once worshiped in places where I dig.

This idol of the goddess Allot was found in the Temple of the Winged Lions in Petra. The people of Petra were fond of what I call "Block Deities"

People have worshiped all sorts of idols over the years. When I was in India I visited a temple that had over a thousand different idols. The covered all the bases in one temple.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Some Small Things We Found

Not everything we found was a huge stone building block. Some were rather small.

Here are a few of the small finds that include coins, nails, really small clay lamps and clay markers.
Some of these things are easy to miss when you are digging in the dirt. No telling how many like these were tossed in the goffa and then in the dumping area. Coins are often green or grey and blend in with the dirt. I once found a very small clay marker that was used for counting. It was perfectly round and thicker than a coin and I almost missed it.

How I do love archaeology excavation.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Entrance or Exit

The Plaza Area of the Temple of the Winged Lions is a mystery. What was it used for?
Here is an opening on the shallow end but what was it for?
Here is a closer look as the team remove yet more dirt and obstructions. Can you see the slot and hole near the corner of the wall and opening? Was that for a door frame? There were more questions than answers at the end of the dig season - but solving the mystery is what archaeology is all about.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Roman Road In Petra

The Romans built this road in Petra around 107 AD and most of it is still usable today. We could take some hints from the ancient Roman road builders they knew how to build a good road and make it last.
This road was once lined with columns and market stalls.
I would love to be ables to see how this looked then.

Friday, July 15, 2011

GPS Readings

On holiday from the dig my friend Eudora and I took a tour of the ruins of ancient temples in Jordan.

In this picture Eudora is taking a GPS reading of the alter area of the Heart Temple.

Some day I must go back there.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

First Christian Church of Petra

Today is Sunday and I wanted to share this photo of me in the pulpit of the First Christian Church of Petra built about 500 AD. In its day it was an awesome building.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Caged Art

The inside of this cave was an arched room that had been carefully carved out and then heavily plastered. On the plaster they painted pictures but now the pictures are almost gone, faded and covered with smoke. Tourist over the years chipped small pieces off and took them away. Now the steal cage prevents us from going in and we had to take our pictures through the cage.

If you look closely on the outside walls appears to be stone work but it too is plastered and then shaped and painted to look like a stone wall.  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Eudora's Temple

People and especially archaeologist fall in love with Petra!
Field Supervisor Eudora Struble pointing to the 
Temple of the Winged Lions

Eudora the field supervisor for the 2002 Temple of the Winged Lions dig was no different. It was her third season digging at this site and she love it so much she referred to it as "Her Temple."

This picture was taken on the first day of the dig when she led us on a hike through Petra and here we stopped an she pointed out the site where we would be working for the next six weeks. By the end of those six weeks we all thought of it as our temple. The place gets into your blood and it owns you. I love it and I long to go back again and again.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Digging Small Bones

In this picture I am excavating the bones of an infant who died in the363 earthquake that leveled the temple.
The bones were very delicate so may main tools reflected their condition. I am holding a small paint brush and by the small blue container there is a wood pick. The TP in the goofa was used to wrap the small bones for transport to our lab..

This is how they looked after I moved some more dirt and rocks. The tools on the right are a dental pick and a very small trowel designed for this kind of work. The bones once belonged to a six month old girl.

I love digging in the dirt in the Holy Land.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Remembering Brian Hesse

The gentleman in this picture is Brian Hesse 1944-2011. He was the professor of Jewish studies, anthropology and ancient Mediterranean studies at Pennsylvania State University. In the July/August issue of Biblical Archaeology Review was the report of  his death.

Professor Hesse headed the "Fauna Crew" on my Ashkelon dig in 1999 and I learned a lot from him. He was an expert in zooarchaeology of the Lavant. He taught us about the animal bones we found on the dig site. He was very friendly and easy to talk with. May he rest in peace.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Zincirli stone

This picture taken by my good friend Eudora Struble ABD was found on her dig at Zincirli Turkey. I just saw another picture of the eighth century BC funerary stone of Kuttamuwa, in the July/August copy of Bibical Archaeology Review. It has a well preserved thirteen line inscription stating that his soul would live forever in that stone monument.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Aaron's Tomb

Aaron's Tomb from a distance

Aaron was the brother of Moses and tradition tells us that the people of Israel camped here on the way to the Holy Land. The tradition of the Jews, Christians and Islam states that Aaron the first High Priest of Israel died here in the place that was later to be called Petra. He was buried on the highest peak and people from all three religions make the long climb to the top to visit the tomb. I did that in 1999 on my first visit. Perhaps you can make out the little white dot on the top of that mountain.

