Letter from the Project's Main Archaeologist

Hello Everyone

Time to make some general comments. Hope that you will not mind that I occupy this space for a while. I think that one of the most difficult tasks that archaeologists face is to assess their fieldwork in general terms. It is so easy to fall into an euphoria of new discoveries. It is equally easy to spread doom and gloom when the season turned out to be just "ordinary". Neither is right or wrong, but..... So what can we say about the 1998 Finnish Jabal Haroun Project?

I will try to find a balance in my own perspective by saying that the project was very successful on one hand but also had brought us some new headache. Let's start with the success story. Well, nobody really expected us to find a church there. This is truly important and significant. We went out there to dig a monastery but got more than that. The presence of a large church and a chapel, both down on the plateau below the summit, would strongly imply that the place was more than just a monastic establishment. We have the right to postulate the existence there of a pilgrimage center of major significance which existed during the Byzantine period and beyond.

Secondly, the survey results. Our friends, the "prehistorians" are overwhelmed with the amount and differentiation in the lithic material collected during the survey. This fact will open the new avenue of studies on the prehistory of the Petra area. As you well know, not much has been done in the past with regard to that. Furthermore, the installations in the valley. No doubt we deal with an extensive water management system down there which was seemingly in use for a long time. As such, it is apparent that our project has already brought up new evidence for the very early and very late periods of human occupation in Petra. But all that has to be properly processed, analyzed and understood.

Now the headache... There is so much to be done. It may be that the anticipated project's fieldwork will have to continue beyond 5 years plan. In way to make this project to be a good, comprehensive job we will need to expand our activities and our expertise. We will need to conduct a thorough geo-climatological studies of the environs. We will need to gather, process and utilize the ethnoarchaeological information concerning farming practices in the area. We will need to involve conservation experts to help us to consolidate walls, wall plaster and whatever is still under the tons of stones. We will need to gain better stratigraphic sequences from the site. What we already have is impressive and worth studying but that needs to be expanded. We will probably need to expand a bit our excavation and surveying team. We will need to strengthen the collaboration between the archaeologists, surveyors and cartographers. We will need to improve the logistical system. We will need.......Well, enough of this.

But the post-excavation work is going on and is going well. I am much pleased with the excavation reports that were sent to me by the site supervisors. I am glad to hear about the progress in the mapping and 3D-modelling activities. It is good that people began the actual analysis of lithics, pottery and glass. We are all going to get together again between December 5 and 15, to finalize the 1998 report. The main point of the program, however, will be the intensive ceramic seminar to be given by Dr. Stephan Schmid, the Swiss excavator at the ez Zantur site at Petra. The Swiss project, being one of the best ever in Petra, has developed a comprehensive ceramic chronology not only in terms of the Nabataean painted ware but also for cooking pots, lamps and glass. Their chronology, as far as I know, appears to fit most of the known stratigraphic sequences from the excavated sites in southern Jordan. These guys are much willing to collaborate and share their experience. Thus it will be good to see Stephi with us (he will not mind to share a beer or two with us too....). Furthermore, we still need to make sure that our database contains the most updated and correlating information. We will need to find parallels for our architectural elements and marble finds. As such we all look forward to a busy winter and spring. Things have to be processed, analyzed, improved and figured out before we start the next season.

Finally, a few words about the people who participated in the project. After all, this was a big unknown, a real enigma. I should like to emphasize that for myself it was one of the most difficult field season in my life, considering my 20 years experience in archaeology. The living and work conditions, the nightmare of logistics, scorpions, snakes, windstorms, cold and heat, collapsing tents, local doctors' mysterious practices, huge piles of stones.....lack of cold beer. Well, this could have discouraged even Hercules. Yet, we have done it and done it well. The Finns have proven that they can do it. Once again, I thank you all...


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