Aaron's Tomb up close

So you have an eye strain finding it. Here is my up close picture from 1999.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Oil Lamp

Typical unadorned Oil Lamp

We find all kinds of things when we dig in the dirt. A very common find is an oil lamp as they made thousands of them. Well they were like our light bulbs and you know what happens to them. The large hole received the oil and the small hole is where the wick was placed. These lamps could be carried in your hand like this or sit on a table or wall sconce.  Most had one wick others had two, three or even four. Some were unadorned like this one while others were formed in molds with fancy art work.

This kind of lamp is what Jesus talked about in Matthew 25 parable of the ten virgins five wise who took extra oil and five foolish who did not.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Scrape away the dirt and?

When you scrape away a bit of dirt and rock and you reveal a bone. What is it? Human or animal? What kind of bone is it?

Well the answer to those questions requires some more digging and an anthropologist to examine the find.In this case it was the rib of camel. It was killed in the earth quake 363 AD and more of the beast was discovered underneath.

It is the excitement and wonder of it all that keeps me digging.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two Dig Friends

I have made a lot of good friend over the years by being part of Archaeological Excavations.
Lin Hammond and Eudora Struble 

Pictured here are two wonderful friends that I still keep up with. They are sitting on the front steps of the Edom hotel that served as our dig house. It is six AM and we are waiting for the truck to take us to the dig site.

Lin was the wife of Phillip Hammond the Dig Director and she served as the Administrator. I have never met anyone who can bargain as well as she can. She taught me a lot about getting a good price.

Eudora was the Field Supervisor who oversaw the work on the dig site. At the time I took this picture she was eating cherries. What a talent she has with cherry stems. She ties them in a knot while eating the cherry they are attached to. Amazing talent. Eudora is currently working on a PhD at the University of Chicago and is ABD. I am looking forward to working with her again when she is the Dig Director.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Ancient Face For Justin Moore

Ashkelon Dig
This is one a many bones I excavated at the Canaanite tombs in Ashkelon. 

My nephew Justin is getting married today and said that this is his favorite picture on my archaeology blog.

The ancient man  had a nice smile and not one cavity in it as there was no sugar in his diet. What does that tell us?

The hotel in the back ground is where the dig team lived for seven weeks.

Friday, June 10, 2011

An Overview

Anytime I am digging in Petra I can look up and be awe struck by the totally awesome views. On the one hand you have the stark desert and then you notice the rainbow of colors in the sandstone and the awesome blue of the sky.

Viewing the ruins of two past civilizations in Petra both Nabataian and Roman one can stare and contemplate the vast history of a single place. The young man dumping the dirt just stood there holding the handle of the wheelbarrow and stared at the scene. He had to be called back to work.

Yes that happened to me as well.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Draw Every Last Stone

One of the last things you do on a dig is to draw it to scale.
Elaine checking the Measuring Line

On our last Saturday, our day off, Elaine and I measured and drew every last paving stone on this plaza to scale/
Elanie took this picture of me drawing the plaza

It was a very hot day but very rewarding for us to complete this task and not have to return on Sunday.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lessor Tombs

The rock faces of Petra were covered with tombs. Every where you looked you could find them for Kings, wealthy, and not so wealthy carved in to the rock.

I am standing by a tomb with more tombs in the back ground

You can see lots of tombs in the rock face far in the distance. Now look just to the left of my feet and see that square hole in the rock. That is a tomb of a  not so wealthy citizen of Petra. They dug straight down and dropped th poor fellow in feet first. The mixed a kind of cement with the excavated rock and filled it up.

You do what you have to do.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Petra Fault Line

A geologist friend of mine is studying the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. I asked her about the Jordan River Valley Rift and Earthquakes there. She thought it is an interesting tectonic region so I sent her this picture.

This is me by a fault from the 363 AD Earthquake

The shift in the rock strata is dramatic and that quake in 363 AD brought down most of the free standing building in Petra including the Temple I have been digging that is now known as "The temple of the winged lions"  I hope some day to go back there to finish that dig.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mark's Pottery Collection

All of us on the dig collected a few pieces of junk pottery that would have been reburied in the refuse heap.
But my room mate Mark out did us all.
Mark's bed filled with part of his pottery collection

Mark is a teacher and a preacher who wanted to give samples of pottery to his students and tell them all about his dig experience. He filled a huge duffel bag and somehow shipped it home.

I wonder if Mark has any of the pottery left for himself.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Water Water Water in Petra

The rains come to Petra in February and seldom any other time.

To deal with that the ancients learned to collect water in many cisterns through out Petra and this is one of them. A modern Protective covering is what you see here. Inside the cave was the cistern that had been plastered and sealed to hold lots of water. Channels cut into the hill side directed rain water into it. These can be found all over Petra.

Our group had just been inside and I caught them coming out.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

On the Steps of the Treasurery

It is a long walk through the Siq into Petra ---

After that long walk a few members of our dig team take a break and sit on the steps of the famous treasurery.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Heart Temple

What do archaeologist do with a week off from the dig?

Some went sight seeing and relaxing by the Dead Sea but my friend Eudora and I went visiting other dig sites where the Nabataeans built temples.
Heart Shaped Column Stones
One was a temple that we called the Heart Temple because of the shape of the column stones.

In this picture Eudora is taking GPS readings for various places in the temple.
This is the alter area.

Friday, May 27, 2011

More Neolithic Village Pictures

The people who built and live in this village were a lread civilized and organized.

My friend Eudora Struble examines a dwelling on the site.

In this picture Kim Smith is checking out a circular structure.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Neolithic Village near Little Petra

A favorite thing to do on our days off was to visit other archaeological sites in the area. Here is an excavation of a Neolithic Village near Petra.

Neolithic village from 7200 B.C.
Thought to be one of the first settled villages in human history in Jordan, the Pre-Pottery Neolithic village of Al Beidha is an impressive testament to just how ancient the civilizations inhabiting Jordan were. 
At this site — which is open to all to visit for free — prehistoric houses and the village’s retaining wall are, astonishingly, still upright and visible. 

Artifacts found in and around the village suggest that the ancient inhabitants were goat herders, hunter-gatherers, as well as cultivators of barley and emmer wheat.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Working Hard In Petra

I only have a few pictures of my self on the Petra dig and this is one of them.
I have a goofa full of dirt

As I was not the boss on this dig in 2002 I hauled a lot of dirt in goofas to the wheelbarrow. We moved a lot of dirt that  year and I did my share of that.

I love Petra and long to go back to that dig and see it finished. At the moment no one is digging there.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Digging In Petra

I dearly love to dig in Petra Jordan with good friends.
Field Supervisor Eudora Struble At the Temple of the Winged Lions

Eudora is carrying a rubber basket made from recycled tires and it is called a "goofa." We usually fill them with dirt for removal but they are also useful for transporting artifacts from the dig to the lab. Since she was the boss that goofa did not have dirt in it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Walking the Main Road in Petra

Walking down a Roman road in the heart of Petra is my dear friend Eudora Struble in 2002. She was the field supervisor for the Temple of the Winged Lions excavation.

Here we get a glimpse of the grandeur that was that great city. Petra once held over thirty thousand people.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Crusader Fortress Near Petra

Crusader Fortress near Petra

I stopped on the road leading to this Crusader fortress because this view was so awesome. In the foreground is an eleventh century crusader castle or fortress set up to protect pilgrims on the way to Petra to visit the tomb of Aaron the first high priest of Israel and the brother of Moses.


That tomb is a little white dot at the top of the mountain in the background. It has been and still is a sacred place to Jews, Christians, and Moslem's. It is a considerable hike to get up that mountain but it is well worth the trip.